Although quite a few things can cause a no-start problem, I can tell you that there is a method to the madness of diagnosing such a problem.
In this tutorial, I'll explain the diagnostic process in a step-by-step manner.
Contents of this tutorial:
- Difference Between A No-Start And A No-Crank Condition.
- Engine No-Start Condition Basics.
- What Tools Do I Need?
- STEP 1: Testing The Ignition System For Spark.
- STEP 2: Testing The Fuel Pump's Pressure.
- STEP 3: Making Sure The Engine Has Good Compression.
- STEP 4: Checking For A Blown Head Gasket.
- No Start Troubleshooting Summary.
- More 3.3L V6 Pontiac Grand Am Tutorials.
You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar Un Arranca Pero No Prende (1992-1993 3.3L V6 Pontiac Grand Am) (at: autotecnico-online.com).
APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles:
- 3.3L V6 Pontiac Grand Am: 1992, 1993.
Difference Between A No-Start And A No-Crank Condition
It's important to note that there is a big difference between a no-crank problem and a no-start problem.
In a no-crank problem, the starter motor is not turning the engine over. In a no-start problem, the starter motor is working but the engine is not starting. This tutorial only focuses on a no-start problem.
If your vehicle is suffering a no-crank problem, then you need to start by testing the starter motor.
The problem causing an engine no-start problem usually boils down to one of the following:
- The engine is not receiving fuel.
- The engine is not receiving spark.
- The engine has a compression problem.
Engine No-Start Condition Basics
To be able to diagnose a no-start problem, it's important to know that the engine needs three things to start.
- Air (Compression).
If any one of these is missing, while cranking the engine, it's not going to start.
Knowing this will save you a tremendous amount of time and money as you troubleshoot the cause of your vehicles no-start problem.
This means that we can performed 4 basic tests find out what's causing the engine to not start.
These tests are:
- Ignition system test.
- Fuel system test.
- Engine compression test.
- Blown head gasket test.
Don't worry, this tutorial is a basic testing guide so that you can find out what's behind your vehicle's no-start problem.
What Tools Do I Need?
To find out what is causing your vehicle no-start problem, you're going to need a few specialized tools.
Now don't worry, these tools are not expensive and most of them you can borrow from your local auto parts store (for a small deposit that they'll return to you once you return the tool).
- A spark tester.
- A fuel pressure tester.
- An engine compression tester.
- A multimeter.
- A code reader.
For the ignition system spark tests, I'm going to recommend that you use an HEI spark tester.
This is the most accurate spark tester that you can buy and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. You can find out more about it and where to buy it here: HEI Spark Tester.
You'll notice that I didn't include a scan tool in the list. But if you have one, I can tell you that it'll come in handy. Why? Because some of the components that cause a no-start condition can leave a specific trouble code (when they fail).
In this tutorial, I haven't included it (a scan tool) in any of the suggested tests because they can be done without one.
STEP 1: Testing The Ignition System For Spark
I want to recommend that you start your no-start diagnostic by testing the ignition system for spark.
What this involves is making sure that all six spark plugs are sparking. And this test is done with a dedicated spark tester.
Testing the spark plug wires without a dedicated spark tester will only invite problems and headaches. Thankfully, a dedicated spark tester is not expensive and you can check out my recommendation here: The HEI Spark Tester (The Best Spark Tester On the Market).
The ignition system is NOT causing the no-start problem if:
- Spark is present at all 6 spark plug wires.
With all 6 spark plug wires delivering spark to the cylinders (spark plugs), you can conclude that the ignition system is NOT causing the engine no-start problem.
You can also conclude that:
- The crankshaft position (CKP) sensor is good.
- The ignition control module (ICM) is good.
- The ignition coil pack is good.
Since the ignition system is creating and feeding spark to the engine cylinders, the next test steps are to test the fuel pump's pressure. Go to: STEP 2: Testing The Fuel Pump's Pressure.
The ignition system IS THE CAUSE of the no-start problem if:
- You got NO spark at all 6 spark plug wires.
The components that can cause this no-spark problem are:
- A bad crankshaft position (CKP) sensor.
- A bad ignition control module (ICM).
- In some rare cases, a bad ignition coil pack.
Your next steps are to:
- Test the crankshaft position (CKP) sensor (to make sure that the ignition control module is receiving a CKP signal).
- Test the ignition control module (ICM).