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 96 with transmission/electronic issue

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Asinnn
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PostSubject: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:15 pm

Hi All,

I have a 96 non-supercharged with 142,000 miles. The car had the engine rebuilt 20,000 miles ago and I've put on about 10,000 since I purchased it (I'm the second owner).

The transmission started being very sluggish starting off from a stop but fine while driving. My mechanic and his transmission shop say the tranny is toast (or soon will be).

At about the same time, the airbag light started flashing, the heater controls switch on and off and the display shows odd characters (such as both Centigrade and Fahrenheit and illegible symbols, etc.). The alternator light will flash in between the airbag light flashing (but not always) and headlights will only come on when the car is in gear (and then may work O.K. the next time). It was suggested that the "Lamp Control Module" was bad. I tried testing by disconnecting it and the dashboard problems remained so reconnected it. I've checked and cleaned every fuse in all four fuse boxes. One positive thing is that I fixed the trunk switch on the driver's door while I was at it (the glove box switch was bad).

Do you think this electronic issue may be affecting the transmission or do I have two separate problems? I do most of my own work and would be willing to change the tranny if I can sort out the electrics.

Any thoughts on either would be greatly welcomed.

The car is in nice shape for it's age and I'd hate to give up on it.

Best regards,
Adrian
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:23 pm

Sounds to me like you may have a serious grounding issue - something major under the dash or under the hood. I'm not sure where the major ground points are but it's a good place to start with that many problems.

The HVAC unit is it's own head, seperate from the BCM (body control module) and LCM (Lighting Control Module). It could certainly affect the computer controlled transmission as well.

With this many issues I'm thinking one of the major ground points, like the body to transmission/starter on the front of the motor,, or the battery to ground under the back seat.
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:36 pm

Thanks, I'll give it a look. People make fun of the electrics in my '67 Triumph TR4A but it's like kindergarten compared to the PhD needed here. By the way, with British electrics it's usually the ground, too.

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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:09 pm

deekster_caddy wrote:
Sounds to me like you may have a serious grounding issue - something major under the dash or under the hood. I'm not sure where the major ground points are but it's a good place to start with that many problems.

The HVAC unit is it's own head, seperate from the BCM (body control module) and LCM (Lighting Control Module). It could certainly affect the computer controlled transmission as well.

With this many issues I'm thinking one of the major ground points, like the body to transmission/starter on the front of the motor,, or the battery to ground under the back seat.

I would check:

- the battery itself. Sometimes folks cheap out on battteries, which is a bad, bad idea with the Riv because of the high load when off. The car is never really off, rather the gas engine is running or not running. Lots of electrical stuff stays on whether the engine is running or not. Suggest that you lift off the back seat, clean the battery terminals, and clean the grounds there. While you are under there check (visual and electrical check) the fuses in the 2 big black boxes on the drivers side. If the grounds are poor the electricals (essentials and accessories) won't see the right voltage. The electronics are voltage dependent for porper operation. When you reconnect the battery be sure the vent hoses are installed correctly or your battery will corrode thru the floor in as little as 6-12 months. Very bad scene. Be sure to have someone load test the battery and if it's not making the minimum CCAs needed for the factory spec (I think that's 500 or so) replace the thing, you dont need the headaches of a flaky battery... you can get them at WalMart and many auto parts stores; they are actually often reasonable at dealers, even. Shop by phone, you'll find one reasonable priced without too much headache...
- In the engine compartment there are several grounds - start by the passenger side engine mount (and be aware that gorund is likely to break when you try to undo it), and work your way along the frame rail and back onto the firewall, across to the other frame rail. You'll find most of the critical gorunds. There are a couple in the passenger compartment. As for grounds breaking, you will need a tap and die set to retap the bolt hole for the ground bolt if it breaks - - not difficult, but just one more thing you know...
- check the connections to the black box under the drivers seat and the one under the rear package shelf (you have to crawl into the trunk to get to that one).

The Riv electroncis are somewhat complex but at least they are not by Lucas. i hear that Lucas is the Prince of Darkness.

Albertj
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:26 pm

Hi Albert,

Many thanks for the additional information. I'll check those grounds (have cleaned and checked all the fuses). New battery about 6 months ago and I was sure to hook up the vent pipes when I replaced it (also cleaned the box since the positive lead had broken off from the previous battery letting the battery acid leak into the well).

