1988 Suburban intermittent electrical failure


Old 08-25-02, 12:59 PM
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Question 1988 Suburban intermittent electrical failure

I have a mysterious intermittent electrical failure problem which emerged after our 1988 Chevrolet Suburban underwent transmission repair with certified transmission specialists. Upon start up it has excellent power and crank speed, and immediately fires up and runs well. However, after an undeterminable amount of time (sometimes a few seconds, sometimes a couple of days) it stalls while running, with complete loss of all chassis electrical systems, sometimes momentarily, sometimes for a few minutes. The headlights are never lost and are bright when on. Immediately upon stall, if there is no chassis electricity, there is also no starter click (hence no turnover). Sometimes when chassis electricity returns, the Suburban will again start right up without difficulty. However, sometimes when the key is turned, all of the chassis electricity is lost. Initially, turning the key backward did not affect chassis electricity, but last night after doing this, that action also resulted in loss of chassis electrcity. The inability to start or have chassis electricity is also an undetermined amount of time, sometimes a few seconds, but up to a few hours. Interestingly, the clock never loses time and the radio pre-set channels are not lost, as one would expect with battery or alternator failure, and the battery is never drained.
I have not yet consulted an automotive repair shop as I consider time and money valuable, both of which have been wasted on previous vehicles experiencing electrical problems by so-called "car electrical experts". As this car is our family taxi to and from school and lessons, reliability is a must. Any suggestions before I attempt repairs myself or consult with an automotive repair facility? Thanks
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Old 08-25-02, 07:11 PM
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sounds to me like they didn't tighten the battery cable to the starter. thats where i would start looking. should be on the passenger side bottom of the motor. if the cables wiggle then tighten them up. good luck
Old 08-25-02, 10:45 PM
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Open the hood, look on the firewall for a black plastic piece with 2 red wires bolted on it. Make sure they are tight at the connections there, then follow them to be sure they didn't get pinched between anything. Also, look behind the engine around the top of the bell-housing. Make sure there are no wires pinched in there. This is a common problem when transmissions get removed.

An even more likely possibility just occurred to me. Check the connections at the starter. There's a good chance that they are not tight.
Old 11-24-02, 07:55 AM
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I had this exact same problem. 88 suburban, 1500.

It frustrated me and was driving me crazy.

I replaced the starter and everything works perfectly!!

Did you notice that the starter was hard to crank after running for a while?

Did you notice voltage fluctuations on your voltage gauge?

Those were additional symptoms I experienced.
Old 11-24-02, 12:12 PM
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I'm with Cheese on this one. You have a loose or frayed ground somewhere. Back to the tranny shop and have them recheck their work.
Old 11-24-02, 01:51 PM
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I agree that its a ground problem. I searched furiously to find mine. Then on one of the times when I mysteriously had no electrical power, except headlights, I crawled underneath and tapped the starter with a hammer a few times. Voila, I had power. This went on for a while until I replaced the starter.

I am certailny no automotive mechanic, however, I think something was going on in the starter motor causing an intermittent ground, which zapped the power system.

Then again it could have been just magic or intervention by the good lord, as I prayed over this problem for some time.

Old 11-24-02, 07:23 PM
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Check your battery lead connection to the starter solenoid. On the 5.7 truck, the heat shield over the starter makes it fairly difficult to tighten this up. Probably halfway tightened by the Tranny shop. Be sure and disconnect from the battery first.

Also, be sure and do what Cheese said while your under the hood! Good advice from him.

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