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Non-Starter (part five in a series)

Here’s a new twist on an old theme. Because of our intermittent no-crank no-start problem, Xy has taken to going out early on cold mornings and giving the car a test start. This was such a morning. It was about 36º F out there. But the car started up, no problem. But twenty minutes later, when she was ready to go, it failed.

I called Saturn about this a couple weeks ago and gave them an earful. Turns out the car is still under extended warranty, which means that they’ll pay for the repairs, and even pay for a rental car for us while it’s in the shop. But here’s the rub: They would have to reproduce the problem first. Given the intermittent and unpredictable nature of the problem, that proviso is a non-starter, pardon the pun. We’d have to take the car into the dealership, leave it there, and rent a car on our own dime. They’d try to reproduce the problem, and each day our rental expenses mount and the stakes get higher. Since the car can go for months without a problem, I’m rather daunted by the prospect.

I just called the U.S. Department of Transportation Vehicle Safety Hotline and filed a complaint. I don’t imagine that will do much good.

I’m so freakin’ aggravated by this. There are certainly bigger problems in the world, but this is a known issue. The manufacturer should own up to it and take the necessary steps to make it right.

And we wonder why the U.S. auto industry is in a jam.

Update: I have to take back what I said in a previous post about not being able to find any evidence of someone defeating the Passlock system and thus solving this problem. Here’s a video:

And here’s an extensive forum discussion with multiple people claiming to have solved the problem by just “cutting the white wire.”

Published inMiscellaneous


  1. Lee Lee

    I say you go for it B! If it doesn’t work, just re-connect the wires. This is somewhat similar to the problem I’m having with my truck.

  2. Amy in Texas Amy in Texas

    I have successfully resolved a similar situation, as has my stepsister. We had seemingly random problems with cars from two different manufacturers (neither is Saturn) – but the issues that had been reported by numerous other owners on the Internet. Without going into two long irrelevant stories, suffice it to say that you have to be relentless to get the results you want.

    Call more than one dealership – try some outside New Orleans if necessary – describe your problem and say that you’ve seen numerous examples of a similar problem on the Internet. What you’re looking for is for one of them to say they’ve seen a service bulletin for your make/model/year/problem. If you can get a copy of the service bulletin, or at least the number, you can call your dealer/manufacturer with this information and they will relent and fix the problem.

    If there’s not a service bulletin on this problem yet, contact the people you find on the Internet who’ve had similar problems, collect their relevant information, and approach the manufacturer with it – maybe they will publish a service bulletin in your “honor”.

    All this takes a significant investment of time, but I really believe that if you don’t give up, you can get your car fixed on their dime.

  3. Thanks Amy. Actually there is a service bulletin for this issue and model, but it only acknowledges the problem. It doesn’t seem to mandate any particular action fix it. At least, that’s what they said at the dealership where we bought the car. But I especially appreciate the advice to contact other dealerships. I had not thought of that, and there is another one here in the city that would be pretty convenient. Then again, I wonder if the warranty extends to other dealerships.

  4. Swamper Swamper

    Google “Technical Bulletin Service Bulletin 04-08-45-005D MAR 06”

    See post dated 03-19-06 on

    Saturn put you in this situation for a reason. The Saturn dealership is trying to make it difficult for you to have this work done under warranty because of the expense involved(possibly a new computer, labor cost). You shouldn’t have to reproduce the problem to them – you have two witnesses and Saturn is obviously aware of this problem(TSB 04-08-45-005D MAR 06). They apparently have no interest in recalling thousands of vehicles and will be all to happy to work on the problem when your warranty expires. I have heard of people writing “certified” letters to zone operations managers, Saturn Legal Dept, Operations managers. In essence a certified letter would be making a legal claim while the vehicle is still in warranty in the event you needed proof of such. Note your inconvenience and loss of time at work. As long as you have nothing certified and in writing, they can claim that there was never any problem(which is what they are doing). A certified letter may make them more cooperative. It has a legal connotation.

    Also, let Saturn know you have filed a complaint(, BBB, U.S. Dot). They don’t like sunshine.

    I am guessing that by cutting the white wire, Saturn may try to void any warranty work you have in the future. I would see if I could find a certified mechanic that would verify this fix before I did it only because the car is still in warranty.

  5. I say go for the hack. I had to bypass the clutch/starter safety relay.

    Modern cars have an interlock that prevents the starter from energizing if the clutch isn’t depressed. That switch went bad and I couldn’t start my car, even though there was nothing wrong. Jumped the contacts with a piece of wire and it’s now good to go. Also, I can now push start my car (even with all the modern electronics and computers), if necessary.

    Go for it!

  6. David David

    Yeah, cutting a wire shouldn’t be a big deal. If it doesn’t work, it’s simple enough to reconnect it.

  7. Swamper Swamper

    After further consideration, I am in agreement with everybody else. I would do it. I might still write saturn a letter, if only to notify them of the problem while the car is in warranty. Disabling the passlock is only trying to mitigate the inherent problem that Saturn is refusing to fix.
    Tighten the wire nuts by hand and then turn them with pliers a turn or two. Tightly wrap the wire nuts and wire with electrical tape. I too have jumped relays and switches in my auto and washing machine/dryer. It’s a little unnerving until the job is done and working properly, but once its done, you will be happy again.

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