Have the necessary tools (but only part 2 of the Riv factory manual . . . awaiting a full set). Had to do something similar to my Jeep Cherokee when replacing the rear shocks. All but one of the mounting bolts broke off.

The Lucas factory motto was reputed to be, "A good days work and home before dark." The Triumph TR4 is one of the more dependable of the British classics. Mine is a bit more complex, by my own doing, including electric windows operated from the original window winders.

Best regards,
Adrian
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:08 pm

Asinnn wrote:
Hi Albert,

Many thanks for the additional information. I'll check those grounds (have cleaned and checked all the fuses). New battery about 6 months ago and I was sure to hook up the vent pipes when I replaced it (also cleaned the box since the positive lead had broken off from the previous battery letting the battery acid leak into the well).

Have the necessary tools (but only part 2 of the Riv factory manual . . . awaiting a full set). Had to do something similar to my Jeep Cherokee when replacing the rear shocks. All but one of the mounting bolts broke off.

The Lucas factory motto was reputed to be, "A good days work and home before dark." The Triumph TR4 is one of the more dependable of the British classics. Mine is a bit more complex, by my own doing, including electric windows operated from the original window winders.

Best regards,
Adrian

...by the way

- my experience is that if you clean the grounds to bright metal and use a conductive grease on them such as NoAlOx or conductive heat sink grease, then they won't bother you again.

- consider leaving the battery disconnected for an hour or so to let the PCM re-set. just a thought...

- it would not be a waste of time/money to drop the transmission pan to see if anything unusual is in, and then to replace the fluid and filter. Condier refilling with Dexton VI (the new fluid) it has better friction properties than the original fluid (Dexron III).

- if you have a MityVac or other means to check the vacuum lines, consider doing so.

- as for other sources of the electrical problems I wonder if your ignition switch is failing.

Hopefully some others will chime in.

Albertj
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:03 am

albertj wrote:
- as for other sources of the electrical problems I wonder if your ignition switch is failing.

That was the first thought that came to my mind when he described his problems......
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:02 pm

Abaddon wrote:
albertj wrote:
- as for other sources of the electrical problems I wonder if your ignition switch is failing.

That was the first thought that came to my mind when he described his problems......

When my ig switch died, the car would just shut off for no apparent reason. Thought it was the crank sensor failing again at first but fortunately the dealer mechanics had done two things. One - the original replacement CS they installed was known to fail from their experience with other cars. So when mine went (after being in a couple years) they had already replaced it with a Delphi, which due to known engineering and testing changes are not known to fail. That is, not that it could not fail but the 'kneejerk' reaction of swapping the CS was no longer appropriate. (They are also a hair pricey.)

Second, their work on other vehicles had led them to figure out how to troubleshoot it by elimination using NOIDs and an LED test set from aftermarket car alarms they install. Actually pretty clever. First test proper operation & good wiring of the PCM and ignition module using the NOIDs then connect the alarm disabler test rig and leave it in place. Trick is, there is no disabler installed. So when the car quits read the state of the LEDs on the test rig, and that tells you what happened (tells you if the ig module quit or got turned off, basically, as if the disabler was installed).

In Adrian's case, it looks like the car's "possessed" but after having reviewed the wiring diagrams, the one point of failure that jumps out at me is the ig switch... page 8A-10-7 of the 1998 manual (vol 1) shows the air bag, turn LPS, HVAC relay, and IGN 1 fuses *all* are switched on the same terminal of the ig switch, which runs thru the pink wire of connector 202, and splice 224. Since Adrian's already checked the fuses and what not (and since he's able to keep a Triumph of all things lit and running, hats off to him) I'd recommend (given also the age of the car) replacing the ignition switch. ...so Hang In There Adrian. There is a post elsewhere on this site shows how to rip open the Saginaw column and replace the switch, bonus is while you are in there you can also tighten and loctite the bolts for the tilt adjuster, thereby taking *all* the slop out of it for good.

Why did I suggest the other stuff? Because it's way easier to check and fix and has to be eliminated anyway before you burn half a Saturday marveling at Saginaw engineering and electromechanical packaging. And the point of the short story above is that even if this does not work there will be other things to try if we put our minds together and think this through.

but yeah most likely it's the stupid ig switch or a cut wire leading to it. Hey Adrian -- has this car been in a wreck? While you are under the dash might want to take a hard look at the steering shaft and wiring in proximity. Especially the pink wires wink .


