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96 Buick Century Stalls When Turning!!!!


Guest Mother

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Guest Mother

Help to all those pros out there! My son has a 1996 Buick Century that starts and runs good. When you try to drive it, it stalls when you turn the wheel left or right. My husband and neighbor have replaced the camshaft sensor and idle control sensor. There is no engine light warning on, and no codes. It did have a code for the camshaft sensor at one time. I've been on the internet for days trying to find someone that had a similar problem. Do you have any ideas?

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Try posting on the "Reatta" forum, they have very knowledgeable followers and surely could help you. My first guess is a problem in the steering column with the wiring for the ignition. Connect a test light to something that is powered up with the ignition and see if it goes dead when turning the wheel. You could also check at the fuse panel to see if fuses goes dead for any of various items that are only powered with ignition on. TexasJohn

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Check the www.RegalGS.org (or .com) website. Regals and Centurys are the same cars other than the engines. Plus similar MonteCarlo and GrandPrix websites. And, of course, the Olds Intrigues.

Sounds like a fuel pressure situation, possibly related to something happening in the fuel tank's innards. NO connections between turning the steering wheel and the engine faltering, electronically. If it was, it'd do it with the front wheels not touching the ground and the steering wheel being turned. Gotta be something inside the tank, like a baffle that's not keeping fuel in the fuel pump's intake. Might even be a cloggged fuel filter . . . as it takes about 56psi for the fuel injectors to "pop", which could further aggravate a fuel supply issue.

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

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Check the www.RegalGS.org (or .com) website. Regals and Centurys are the same cars other than the engines. Plus similar MonteCarlo and GrandPrix websites. And, of course, the Olds Intrigues.

Sounds like a fuel pressure situation, possibly related to something happening in the fuel tank's innards. NO connections between turning the steering wheel and the engine faltering, electronically. If it was, it'd do it with the front wheels not touching the ground and the steering wheel being turned. Gotta be something inside the tank, like a baffle that's not keeping fuel in the fuel pump's intake. Might even be a cloggged fuel filter . . . as it takes about 56psi for the fuel injectors to "pop", which could further aggravate a fuel supply issue.

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

No offense but think slower. It was stated that it died when they TRIED to drive it. You assumed it wouldn't die in the driveway and I assumed it would. Who knows, I guess we will have to ask. TexasJohn
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Guest Mother

It dies in the driveway. The car starts and idles OK, but the minute you turn the steering wheel to the left or right, it stalls immediately.

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Guest Mother

The idle control sensor = Idle Air Controller. It doesn't seem to be affected when the belt is off. The neighbor was lead to believe the idle air control wasn't raising the idle, but no change with good part. Thinking it might be a plugged or restricted by pass valve to throttle or vacuum leak....? Thinking also about the steering and wiring. Hoping not fuel tank problem. We are going to look at it again tomorrow. Thanks to all of you for your suggestions.

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If it acts the same with the belt off then it is probably electrical. Either something is shorting or it is openng. This is where I'd put an ammedter on the battery, unplug the control wires for the alternator, and monitor the current when turning the wheel and not. If the current increases, there is a short, if decreases an open, if nothing changes then something magical is happening.

Do you need to actually turn the wheel or just put pressure on it as if turning. Will it start when turned ?

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I had a 55 Chrysler that would stall on a very hard left hand turn.

Every mechanic thought I was crazy when I asked about it.

Most would say, "there must be something loose coming in contact with the coil on turns.

When I asked a Chrysler dealer, he imedeatly told me to buy part # xxxxx antistall kit.

It consisted of a new carburator gasket and a 1/8" long 1/8" copper tube.

It seems that when the castings were made for the top of the carburator, they warped, alowing gas to flow into the venturis and flood the engine.

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I would try jacking the front wheels off the ground, starting the car and then turning the steering wheel. If the engine stops your problem may be a bad ignition switch. Had this go out on my 2002 Regal. Symptoms were really weird; I never would have guessed the ignition switch.

