'98 Pontiac Grand Am Lights/Parking Brake

Old 09-12-02, 06:27 PM
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'98 Pontiac Grand Am Lights/Parking Brake

I have the subject car on an overnight evaluation from a used car dealer. As a result, I don't know the cars characteristics & there is no owners manual in the car.

In any case, after driving it home, it wouldn't start - as if the battery was extremely low. When I turned the ignition on, the headlights came on (but the headlight switch is set to off). Trying to start it with the headlights on and a low battery doesn't (of course) work too well.

After trying various things, I found that the headlights go &/or stay off when the parking brake is locked. The lights always come on whenever the parking brake is disengaged.

Then it occured to me that this may be one of the cars that kept it headlights on at all times while the car is running. Does anyone out there know if this is the case????

Since this car just came from a bumper to bumper inspection by a good mechanic (and nothing showed up on his diagnostic checks) I have to believe that the problem isn't a fault in the starting system. It could of course be that the battery just shorted itself out but I don't understand how that would cause the headlights to come on, etc.

It seems to me that this situation is partly due to a low battery (car standing idle on a lot for awhile) combined with some possible safety thing (headlights always on).

Your help in sorting this out will be very much appreciated.

Best regards, Dick
Old 09-12-02, 07:04 PM
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Location: Pittsburgh,Pa
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The car has daytime running lamps but you need to have the battery tested.The parking brake putting the lights out is normal,but the on board module should see a battery drain occur and after 10 minutes cease all electrical power.I would look and see if the battery has a positive terminal acid leak.I would tell them what happened and see how they respond.If they are honest they will fix it Otherwise steer clear.
Old 09-12-02, 07:24 PM
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in addition to this model having daytime running lights (canadian spec for sure, not so sure about US), the lighting system itself is automatic. Light sensor mounted in the defrost area. When ambient light drops below a certain threshold, eg. dusk, headlights, taillamps, parking and instrument/dash lights come on. Having the parking brake on before starting the car disables this feature.


have DRL's been mandated in the US or is it up to the mfg whether or not the feature is installed?
Old 09-12-02, 08:02 PM
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Thanks much Davo & Otter, your help is much appreciated & it clears up a lot of the mystery.

Do either of you know if this daytime running lamps things can be easily defeated? If so, where should the mechanic (or me) be lloking for the sensors & switches, etc? It seems dumb to me to have this un-necessary load on the alternator & the battery.

Best regards, Dick
Old 09-13-02, 04:43 AM
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Thumbs down

I agree with all others here about the issues with the car.

Otter: I believe DRL's are a requirement after a certain year...around 1997 or so here in the States.

Dick: This is a lackluster car, skip it. Crude, rough very cheaply screwed together and not worth bus fare on a good day. Small US made cars tend to be very poor in quality in the long haul.

And that's coming from a guy who only buys American and owns six GM cars .

Am I telling you to go out and buy a foreign car? No. Buy an upgraded American car like a LeSabre or something with more quality built into it.

My .02
Old 09-13-02, 05:15 AM
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If you don't want to look like you're driving your dad's car....

and still want a grand am, then look for 99 or newer. Generation change that year. MUCH tighter body and interior assembly and better drive feel. Larger displacement 3400V6 avail with good low end punch. 2.4 4cyl no slouch either with 150hp available and contrary to what other people are going to say about that engine, it's put together pretty well as of the mid-late 90's. In fact the 3400 has been more of a trouble maker with GM skating around a piston slap on cold startup issue.

The 98 feels sloppy in comparison. Good Luck!
Old 09-13-02, 07:40 AM
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Thanks again Joe F & Otter for your comments.

The reason we're looking to buy this particular car is because it's half the price of a 99 Trans Ams with V6 engine. And, as a bonus, it's in "like new" & loaded condition for our budgeted $5k. Nearly every "good condition" '99 we've seen was about $10k.

Since this will be a second family car that my 67 year old wife will be driving, we don't mind looking like we're driving our Dads car. Being "old farts" we're more concerned with mechanical reliabilty and good value in a decent looking car within our budget.

This one meets our needs & has it all for far less money than an "equal priced" Le Sabre or other equal quality GM car which would probably have way over 100k miles. Since I "swore off & at" Ford & Chrysler products some time ago, and imports are out as well, it doesn't leave a lot to choose from.

Best regards, Dick

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