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Steve, Auto Service Technician
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96 Olds: original problem..stalling..wheels were cut sharply

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I have a 96 Olds Ciera Wagon. I had a problem that is partially fixed and am now trying to fix the remainder. The original problem was that my car was stalling whenever the wheels were cut sharply. I could not even get 5 feet from the curve unless the wheels were not turned. My trusted mechanic was also baffled, but called another mechanic at the Olds dealer. He was told that the steering rack can cause this problem. My mechanic also removed the main belt and drove the car briefly and the car did not stall.

So I had the rack replaced. It seems to run fine (even with the wheels turned), although I really do not understand the relationship of the rack to stalling out.

However, now the car still stalls if I am in reverse with the wheels cut (only in reverse). Could anyone shed any light on this remaining problem? I note that the steering rack does not know the difference between turned wheels in reverse vs forward gear. Any ideas?Could it be the power steering pump bearing? If that was it, wouldn't I hear some noise or see other symptoms from the steering pump?

Please note that it may take me until the next night to login and read responses. However, I will answer. Thanks.
This sounds like an interesting one!
I would be very suspicious of the power steering pressure switch; I don't have a service manual at my fingertips right now, but almost all FWD GM cars of this vintage used a pressure switch in the power steering pressure hose as an input to the powertrain controller.When the steering wheel is turned hard, the power steering pump has to work hard to build the 2000 psi of pressure needed to provide you with power steering assist.The energy needed to do this comes, of course, from your engine since the pump is belt driven.When the engine is running at idle, as it is when backing into a parking space, the PCM monitors this input so that it knows a heavy load is being placed on the engine which will cause it to slow down.If the PCM does not receive a high pressure signal from the power steering pressure switch, it will fail to boost idle speed sufficiently in response and the engine will stall.
You can tell if you have a power steering pressure switch by following the pressure hose from the pump to the steering rack; the pressure hose is the one that attaches to the pump with the steel section at the end that has a flare nut attaching it to the pump. A PS pressure switch will be located somewhere in this line, usually way down at the end near the steering rack somewhere; you should see a round sort of thing attached to the line with 2 wires plugged onto it.If the switch is broken or unplugged, replace it or reconnect it and see if the condition is resolved. If it visibly looks OK, the easiest way to check operation is by monitoring the engine data stream with a scan tool. When the steering wheel is not being turned, the PS switcah parameter on the scanner should read "low" or "off"; when the wheels are turned to stop it should read "high" or "on".   Of course, any break in the wiring or other damage can have the same result, but the most common failure is a failed switch itself.   A failed PS switch will not set any service codes or make your "check engine" light come on because "on" (switch closed/ shorted sircuit) and "off (switch open/ open circuit) are both normal operating parameters for this input so the computer has no way of detecting anything abnormal.
What makes it interesting is the stalling only happens in reverse; I'm not sure if it is coincidence because some operating parameter in reverse causes a slightly higher idle speed, or whether there is something else contributing to the condition.Something you may want to try is to sit in the car with it running and hold it in reverse, while a helper grabs and shakes teh engine compartment wiring harnesses (particularly any running between teh firewall and the engine itself), looking for a possible broken wire or poor connectin which is put under strain when the engine shifts position in reverse.If you can shalke or move a harness section and cause the engine to stall or cause any otehr change in its operation, that would be an iindication of a problem in that harness section.
Good luck!
~Steve
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Steve, Auto Service Technician
Category: Car
Satisfied Customers: 5494
Experience: 25+ yrs experience as a professional working technician; ASE L1 master technician
Steve and 3 other Car Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Steve Rapp's Post: Steve,

Thank you for the effort that you put into your response. I will take your response and discuss with my mechanic, who will most likely benefit from your advice (on my behalf).   I have accepted your response and may follow up within the coming week after it has been looked at.

Thanks,
Larry

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