Don't waste your money blindly replacing parts. Do some preliminary diagnoses (as recommended by the other posters), then have the car inspected by an electrical specialist. I had to have my car towed because it wouldn't run more than 5-10 feet.

Good luck. Let us know the solution.

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Guest Mother

We jacked the front end up and started the car. When we turned the steering wheel all the way to the right, it did not stall. When we turned it to the left, it stall when it got to the end of the full turn. Tried it several times, it is always the same way.

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Guest Mother

While the car was still jacked up, we used the ampameter like padgett suggested. The current was monitored, and it increased when turning to the left. So does this mean there may be a short in the steering wheel??

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My bet is that there is a short in the steering column or the ignition switch. Time to bring in reinforcements - someone who can do a thorough electrical diagnostic. If you can't find someone on Craigslist to go to your house, you may have to tow the car.

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Could be a lot of things but now know it is ashort. First inspect the steering column and gearbog for a wire getting tangled/pinched. With current increasing, you have a short, issue now is to find it. Actual ignition switch is on the base of the steering column but other things go through the steering column (cruise, hazard, turn signals). Not camiliar with your car but some also have headlights/dimmer in column.

Horn is usually a ground, if shorted horn will sound so not that.

Identify which of the above is in the column and start pulling fuses, (can uuse a light bulb instead of an ammeter to keep load down) until the extra current goes away and there you are.

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Usually but am sure it will make sense once we figure out what it is. Hopefully the meter was in series with the negative battery terminal (I use a bulb to check out shorts) and the alternator was disconnected. Have seen pinched and melted harnesses do all kinds of unlikely things.

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Most newer GM cars have a pressure sensor in the power steering that increases idle speed when the wheels are turned. This is due to the extra drag on the engine from the PS pump (yes, the engines are now sensitive enough that this matters). The fact that the car does not stall with the wheels in the air (that is, no load on the PS system) EXCEPT with the wheels turned hard to the stop (where the pressure does spike) confirms this. I'm betting that either the sensor is bad or the wiring to it is bad.

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Most newer GM cars have a pressure sensor in the power steering that increases idle speed when the wheels are turned. This is due to the extra drag on the engine from the PS pump (yes, the engines are now sensitive enough that this matters). The fact that the car does not stall with the wheels in the air (that is, no load on the PS system) EXCEPT with the wheels turned hard to the stop (where the pressure does spike) confirms this. I'm betting that either the sensor is bad or the wiring to it is bad.

^^X2. My thoughts exactly.

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OK guys, let's get this out in the open and settled once and for all. Joe, are you suggesting that todays modern engines with computer controlled idle speed cannot react quick enough to power steering parasitics and the pump kills the engine? Good grief, how much power does that pump pull compared to the torque of a 3800 engine, wouldn't it burn the belt off first even without a pressure relief valve? Come back.........

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OK guys, let's get this out in the open and settled once and for all. Joe, are you suggesting that todays modern engines with computer controlled idle speed cannot react quick enough to power steering parasitics and the pump kills the engine? Good grief, how much power does that pump pull compared to the torque of a 3800 engine, wouldn't it burn the belt off first even without a pressure relief valve? Come back.........

I'm not suggesting, I'm telling you that the car has a pressure sensor in the PS system that is used by the computer to vary idle speed under load. This is the same concept as increasing the idle speed when the A/C compressor is engaged. Simply look at the sensor input diargrams for a that vintage engine. For both emissions and fuel economy reasons, the engine settings at idle are the bare minimum necessary to stay running. Sitting at idle and not moving, you are getting exactly zero MPG, so the automakers want to minimize fuel flow under those conditions (note that this is also why some new cars have stop/start technology on the engine - to eliminate both fuel use and emissions at idle). If the engine is subject to additional load, from the A/C, PS pump, even the alternator (yes, even alternator output is optimized by the computer now), the ECU changes idle speed, fuel flow, etc. Don't believe me, simply read a Chassis Service Manual for a newer car.