Albertj
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:08 pm

Hi All,

Thanks again for your help. Here's the ongoing saga. The alternator light (which had flashed occasionally when the airbag light wasn't flashing) came on and stayed on. I checked and the alternator had died. The surprising thing is that all the other issues went away when the car was running on battery power alone. Even the tranny started shifting correctly.

I searched for "Alternator' and found a post that described the same issues I had and it was his alternator.

Well, I swapped it out for a rebuilt. Initially it was charging at 18 volts but once the battery had a chance to recover it dropped back down to 16v. It's been a couple of days and perhaps 40 miles so I'll go out and check it again after I get over this miserable cold.

The car is still having issues. The heater display is now O.K. but the airbag light still comes on, if you hit the brakes, wipers, turn signals, or something else that draws power, it flashes a few times and goes out, temporarily. The tranny is getting a bit better after reverting to it's original non-shifting problem. Now it will start out correctly the first time you drive off but after the next stop it's back to being in a high gear. If you shut it off and wait a second or two, then start off it's fine. Odd that it worked with a dead alternator.

I see that a lot of owners are using an Optima battery. This has a 6-month old Deka from Autobarn and it has been fine until this issue appeared. Is the Optima a big help?

Thanks again for all your information. I do appreciate it.

Albertj, no, the car has never been crashed. I'll start checking the grounds and take a look at the other possibilities. The previous owner did have the ignition switch replaced once. He always took it to the dealer, so only Buick parts. There is some slop in the steering tilt adjuster so I'll open it up when I have a moment.

By the way, I'm the second owner. The original owner is 95 and he wanted a newer car so he bought a 2005 Monte Carlo.

Adrian
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:41 pm

I'm not a fan of Optima batteries in stock, driven, street use cars. If you are building something with special electrical needs they are interesting batteries to look at, but unless you are building show sound systems I don't see any justification for the extra cost.

Make sure the battery has enough CCA and is vented. To me knowledge those batteries are hard to come by and Deka wasn't one of the choices.
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:50 pm

If that battery got too deeply discharged it may well be the cause of the problem. Just posting the following primarily for others reading this post in the future - I suspect you already know the following: Flip up the rear seat and disconnect the battery to measure the voltage. If it is reading much less then 12.4 volts (for instance 10.-something) you have at least one dead cell and you really should (read "must") replace the battery. Anyway, then reconnect the battery and read voltage again. What you are looking for is if the car drags the battery down when turned off, if so then you are looking for a short somewheres. Start car, read voltage 3rd time. What you are looking for is voltage when the alt is running. If it's more than low 14 voltsish you probably have a bad voltage regulator - it's integral to the alternator. The VR is replaceable. Many GM service manuals from '95 on have *detailed* instructions for rebuilding the alt. It is a CS-144.

If it matters DEKA batteries are made by East Penn Manufacturing. They have a plant in Iowa and another in Pennsylvania (Lyon Station). Supposedly good batteries.

Also as for that alternator. Autozone will test them, maybe yours was bad new, would not be the first crapped rebuilt alt. When you put it back in clean the chassis mounting points and the matching bosses on the alternator with a wire brush and consider putting conductive grease (heat sink grease maybe) on them. And maybe recheck the ground by the battery among others.

Hopefully we get this straight before something else fries.
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PostSubject: Re: 96 with transmission/electronic issue   Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:08 pm

Hi Albertj and Deekster,

Thanks for all your help. The car is now running fine. It took a while for everything to slowly come back on line probably because we don't do long enough trips (and I was out with a really bad cold). Took it for two runs, one about 40 miles and another about 20 and the tranny is, once again, shifting properly.

So the real cause was the alternator failing slowly. Since the alternator light was flashing intermittently with the other dash lights it didn't scream out, "I'm breaking!" It wasn't until it came on permanently that I found it to be dead. By then the battery had drained enough that it needed a good charge.

I did read up on the Deka battery and, as you mention, they've been around a long time.

Just to be sure, on the transmission, I changed the fluid and filter. Another great thanks to Mr. Riviera for the photos, made it much easier. There was nothing in the transmission pan, no big metal chunks as I once found in a Mercury I owned (had to shift that one like a manual).

Thanks again for all your help. I've been on a lot of forums over the years and this one has been the most helpful.
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