And again I get a strange one. At least this one didn't kick me in the nuts and cause a comeback.....yet.
1995 Pontiac Grand Am with a 3.1L The car was towed in overnight or at least after I had gone home. Dad had taken the keys and the little, if incoherent, information that was left about the problem.
What I could get from Dad when I showed for work was. "It overheated when they where driving it, then it died going down the road and wouldn't start up again. So they towed it here."
Dad had all ready refilled the antifreeze and started running the car. Yes, it amazingly started right up and idled fine. He brought it up to temp and that was when we noticed the crack in the driver side of the radiator. OK, easy enough for that, so far.
The fact that it had died, or stopped running, or didn't start and now it did he handed it off to me for diagnose. Oh fun, Oh lucky me as usual. That and a radiator in this isn't going to be something he jumps for joy to do. Later in the day when I had some free time I fired it up, it idled rough and the scanner I had hooked up would power on and off. I put it in reverse and it died instantly. I did this three more times and each time the same thing. The engine would die. I put it into drive and it stayed running. So I managed it into the shop but as I hit a bump in the entrance to the shop it shuddered for a moment. I knew then I was chasing something odd.
Running it on the hoist I noticed the gauges would go funky at times, lights flicker and generally gremlins jumping around. I knew then my issue was electrical, and most likely a broken or damaged wire. Thinking this problem must have started after the radiator cracked, or should I say hoping the problem was associated with the radiator crack I started wiggling wires in that generally area, the area just below the battery, near the transmission. I also focused there since it would die in reverse, which made me think the engine shifting cause something to stretch and there are a lot of power wires and ground wires in that general region.
About 20 minutes later I found my problem. Now whether it is the chicken, or the egg compared to the overheat I'm not totally sure. The three ground wires attached to a aftermarket, but old, transmission where loose in their eyelets. I started yanking and squeezing wires in that area and the scanner would go nuts. I finally narrowed it there, one slight yank and out they came.
Now, I'm not done with the car yet. I'll have a radiator in the morning. But I am ass-u-ming that the wire issue was present before the coolant leak. The wires shorting out may have caused the coolant fan to not operate. The engine started to overheat, pressure built, and POW, the plastic section of the radiator let loose spraying coolant in that general area and the motor then died when these wires where soaked in coolant and lost any connection. They dried out enough to run the motor, just not well, when it was towed here.
Anyway, that is a theory. I've still not gotten a clear picture from the customer of the circumstances leading up the the breakdown. Once I learn more from them, I may have to adjust my theory.
So, another crazy car issue this week. Everything comes in threes, I hate to see what next week brings.