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I'm not suggesting, I'm telling you that the car has a pressure sensor in the PS system that is used by the computer to vary idle speed under load. This is the same concept as increasing the idle speed when the A/C compressor is engaged. Simply look at the sensor input diargrams for a that vintage engine. For both emissions and fuel economy reasons, the engine settings at idle are the bare minimum necessary to stay running. Sitting at idle and not moving, you are getting exactly zero MPG, so the automakers want to minimize fuel flow under those conditions (note that this is also why some new cars have stop/start technology on the engine - to eliminate both fuel use and emissions at idle). If the engine is subject to additional load, from the A/C, PS pump, even the alternator (yes, even alternator output is optimized by the computer now), the ECU changes idle speed, fuel flow, etc. Don't believe me, simply read a Chassis Service Manual for a newer car.
...Joe, I am somewhat familiar with how the system works with electronics, I own 2 electronic 3800's, an '88 and a '98, neither of which has a PS pressure sensor and they don't die. They also don't die when dropped in gear at zero throttle which loads engine considerably more than the PS. I don't find fault with anything you just posted, seems to me that you are absolutely correct on all points you addressed. Now, address my question, you did not answer the question. I did not ask you to build a watch, just what the time is.
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Guest Magoo
I'm not suggesting, I'm telling you that the car has a pressure sensor in the PS system that is used by the computer to vary idle speed under load. This is the same concept as increasing the idle speed when the A/C compressor is engaged. Simply look at the sensor input diargrams for a that vintage engine. For both emissions and fuel economy reasons, the engine settings at idle are the bare minimum necessary to stay running. Sitting at idle and not moving, you are getting exactly zero MPG, so the automakers want to minimize fuel flow under those conditions (note that this is also why some new cars have stop/start technology on the engine - to eliminate both fuel use and emissions at idle). If the engine is subject to additional load, from the A/C, PS pump, even the alternator (yes, even alternator output is optimized by the computer now), the ECU changes idle speed, fuel flow, etc. Don't believe me, simply read a Chassis Service Manual for a newer car.

Joe is absolutely correct and the smart mouth stuff is uncalled for. Come on, people.

Along with the P/S pressure switch, another common failure in that circuit can be found in the drape (loop or point of slack) in the engine compartment wiring harness. Road salt, moisture, and other contaminants enter at terminal connections and wick down the wire between the conductor and plastic insulation in capillary fashion. This material then collects at the low point in the harness and eventually eats the conductor in two -- inside the insulation where it is invisible to the naked eye.

I remember very well chasing this exact problem in this very same circuit in a Buick Regal.

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Magoo, Read my posts, I agreed with what Joe and others stated about the pressure switch and why it was there, etc,etc. The question was and still is, "Do you believe that the power steering, even with a stuck regulator, can kill the engine idling at 700 rpm?

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Guest Mother

Note to Sfair: The alternator was unplugged first before we tested with the ampmeter. My neighbor is a mechanic, and he understood Padgett's posting. I'm not sure what the meter reading was, but he said it DID increase.

Note to joe_padavano & Harold: It was mentioned that most "newer" GM cars have a pressure senor in the power steering. Where would that sensor be? Another one of my neighbors checked in the back of the ps pump, and he didn't see it. Do you think a 1996 Buick Century is "new" enough for this sensor? We are using the Chilton 1982-96 Repair manual for reference, and I didn't see it in the book either, unless I'm not looking in the right spot....

My husband took the front bottom panel off on the inside of the car, and he is looking for bad or kinked wires. He hasn't finished that project yet....

THANKS AGAIN TO ALL OF YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS.

