Sudden total electrical death, '04 Vue, first owner

Old 09-11-2015, 03:45 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 9
Default Sudden total electrical death, '04 Vue, first owner

My '04 Vue red line died in my driveway 2 days ago. Locked the doors, went into my house, when I came back 15 min later nothing electrical came on at all. Wouldn't unlock with fob, no interioir lights, no Security system light on dash, nothing at all.

I fiddled with the wires and some things, and it did start finally and ran okay for a few miles. Then I parked and left it running while I ran into the store, came back and shifted out of park, and the engine shut off, not like the full electrical failure from before. It started right back up and I got home. Shaken but not stranded.

Next day (yesterday as I'm typing this) commuting to work (40 miles each way, 90% highway), after about 15 miles, 10 of those at 65mph+ it died as I slowed down into heavy traffic. Completely, no lights or power of any kind. No power steering or brakes of course. I coasted it onto the shoulder, fiddled with the wires (thinking something was shorted or open) and got it to restart and finish the morning drive. I doubt anything I did actually affected the result...I quit fiddling when the hazards suddenly started blinking (I had instinctively hit the button with no effect while coasting).

Drive home that day: got 35+ miles toward home, off the expressway, made a right turn at 20-30mph and it died for a split second in the middle of the turn. Loss of power steering was the scariest part of that. Kicked itself right back to life, and got me home fine.

Similar thing happened this morning in line at the drive-through after about 5 miles of country driving: Died, all electric out, then was able to restart 10 seconds later. I'm about to take her home again and up to the local garage, but I'd like to hear you all chime in on this one!!


Last edited by andrewjmorin; 09-21-2015 at 04:56 PM.
Old 09-11-2015, 09:32 PM
derf's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: My Saturn ;)
Posts: 7,695

first of all, what "wires" are you messing with? Ignition? Battery?

Sounds like loose/bad battery cables (corrosion), bad connections to battery terminal, loose or poor ground for neg batt cable.

How old is your battery?

You did not mention any SES lights or charging system lights, so alt is prob good, especially since restart after 10 seconds is possible -- which also implies the batt can hold the full charge supplied by the alternator.

Go for the simple stuff first -- battery cables, clean tight connections, and a good ground
Old 09-11-2015, 10:34 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 9

Yep, started at battery cables worked my way up through the underhood fuse box. Battery and terminals were replaced about 2 years ago, all looks good in there. I don't think the wires I can see are the problem.

Are there still "fusable links" in the system anywhere? My old trans am burnt one of those once, seems like one of those could fatigue or something. Also thinking it could be a cable run that rubs on some bare steel somewhere and finally wore through the sheath. Or a circuit breaker going bad.

She's only got 270k miles on her, I'd hate to have to put her down so young!
Old 09-12-2015, 03:13 AM
derf's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: My Saturn ;)
Posts: 7,695

you indicated, battery and TERMINALS replaced (presumably at the battery ends of the cables. You did not indicate if the chassis ground end of the neg cable was removed, cleaned, replaced, etc.

Does your radio reset to default time and do you lose your radio presets when the elec system dies?

Also, try pulling the BATT fuse in the underhood panel junction box, and reinserting it several times to clean off any corrosion built up on the fuse or the terminals (called sweeping the contacts.)

Also, if your batt cables are crunchy when you try to move them around, they are likely corroded internally
Old 09-12-2015, 07:24 AM
Rubehayseed's Avatar
Senior Member
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Lake Wales, FL
Posts: 3,749

I'm probably waaaaaaayyyyyyy off here, but how many keys do you carry on your key chain? A lot of people have so many keys that they wear the tumblers in the lock cylinder and wear the dang thing out. It loses contact somehow. I'm not a mechanic, so I won't try to explain it. I'm just wondering if that's a possibility with yours. Derf's more than likely on the right track.
Old 09-12-2015, 08:29 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 9

I don't carry an extreme keychain, but I'll keep the ignition switch in mind next time she dies.

On the longer outages the radio has dropped back to 12:00, but not the presets yet. In the past I fought with the CD changer (and lost, we don't feed it CD's anymore), it would remember presets and errors for 20-30 minutes with no main battery power at all.

I'm going to go feel around the chassis ground and BAT fuse right now...

--ground point looks normal,
wires aren't crunchy,
fuse spades seemed fine- bright/shiny where they make contact.

Last edited by andrewjmorin; 09-12-2015 at 09:19 AM. Reason: added result
Old 09-13-2015, 12:42 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 9

Just had the parts store guy read my codes: Ignition relay is suspect, A.Z. doesn't carry it.

I'm treating it as a bad ground, cleaning and greasing all my contacts today, and keeping an electrical emergency kit in the car from now on.
Old 09-13-2015, 08:25 PM
derf's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: My Saturn ;)
Posts: 7,695

Originally Posted by derf View Post

......You did not mention any SES lights or ....and a good ground
So I bring up SES light in my first response to your first post, but you say nothing.

Then two days later you post that you had your SES codes read, but don't post the code, just an interpretation of the code.
We try to help everyone we can, but if you only give us half the information, we're shooting 3/4 blind in a room full of mirrors.
Codes? Pxxxx format please.

