95 astro won't start - no spark...

95 astro won't start - no spark...

Postby p377y7h33f [OP] » September 8th 2010, 3:02am

hi everybody. my first post here. i'll try to give you as much information on my problem as i can in as few words as i can.

i only have the van for a week. it sat still for about 6 months, so it took 3-4 minutes to start the very first time i saw it. over the next couple of days/200 miles/20 starts it began starting instantly, ran solid once warm, and put out 2000 miles in the week after that. so here i am in Massachusetts, 300 miles away from home(NY), parked in a hotel parking lot, shut off the engine and waiting for my reservation e-mail. i decide to open my window for a smoke, so i turn the key to ignition without starting the van and leave it that way for about 10 minutes. once i get the bad news from the hotel, i try to start it again, it cranks and nothing happens. that night i didn't do much.

next day, Labor Day, everything's closed so i venture to open the engine cover. checked all the fuses prior to that, they were all good. first thing i did was check for spark. PLEASE, tell me i did it right. i removed the wire right from the (very old)ignition coil, took a wire connected to an unpainted body area and held it close to the coil contact. cranked it - no spark. should i check at the rotor cap or it doesn't matter??? mind you, the electrical components in the van are all out of wack. speedometer is showing about 3/4 of the actual MPH, voltage meter is at 16v with ignition on, and 18v when running. fuel gauge can't be trusted. half the switches don't work, some are mixed up(rear defrost switch opens the rear door, no power locks and so on...) also, i cannot eliminate the possibility of me pulling out a wire with my foot while using the e-brake. i actually found a loose brown wire coming out from behind the fuse box and connected it to where it seemed to belong - a metal bracket which seems to provide ground.

next day, today, i decided to start replacing stuff. first, new ignition coil - $17 bucks, why the hell not. no change. thick pink wire to the coil has 11.5v(battery starting to give out), skinny short white with a connector is loose, hasn't been used for anything for a while. the skinny red and white from the coil to the ignition control module both have 11.5v. next, i took a walk and got a new ICM(ignition control module). no change. that's when i renewed my AAA membership and towed it to a shop. the guy took a quick look, measured the fuel pressure. it was 45psi, and i know it's lower than it should be, but he said it should be enough to start. then he checked the fuses again - all good. connected his scanner and said there was no communication with the computer. then he closed the shop and left for a week-long vacation.

now it's parked at a closed shop with the battery almost dead, i'm a mile and a half away in a hotel, wasting money, unable to complete my job assignment, looking at another tow, hours of diagnostics, possible rape by the local mechanics tomorrow, fresh out of ideas and no hope of making it back home for my daughter's birthday. the van cost me around $1800 so far and now i don't know if it's worth investing money into it any more.

i'll be able to post some pictures of under the dash area tomorrow, maybe you guys can see something i can't. oh, and i think it's a 95 body, but 94 and older interior. the dashboard is still squarish, and after a thorough search i never found the underhood fuse block i'm supposed to have on a 95. thanks for taking your time to read this. what's my next step?
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p377y7h33f
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Re: 95 astro won't start - no spark...

Postby cowboydan » September 8th 2010, 3:09pm

what are the chances it's your battery or alternator or both. your battery should be at 12.5 v. when driving, it should charge at 14v. anyway, it sounds like it cause even when the battery was cranking, it was cranking too slow to catch. hows the battery terminals? you might have a loose ground/bad cable. imho no wiring problem under the dash will stop the van from strarting if it got you there. hope this helps, nobody likes getting raped at the shop but it's might be to little too late. good luck getting home
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Re: 95 astro won't start - no spark...

Postby rev_les » September 9th 2010, 1:14am

Wow, that's a lot of small problems, and I agree with CD about the "if it got you there". On that note, 45 PSI isn't enough pressure to force the poppet valves off their seats in the injection spider. ( I'm guessing that you have CPI, if it's TBI, disregard, I don't know what pressure the TBI systems run). Check for spark at the distributor ( pop the coil wire off the center tower) at the coil wire.If I was a betting man, I'd put money on the fuel pump. Good luck!
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Re: 95 astro won't start - no spark...

Postby Big_kid » September 9th 2010, 4:28am

45 PSI isn't enough for CPI. IIRC it needs 55 or better, 62 comes to mind for some reason. If it is a fuel delivery problem you can try priming it with a little bit of ether or carburetor cleaner to see if it will run on that. Just don't go overboard with it.

To check for spark pull the wire off of THIS terminal, lay it near a ground (1/4 -3/8"), then crank the engine. Look for a blue spark, orange or yellow is weak.

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edit: forgot to add pic
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Re: 95 astro won't start - no spark...

Postby p377y7h33f [OP] » September 9th 2010, 7:17am

thanks guys. spent about 12 hours on it today. got the battery charged up like new. ether didn't work. never got the coil to spark.

a mechanic looked under the van, said i didn't have a crank sensor since its an early 95, possibly late 94. fuel pressure checked again - 35 psi. read something about the PCM/fuel pump being on the same fuse, but the pump works(no loud noises or anything), fuses are all good. still no spark.

i know i have power to the coil, but it won't spark. the red and white wires go from the coil to a brand new ICM, but i guess it's still not telling the coil to spark. now the 4 wires that come to the ICM might be responsible. what can i do with a multimeter to check those. am i risking burning out the PCM by measuring voltage/current on those 4 wires?
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Fueling (Empty tank)
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Re: 95 astro won't start - no spark...

Postby Big_kid » September 9th 2010, 1:51pm

You can check those wires by putting the meter on the Ohms scale.

Is the coil good? New parts can fail. Is the ground clean?

Re-reading your original post, I saw "there's no communication with the computer". I bet that's where the problem lies: Somewhere between the power going into to the computer & the ICM. When you turn the ignition on does the service engine light come on? Have you jumpered the 2 connections in the upper right corner of the dashboard connector and tried to read codes?
Quick tutorial here: http://www.aldlcable.com/
Basically jumper the connections, turn the key on (not start), and watch the service engine light flash. It will give you each code 3 times, then start over again. It will continue until you turn off the ignition. You should start off with code 12, which is normal (no ignition signal to the ECM). If this is the only code you get, that's a good thing. It tells you your ECM (computer) is working and has no stored codes. If you can't read anything (you don't get the 12) then I'd bet there's a problem with the wiring to and from the ECM or the ECM itself. If you go to photobucket.com and search for user Buggy_dude (that's me also) look in my misc junk album. There's a scan of my code reader card. One side is how to get codes, the other is the code breakdown. It's probably also a good idea to check the check engine bulb too, if it hasn't been lighting.

Good luck, keep us posted.
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Re: 95 astro won't start - no spark...

Postby rev_les » September 9th 2010, 10:48pm

It's possible the low pressure is caused by low voltage. There's a ground point attached to the thermostat housing, REMOVE it, extend the wires with 14GA wires, and re-connect it to the chassis ground up on the core support.Those grounds on the thermostat housing are for the PCM, and what a wonderful place for GM to put them, on aluminum filled with corrosive fluid. Sorry I didn't think to have you check that sooner,but I'd make it the absolute next thing I did before continuing. It's simple, cheap, and I, for one, had electrical gremlins on my '95 that stemmed from that ground having corrosion on the bolts, wires, etc.
edit* I don't THINK this will fix the low fuel pressure, but it could fix the issue with the computer....and if the computer's working right, then MAYBE we can get further into this.
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