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Guest Mother

To Oldmanofthenorth: The steering and stalling started one day when my son was driving the car. Everytime he came to a stop and had to turn, it stalled. He brought it to our driveway, and here it sits mocking all of us!!! I will pass the Steering Position Sensor idea onto all the people physically helping with the car. Do you know where that sensor is? Maybe the guys helping us do.... I'll check.... AGAIN- THANKS TO ALL OF YOU HELPING WITH YOUR IDEAS. I REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR HELP + ALL OUR NEIGHBORS HELPING PHYICALLY POKING INTO THE CAR. WE'LL FIND THE PROBLEM - THANKS TO ALL OF YOU - IT JUST MIGHT TAKE A LITTLE TIME. BECAUSE OF YOUR HELP, WE WILL SAVE $ THAT WE JUST DON'T HAVE TO SPEND. YOU ARE A GREAT BUNCH!

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Note to joe_padavano & Harold: It was mentioned that most "newer" GM cars have a pressure senor in the power steering. Where would that sensor be?

First, I would strongly recommend throwing away the Chiltons and buying a real factory service manual for your car. Second, GM used the PS pressure sensors as far back as the mid-1980s (though not on all cars). It does appear, however that instead of a pressure sensor, your car has a steering wheel angle sensor built into the column. This sensor can be used for multiple purposes, to sense when you are turning the wheel (to increase idle speed), as an input to the air bag system, and as inputs to a stability control system if the car has one. Other than damage to an under-hood harness that is rubbed on turns, the steering wheel angle sensor is the only thing I see that connects the steering wheel to the ECU.

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The steering position sensor is under the dash. The steering column passes through it. It is part of the variable rate power steering system and will cause jittery steering when it goes bad. They are a common repair part BUT I HAVE NEVER SEEN IT CAUSE A STALL. I pass this along only as a possibility. The most common stalling problem I have seen on this platform is the torque converter lock up solenoid failing which makes it impossible to shift out of park without stalling. Will the car stall if you are sitting and running at a high idle? Does it stall dead out? Will it immediately restart after repositioning the wheel? Have the fuel lines been worked on and mispositioned near a steering arm? This is about all I can think of but will be interested to know what you find.

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Err, my 88 has the switch. Below is a picture of the rack and you can see the two types, one with a tapped passage (arrow points to green plug) for the pressure switch and one without. The power steering pressure switch goes lo when the pressure is high and the signal goes to the ECM.

BTW the rebuilt rack and steering unit is known as a "three port" with switch and a "two port" without.

Perhaps when the switch is made (when pressure is high) it is doing something it shouldn't. Might unplug (on mine you have to reach from under the car) and see if it acts differently.

post-31022-143141931001_thumb.jpg

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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I don't have manuals for mid-90's GM products to consult but offer this thought: With the engine cold, remove the serpentine belt, raise both front wheels, start the engine, and see if the engine stalls on turns. If it does, the steering angle sensor or wiring have an issue.

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Magoo, Read my posts, I agreed with what Joe and others stated about the pressure switch and why it was there, etc,etc. The question was and still is, "Do you believe that the power steering, even with a stuck regulator, can kill the engine idling at 700 rpm?

The silence is deafening.

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One test of the idle air system is that when the engine is warmed up it should zoom up slightly upon starting then slow to a normal idle by itself. It should also have a higher idle when cold then slow down as it warms up. Check a tune up manual for checking or resetting the mininum air speed /mininum idle speed. If this car has a mass airflow sensor MAF it could be dirty or defective. A test for the MAF ,disconnect the plug on the sensor then start the car if the stalling problem goes away the sensor is dirty or bad. If no difference look elsewhere. It's also possible the harness or plug to the MAF could be bad.

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  • 2 months later...

Responding to all of you that helped with suggestions: We have not fixed the buick yet. We tried all of your suggestions, but there is still a problem. We think it may be electrical as we freed some of the wiring below the dash board and the turning then moved further left and right before it stalled - maybe something is kinked...??? We also had better luck when the battery was charged completely. I'm sorry we dropped out of site on the chat board - $ got tight and we couldn't do anything for a while. We are back to the problem again and have decided 1st thing to buy a new battery, and then take it to someone that can check the electrical. I'll let you all know what the outcome is. It still may be a slow process because $ is still an issue. Thanks again for all our your help. Mother

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