PCMs throw codes for a reason. Sometimes it's relevant, sometimes it's bogus. All the time it should be dealt with or at least investigated. Less guessing. Might be simple fix

Does security system status (blinking/solid) change when it shuts down?
Old 09-13-2015, 10:19 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 9

Sorry, now I see how that would look to you. I do appreciate your time and expertise, but frankly I didn't catch that your SES reference in the earlier message meant, "Service Engine Soon." I once knew enough about carburated engines to be dangerous, but I leave these 21st century gadgets to the technicians, usually...and my local shop was booked up into next week.

My service engine light has been on and off for months, but it has been mostly off and I had attributed it to an open gas cap the last two times.
(everybody forgets to close theirs once in a while too, right? ;-) )

Today, luckily at the auto parts store, it died as I put it in gear to leave (the partial-dead version: engine off, other electrics working fine). I had asked them to check my codes before I shopped, and they said they'd get nothing if the Service Engine light wasn't on, which it wasn't, so too bad. But after it died and I re-started it this time, I noticed the service engine light HAD stayed on and I ran back in. We found the code below, listed twice I think.

"The ECM has detected a fault in the control circuit of the Ignition Relay
Probable cause
1. Open or short circuit condition
2. Failed ignition relay
3. ECM fault"

Not sure what you mean about the security system.
In a normal, cut-the-ignition shut-down I get an amber 'lock' symbol under the speedometer.
In a total death, I get no lights at all.
In the partial-death like todays, I get all the lights I think, at least at first, but it looks normal to me...but I can't say I've memorized a normal startup sequence.

Last edited by andrewjmorin; 09-13-2015 at 10:25 PM.
Old 09-14-2015, 02:21 AM
derf's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: My Saturn ;)
Posts: 7,695

OK so you have a V6 under the hood.

DTC P0685 Engine Controls Ignition Relay Control Circuit

After intense digging, I found the attached doc for a 2005 3.5 V6 Vue which is the same engine as your RL.

The document is the Saturn Field Service Manual (FSM) Description, Conditions under which it sets, clears, Diagnostic Tree, etc for DTC P0685.


This diagnostic detects an inoperative relay.
The ignition relay, or main Relay, is controlled by the powertrain control module (PCM). The PCM provides a ground for the relays coil anytime the ignition switch is ON. The MAIN relay supplies ignition positive voltage to many engine control systems and components. The following components receive power from the relay:

--The ignition coils
--The heated oxygen sensors (HO2S)
--The evaporative emission (EVAP) control system solenoids
--The camshaft and crankshaft position sensors
--The PCM

Condition for setting the DTC:
The PCM detects that the MAIN Relay turned OFF before the PCM commanded the relay OFF.
Basically, the ground connection went away before you turned the key off from the run position.

Possibilities as I see it:

A) Bad Main Relay

If the main relay is malfunctioning and not CONTINUOUSLY REMAINING GROUNDED, the car stops dead because the main relay supplies power to the PCM and the ignition coils. No voltage, no PCM, no spark, no run. If you cannot restart it, it is because the main relay is still in malfunction mode and is not grounded. As the relay either cools down or just decides to behave as designed, ground connection is restored and car will start

FSM doc explains how to troubleshoot

B) Wiring issue between main relay and PCM

You may have an intermittent connection either at the PCM, from the relay to the relay socket it sits in, or on the underside of the underhood fusebox which is causing the required ground connection to become intermittent. T

FSM doc explains how to troubleshoot

C) ECM/CAM fuse

I suppose this is the easiest thing to check. If the fuse is blown, there is a short to ground in the IGN 1 voltage circuit between the ECM fuse and the PCM. However, once the fuse was blown, I 'd expect the car not to start until issue repaired and fuse replaced.


If the PCM itself is not supplying AND MAINTAINING the ground when it should, then you've got a bad PCM. This conclusion should only be reached if everything else is proof positively functioning as desired AND you can prove that the ground is simply not there on the required PCM pin.

If the ground is not there, the car will stop dead but will not start again until the ground connection is reestablished.
Based on your symptoms, I'm betting on

1) Malfunctioning Main Relay
2) Poor wiring connections at PCM and/or to relay socket pins on the underside of he fuse panel, or both
3) Make sure the fuse panel bolts are secure.

These three have the element of variability. All get bumped around while driving, and the relay is susceptible to heat damage

If the PCM was not providing any ground, you wouldn't be able to start or run the vehicle, even with a known good main relay installed. But we're talking integrated circuits so anything is possible........could be heat related s well.

Well that was a mouthful.

I think you have some light reading and some testing to do. Pop back in w any questions, and above all, please come back and post a resolution, as this post represents 2 hours of my life I will never get back....
Attached Files
File Type: pdf
05 Vue - 3.5 P0685.pdf (47.6 KB, 527 views)

Last edited by derf; 09-14-2015 at 08:55 AM. Reason: added attachment

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Quick Reply: Sudden total electrical death, '04 Vue, first owner

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

© 2019 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.