The damage to our car from running up on that curb has been repaired. The bill? $4,008.53. Xy’s response: Time to get a new car. My response: At least we met our deductible.

On a related note, the future of Saturn appears uncertain at this point, so I’m rather discouraged about ever getting satisfaction on the non-starting issue.

And speaking of curbs, sort of, I was happy to see work crews on my block this morning, ripping out some old beat-up sidewalks for wholesale replacement.

Sidewalk Replacement

Non-Starter (part five in a series)

Here’s a new twist on an old theme. Because of our intermittent no-crank no-start problem, Xy has taken to going out early on cold mornings and giving the car a test start. This was such a morning. It was about 36º F out there. But the car started up, no problem. But twenty minutes later, when she was ready to go, it failed.

I called Saturn about this a couple weeks ago and gave them an earful. Turns out the car is still under extended warranty, which means that they’ll pay for the repairs, and even pay for a rental car for us while it’s in the shop. But here’s the rub: They would have to reproduce the problem first. Given the intermittent and unpredictable nature of the problem, that proviso is a non-starter, pardon the pun. We’d have to take the car into the dealership, leave it there, and rent a car on our own dime. They’d try to reproduce the problem, and each day our rental expenses mount and the stakes get higher. Since the car can go for months without a problem, I’m rather daunted by the prospect.

I just called the U.S. Department of Transportation Vehicle Safety Hotline and filed a complaint. I don’t imagine that will do much good.

I’m so freakin’ aggravated by this. There are certainly bigger problems in the world, but this is a known issue. The manufacturer should own up to it and take the necessary steps to make it right.

And we wonder why the U.S. auto industry is in a jam.

Update: I have to take back what I said in a previous post about not being able to find any evidence of someone defeating the Passlock system and thus solving this problem. Here’s a video:

And here’s an extensive forum discussion with multiple people claiming to have solved the problem by just “cutting the white wire.”

Non-Starter (part four in a series)

Here we go again. It was probably the coldest morning of the season so far.

No crank, no start.

Xy was pissed, and I can’t blame her. It was her turn to drive for the carpool. Two co-workers were depending on her. Fortunately they were able to switch it up at the last minute.

Of course, a short time later, the car started up — no problem.

Having read a bunch of internet forum posts about this, I’m convinced some weather condition improperly triggers the Passlock anti-theft system. However, aside from the cold-morning pattern, the problem is so frakking random that it’s frightening.

There’s at least one guy who advocates using a bypass/override module. These modules are designed for people who want to use a remote starter, but in theory it should solve our problem even without a remote. I’ve found various models online, like the Omega IB-PLJX. Only $23. I think I could install it myself.

I’m hesitating for two reasons. One, I want to hear what the guy at the dealership might have to say. I’m waiting for him to call back. Two, I’ve been searching the net for a success story, and I can’t find one. I’ve seen plenty of people ranting about this problem — They oughta have a recall! We oughta sue! I’ve seen a number of people theorizing about the bypass module solution. But no one is bragging about actually having done it, and that makes me leery.


This morning the car wouldn’t start again. Only three weeks since the last time. Cocking the wheel didn’t help. Nothing helped. I waited about five or ten minutes, and it started right up.

I don’t think this is related to the colder weather, because when it didn’t start on the 9th the low was only 66º. There just doesn’t seem to be any pattern, except that after waiting a short while the car always starts up. We can’t reproduce the problem at will, so I don’t think any mechanic will be able to help. I’ve had 25 people give me 25 different ideas of what it could be. I’m mystified.

Our biggest clue is that after a few minutes it starts up fine.

Apparently this is known as a “No Crank” scenario. We know the battery and the connections to the battery are good. Since there’s no clicking or clunking I assume it’s not the starter, solenoid or Bendix.

After a bit of internet research I have come across reference to other people having this problem. A lot of folks seem to have narrowed their problem down to some kind of anti-theft device called the “passlock” system which is being improperly triggered. I guess next time this happens we should look for an icon of a car with a lock on the dashboard, as apparently that’s some kind of secret signal. I think I would have noticed it, though.

(This is one of those rare days I actually drove to work, because I was taking my eleven-year-old Power Mac 8600 in to the office to see if I can pull some data off the drive before giving it away to a friend of a friend. First time it’s been booted in over three years.)


Again this morning with the non-starting car. I think this is the second time since I wrote about this problem back in January. Plenty of power, but no engine action. We both tried it repeatedly. Xy was about to get a ride to work with our neighbor Debra when she asked me, “Did you try cocking the wheel left and right?” I hadn’t, so I tried it, and then she started right up. Coincidence? Or could there be a connection?

Sometimes the car won’t let go of the damn key when you shut it down. Could that be related in some way?

At a frequency of about four times a year, this problem is the very definition of intermittent.

