Take the 2-minute tour ×
Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for mechanics and DIY enthusiast owners of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Update

This question seems to be attracting a lot of views, so I guess a lot of people are having the same problem.

Just to be clear, the problem with MY fans specifically seemed to be caused by my new temp sensor being faulty. This isn't likely to be your problem, but don't rule it out. There are some other great diagnostics suggested below for other possible reasons the fans aren't running.

There was a bigger problem with overheating with this car, even after the fans were running correctly. The stock engine comes with a plastic intake manifold gasket, which is prone to failure. It leaks coolant into the cylinders and causes inefficiency in the cooling system, leading to low coolant and overheating. You can replace this gasket with a metal one, the repair is a little involved but I managed with a Haynes manual. Good luck!


Original Question

My 2000 Pontiac Grand Am GT (6 cy/3.4L) has been having cooling issues. I started by replacing the thermostat and performing a flush & fill on the radiator. This didn't seem to resolve the issue -- the engine still overheats when at a stop.

This lead me to suspect the fans, so I tested the fans themselves (independent dual electric cooling fans). They do not start when the engine is warm... this is the problem.

I wired each fan directly to the battery, both function correctly. Next, I checked the relays, both tested operational. If I disconnect the temperature sensor, both fans come on immediately. So, I replaced the temperature sensor.

The problem persists; the engine will reach 200, the thermostat opens (determined by watching the temp. gauge), but the fans do not start. If I disconnect the (new!) temperature sensor, both fans start. I have read that turning the air conditioning on should also cause the fans to turn on, this does not happen (with the temp. sensor plugged in), not when then engine is cool or hot.

I am at my wits end as to what to check next. I am prepared instead to hardwire the fans to the ignition switch. Can anyone give me any ideas of any further diagnostic steps before I give up and take the "duct tape solution"? This is my wife's daily driver, so the pressure is on! Thanks in advance.

share|improve this question
1  
Did you bleed the air out of the system when doing the coolant change? –  Mark Johnson Sep 30 '12 at 21:12
    
@MarkJohnson -- Thank you for pointing out this requirement. It was not the main problem, but armed with the knowledge that the bleeding is necessary saved me time later when I did the larger repair. –  Chris Jan 9 '13 at 12:52
    
Chris Ah, I see you did have a bad temp sensor. Confusing that it would feed a believable signal to the dash gauge yet be off enough to screw up fan activation and cause the engine to overheat. Sometimes that's hard to diagnose. I've driven multiple vehicles where the powertrain controller waits so long before turning on any fans that I find myself turning on the A/C to force it to engage a fan. –  Mark Johnson Jan 9 '13 at 19:49
    
Sorry, I'm a little unclear as to the answer on this one. Did your problem end up being a defective temp sensor? –  user3870 Oct 22 '13 at 3:42
    
@Brandon Yes, I believe so. I exchanged the temp sensor for a new one and installed it, and the cooling fans engaged. The overheating problem, however, was a larger issue -- we had coolant leaking into the cylinders (with little evidence other than constant need to refill) and I had to replace the lower intake manifold gasket. It is, apparently, common on this car. GM used a "plastic set" gasket, and the plastic warps then degrades over time. The replacement gasket is metal set. I did the work myself and I am a third-rate home tinkerer -- it wasn't hard with a repair manual. –  Chris Oct 22 '13 at 15:04

5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Don't be discouraged by a new part not working. My family runs a shop, and we get defective parts all the time.

There is a table located here that shows diagnostic steps you can take. It's for a 1999 model, but 1999-2001 are virtually the same (I own a 2001 G/T model).

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks, I'll check out that link. The thing about the part being defective... I don't think that's the problem. When I disconnect the temp. sensor (the new part), the dash temp. gauge drops to zero. When I plug it in, it springs back to the proper temp. That leads me to believe the part in question is functioning, and the trouble is elsewhere. I guess nothing's impossible, though! –  Chris Sep 30 '12 at 2:50
    
It could be working for reading the temperature and displaying it, but not working when it comes to turning the fans on. If that's the case, I would say it's probably something with the PCM. If you're lucky, you might can find a junked car with a used PCM that still works, rather than having to buy a new one. They can be pretty expensive. –  Sly Sep 30 '12 at 2:56
    
...or I'll run some wires from the ignition switch to the fan relays and call it a day! hahah –  Chris Sep 30 '12 at 2:57
    
That works, too. It wouldn't be the first or last time someone has done it. :P –  Sly Sep 30 '12 at 2:58
    
I'm a computer programmer, this car stuff is driven only by necessity/wifey. That link looks like a great resource, other than the computer scanner thing, I'll start at the top there. If the solution is on that chart, I'll be sure to accept this. Thanks again. –  Chris Sep 30 '12 at 2:59

Hook your temp sender up to a meter and drop it in some boiling water. This should tell you if it's working or not. Personally, I'd just disconnect it until you get the issue figured out -- running the fans continuously isn't going to hurt anything, it'll just be loud.

share|improve this answer

your issue is with the temp switch not the temp sensor. the sensor will only operate the fans when it fails to avoid a possible overheating issue ,where as the switch is the fans main controller via ecm. the switch should be on the radiator itself or near the water pump.

share|improve this answer
    
Hi, thanks for the answer. In this particular case, the problem was that my new part was a dud. Your suggestion is definitely plausible, and a good thing to check when diagnosing this problem. I no longer have this vehicle (the question is 2 years old), but I hope this can help someone else in the future. Take care! –  Chris yesterday

The problem might be with the body control module (BCM). The PCM sends the signal to the BCM, which turns the fans on. Or you can buy a separate temperature fan relay system with a temp probe and bypass the system. It will work as normal cooling when needed only.

share|improve this answer
    
The BCM in most vehicles only controls things like the interior lights, radio, and the like. The PCM will switch the fans on as needed through a relay. This is how GM vehicles do it, anyway. –  Paulster2 Nov 22 at 16:57
    
My problem wound up being caused by a new part that was a dud, but this is a great suggestion for diagnostics if someone else is having the same problem. The question is over 2 years old, and I no longer have this vehicle, but thanks for trying to help! Hope this helps a future home mechanic. –  Chris yesterday

Its the connecter that you unplug from the temp sensor. That connection is usually bad and can be fixed by directly putting the wires together or cleaning each connector. Had the same problem on 1998 grand prix gt 3800 series 2

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the answer -- however, this question is 2 years old, and I no longer have the car. Also, the problem was, as indicated in the accepted answer, simply a case of my new part being a dud. That said, I think this suggestion is helpful in the diagnostic process if someone else is having a similar problem, it is very possible that there's a bad electrical connection. Thanks again! –  Chris yesterday

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.