I also believe that the noise is coming from the solenoid.
The system does not have a starter relay, which is a common issue on other vehicles with these symptoms.
Please refer to the diagram below:
There is a Technical Service Bulletin that may be related to the issue you are having. Please refer to the information below:
Bulletin No.: 83-64-16
Date: June, 1998
Weak or Discharged Battery, Slow Starting, GEN or MIL Lamp On, Various Driveability Symptoms (Repair B+ Stud and/or Wiring on Starter)
1997-98 Buick Skylark
1997-98 Chevrolet Cavalier, Malibu
1997-98 Oldsmobile Achieva, Cutlass
1997-98 Pontiac Grand Am, Sunfire
with 2.2L, 2.4L, 3.1L Engine (VINs 4, T, M - RPOs LN2, LD9, L82)
Some owners may report the battery is weak or discharged; the starting motor may turn slowly; the generator is not charging and/or the generator Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) may be on, possibly intermittent. Driveability symptoms may also be experienced.
If following steps 1, 2 or 3 of strategy based diagnostics did not reveal the cause, the generator output and battery positive cable terminal at the starting motor (CKT 1 - VIN T and M; CKT 2 - VIN 4) may be loose, causing a high resistance in the battery positive circuit from the generator to the battery.
Inspect the condition of the starting motor B+ stud, wire, ring terminals and nut. Clean each mating surface and replace damaged parts. Tighten positive battery B+ cable to starter solenoid nut to 12 N.m (106 lb in.). Refer to the "Starting Motor Replacement" portion in the Engine Electrical Section of the Service Manual.
Recharge and load test the battery if required. Refer to "Battery Charging" in the Engine Electrical Section of the Service Manual.
Important: The generator and battery are not damaged and should not require replacement.
If all of these test check fine, we will need to get the starter out so that you can have it bench tested.
REMOVAL PROCEDURE CAUTION: Refer to Battery Disconnect Caution in Cautions and Notices.
- Disconnect the negative battery cable.
- Remove the air inlet duct to the throttle body.
- Remove the top starter bolt.
- Raise the vehicle. Refer to General Vehicle Lifting and Jacking in General Information.
- Remove the lower starter bolt.
- Position the engine wiring harness aside.
- Position the starter for access to solenoid wiring.
- Remove the electrical wiring.
- Remove the starter.
- Install the electrical wiring.
- Position the starter to the engine.
- Install the lower starter bolt.
- Reposition the engine wiring harness.
- Lower the vehicle.
- Install the top starter bolt.
- Install the air inlet duct to the throttle body.
- Install the negative battery cable.
It is easiest to take the starter to an autoparts store and let them bench test it for free. But if you would like to test it then here is the procedure:
- Clean all starting motor parts, but do not use grease dissolving solvents for cleaning. Solvent would dissolve the grease packed in the clutch and would damage armature and field coil insulation. Wipe parts with a clean shop cloth.
- Clean and test drive assembly action. The pinion should turn freely in the overrunning direction. Check the pinion teeth to see that they have not been chipped, cracked, or excessively worn. Replace the assembly if necessary. Badly chipped pinion teeth may indicate chipped teeth on the ring gear, which should be replaced if necessary.
- Check the drive assembly for slipping by leaving the assembly attached to the armature, wrap the armature with a shop towel and clamp the armature in a vise. Using a 12-point deep socket and torque wrench, put the socket on the pinion and turn counterclockwise. The drive should not slip up to 68 N.m (50 lb ft) of torque. If it does, replace the drive assembly.
- The roll type drive assembly should be wiped clean. Do not clean in any degreasing tank, or with grease-dissolving solvents; this will dissolve the lubricant in the drive mechanism.
- Inspect the armature commutator. If the commutator is dirty, clean with 400 grit polishing cloth, then wipe clean. If commutator is rough, the armature should be replaced. Do not undercut or turn the commutators. Inspect the points where the armature conductors join the commutator bars to make sure they have a good connection. A burned commutator bar is usually evidence of a poor connection.
- Check the armature for short circuits by placing on the growler and holding the hack saw blade over the armature core while the armature is rotated. If the saw blade vibrates, the armature is shorted. Recheck after cleaning between the commutator bars. If the saw blade still vibrates, replace the armature.
- Check the frame and field assembly by using a test lamp. Place one lead on the field lead terminal and the other lead on one insulated brush. If the lamp fails to light, the series coil is open and will require repair or replacement. This test should be made from each insulated brush to check brush and lead continuity.
- Using a test lamp, place one lead on the grounded brush holder and the other lead on either insulated brush. If the lamp lights, a grounded series coil is indicated and must be repaired or replaced.
- Check the current draw of the solenoid winding as follows:
|9.1.||If the solenoid is not removed from the starter motor, the field lead must be removed from the terminal on the solenoid before making these tests. Complete tests in a minimum of time to prevent overheating of the solenoid.|
|9.2.||In order to check the hold.in winding, connect an ammeter (3) in series with 12-volt battery and the switch terminal on the solenoid. Connect a voltmeter (1) to the switch (2) terminal and to the ground. Connect the carbon pile (5) across the battery (4). Adjust the voltage to 10 volts and note the ammeter reading.|
|9.3.||Readings should be 10 to 20 amperes . In order to check both windings, connect the same as for the previous test. Ground the solenoid motor terminal. Adjust the voltage to 10 volts and note the ammeter reading. It should be 60 to B5 amperes .|
IMPORTANT: The current will decrease as the windings heat up.
|9.4.||Current draw readings that are over specifications indicate shorted turns or a ground in the windings of the solenoid and the solenoid should be replaced. Current draw readings that are under specifications indicate excessive resistance. A zero reading indicates an open circuit. Check connections, then replace the solenoid if necessary.|
- The starter solenoid switch is serviced as an assembly.