Speaking of possibly related symptoms, I’ve been feeling like I’m fighting some kind of a bug for about a month now, off and on. Yesterday I started feeling a sore throat, and today it’s slightly worse. So I’m taking it easy, trying to rest up and stay hydrated and eat plenty of the good chicken soup Xy whipped up last night.


One morning about a month ago, Xy couldn’t get our car started, and she had to catch a ride with a co-worker.

I was all set to take it to the shop, but when I tried it an hour later, it started right up for me. So we dismissed it as a fluke.

This morning we had a repeat performance. Car wouldn’t start for Xy. I tried it too and it wouldn’t start for me either.

It had full electrical power, but nary a peep from the engine. Not a grind, not a click — nothing. Though you could listen to the radio if you wanted.

A couple hours later, it started up with no problems.

So now it’s not a fluke. It’s a pattern, and a rather aggravating one at that.

Other than this, the car runs fine. It’s a Saturn Ion 3 circa 2005.

What on earth could be causing this mysterious problem? We’ve racked our brains and can only think of a couple of common factors, which are probably red herrings. Both times, Xy had just filled up the gas tank the night before. Both times, it rained in the early morning.

I’m thinking about calling Tom & Ray on this one.

Car Trouble

Xy found the car wouldn’t start this morning. Or rather, it would start sometimes and run for as long as thirty seconds and then die. Other times it wouldn’t really start at all. We called a cab but she ended up getting a ride with the neighbor across the street. I got Trep’s to come tow the car to their service station. Of course, it started right up for them, and stayed running. But their tests showed low fuel pressure and they found oil in the coolant. Could be a blown head gasket — or a cracked block. Or who knows. They couldn’t handle it at Trep’s so I took it to Angelo’s in Gentilly. Hope to hear something tomorrow.

This Saturn is nine years old. Fred (who gave me a ride) says it’s time to buy another vehicle.

I hate car trouble. I hate cars, actually, because they’re nothing but trouble.

On a related tangent, a co-worker (who I recently learned is royalty) just begged me for help with her computer, a Mac with a display that was inexplicably black and white and very strange looking. She said it started when someone leaned on the keyboard with her arm. Her son had already Googled the problem and called tech support to no avail. I noticed the display was not only monochromatic but inverted with regard to luminance. In other words, everything was negative. Google’s homepage was black. So we Googled “mac display black and white inverted” and instantly found the answer. Seems there’s a keyboard shortcut that does this trick: Ctl-Opt-Cmd-8. If you’ve got a Mac, try it. Or better yet, do it to a friend’s Mac when they’re not looking.

Update: Angelo’s called back and said the leakage is so bad the engine would probably have to be replaced, and said we are probably better off getting a new car.

Oh, and rcs posted a screenshot of his inverted screen of this very post!

RSS Inverted

At the Spellcaster

I’ve heard of the 9th Ward hipster scene, but I never checked it out until this past Saturday night, when Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat re-opened the Spellcaster Lodge. I’d never been there before, but I’ve been a fan of Quintron ever since I heard his Satanic croaking organ cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” (mp3). On the bill for the Grand Re-opening: Black Lips, Quintron and Pussycat, Uncle Flim Flam and DJ Jubilee.

Tony and I stopped first at the Saturn Bar for a beer, then made our way across St. Claude. The Spellcaster is the lower floor of a house, and you could easily miss it because the entrance is in the rear. But eventually we found our way in. I don’t know what the place looked like before the flood, but they redecorated in high kitsch, complete with bubbling water-filled “porthole” lights and sparkly-shaggy wallpaper and little display cases with tableus of pinecone people. The place was filling with a mix of interesting folk of every description. I started to get a real David Lynch Blue Velvet vibe. I think the drugs were kicking in.

Though their website said “we now have air conditioning” and “ventillation,” as the grew it got hotter and hotter inside. I heard one person refer to it as the “Spellcaster Sweatlodge.” Another person said the heat was making him hallucinate. I swear it must have been up to a hundred degrees when I went to the bar.

And who should be working behind the bar but Antoinette K-Doe, widow of the late Emperor of the Universe himself. It was so hot I was worried for her health.

Fortunately it was very nice outside, but even the back yard was getting crowded. Soon Tony and I adjourned to the Saturn. I never even got to see any of the musical acts. But never fear, there was an interesting crowd at the Saturn now, overflow from the Spellcaster perhaps. Tony and I perched on the balcony to drink and talk and watch the crowd. I found it a fascinating spectacle, even though I felt a bit like an anthropologist. I saw plenty of people I recognized from living in New Orleans for the past seven years.

It reminded me of the microscene back in Bloomington, Indiana in the mid-90s (which continues to this day, as I confirmed during my evacuation). But there were a couple of key differences. Here there was more diversity of age and race. And back in Bloomington I knew most everybody’s name.

I think they must mix ’em strong at the Saturn, because I woke up Sunday with a killer hangover. Thankfully this motivated me to get some more work done on ROX #94. It’s almost finished.

Update: Slimbolala has pix and illustrations.