How to Test the 3.8L GM Crank Sensor
With a Multimeter

CKP TEST 4: Ground Circuit

The ignition control module (ICM) is the one that provides the 3X 18X crankshaft position sensor with a path to ground internally.

What this means is that you have to very careful not to short this circuit to power as you're testing it, or you could fry the ICM.

NOTE: The ignition module's connector must remain connected to the ignition module for this test to work... since it's the ignition module that provides this ground to the crank sensor.

This test is done with your multimeter in Volts DC mode too... and so, to get this pot of water boiling, this is what you need to do:

  1. 1

    Place the multimeter in Volts DC mode and with a wire-piercing probe or an appropriate tool, pierce the wire labeled with the letter M in the image. Connect the BLACK multimeter lead to this tool.

  2. 2

    Connect the RED lead of the multimeter to the battery positive terminal.

  3. 3

    Turn the key On and your multimeter should register battery voltage (about 12.5 Volts).

Now, let's take a look at what those voltage readings (or lack of) mean:

CASE 1: The multimeter showed 12 Volts when the ignition was turned On, this test result let's you know that the ignition control module (ICM) is providing a good ground path for the crank sensor.

Therefore, if in CKP TEST 1 and/or CKP TEST 2 you DID NOT get the 5-6 Volt DC ON/OFF pulse signal and in CKP TEST 3 your multimeter showed power, then you can confidently replace the 3X 18X crankshaft position sensor assembly knowing that this will solve the no start- no spark condition on your vehicle.

If you do need to buy the crank sensor, take a look at my recommendations here: Where to Buy the Crank Sensor and Save.

CASE 2: The multimeter DID NOT show 12 Volts when the ignition was turned On,: This result indicates that the ignition module is not supplying a ground path to the crank sensor.

This result exonerates the crankshaft position (CKP) sensor as the cause of the cranks but does not start condition you're trying to solve, since without a ground path, the crank sensor can't create a signal.

It's very rare that the ignition control module not provide this ground path... usually the most common cause of this No ground test result is that the terminal inside the ignition control module connector has worked itself out and is not completely mating with the male spade terminal of the ignition control module (ICM).

Where to Buy the Crank Sensor and Save

You can find the crankshaft position sensor just about in anywhere. The best place to buy it and the harmonic balancer (if the crank sensor blades are bent or damaged) and save a few dollars is online.

The following links will help you comparison shop for the original AC Delco and aftermarket crank sensor and the crankshaft pulley (harmonic balancer):

Related Test Articles

Testing the 3X 18X crankshaft position sensor can also be done using a simple LED Light. You can find this article at easyautodiagnostics.com. You can go to this article by clicking here: 3X 18X Crank Sensor LED Light Test.

I have written several other 3.8L V6 specific articles that may be of interest to you, you can find them here: GM 3.8L Index of Articles.

Here's a sample of the tutorials you'll find in the index:

  1. How to Diagnose Misfire Codes P0300-P0306 (GM 3.8L).
  2. How to Test Trouble Code P0420 (GM 3.8L).
  3. How To Clean the MAF Sensor (GM 3.3L 3.8L).
  4. How to Troubleshoot a No Start (GM 3.8L).
  5. How to Test the Fuel Injectors (GM 3.8L).

Reader's Real Life Case Studies and Solutions

In this section is input and feedback from all of the folks who have had a similar issue with their vehicle and found a solution. If you're one of them, I want to thank you for sharing your experience with all of us!

If you want to share your repair and/or diagnostic experience, you can use the contact form below.

Real Life Case Study 1

Vehicle: 1995 Buick Park Avenue 3.8L Super Charged

Trouble Codes: None

Complaint: INTERMITTENT NO START “The car would die as I drove it sometimes it would start back up right away and sometimes it wouldnt. Sometimes after parking it and coming back out, it would not start.”

Test Notes: “I had two different shops take a look at it. They replace everything. Computer, fuel pump, ignition module, coilpack, fuel injectors both of them made me spend alot of money on this very old car for nothing because the problem was still there...”

Repair: REPLACED CRANK SENSOR “...I want to tell you that i did not check the crank sensor myself because all i can do is mechanic stuff, this electrical stuff is hard for me, i had a third shop do it. A really young technician had an oscilloscope and he let the car run all day till it all of a sudden died and since he had the oscilloscope connected to the crank sensor, he was able to see that it was bad. The shop replaced the crank sensor and it has been several months now and the problem is solved!!! ...”

“...The reason im sending this to you is to let others know that the crank sensor can start acting up every now and then and you dont talk about this type of problem. I dont have any electronic tools just mechanic tools, but i want to say that finding the right shop with technicians who know 3.8L/how to use an oscilloscope is very important. if they don't have one, DONT GO THERE, they will make you waste time and a lot of money!!! This kid was really smart and finally found the problem, please pass on my advice...”.

Courtesy of: John T.

Real Life Case Study 2

Vehicle: 1990 Buick Lesabre 3.8l

Trouble Codes: None

Complaint: NO START “The car would not restart when hot for at least 4 hours.”

Test Notes: “... no voltage signal (0 v) from either the 3x or 18x wires...”

Repair: REPLACED IGNITION MODULE “This was an awesome write-up on the testing of the CKP sensor. However, I kept on coming up with needing to replace the sensor (was on my 4th already). The car would not restart when hot for at least 4 hours. I would not get any voltage signal (0 v) from either the 3x or 18x wires. When the car finally cooled down enough to restart, I tested these wires again. What I found out is that there was now 7v coming FROM the ICM on both of these wires. I verified this by unplugging the connector at the CKP and was 7v at both terminals there. Therefore, I diagnosed that the ICM was not producing the required 7v on these leads when it was warm. I have since replaced the ICM and has been working great for a week now. You might want to note this as your test kept leading me to the CKP. Thanks for the great write-up!”.

Courtesy of: Jesse (submitted: 09-14-2014)

Buick Vehicles:

  • Century 3.8L
    • 1993
  • LeSabre 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
  • Park Avenue (& Ultra) 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

Buick Vehicles:

  • Regal 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
  • Riviera 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999
  • Skylark 3.8L
    • 1993

Chevrolet Vehicles:

  • Camaro 3.8L
    • 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
  • Impala 3.8L
    • 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
  • Lumina (& MPV)
    • 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999
  • Monte Carlo 3.8L
    • 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

Oldsmobile Vehicles:

  • 88 (& 88 Royale) 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
  • 98 Regency 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996
  • Achieva 3.8L
    • 1993

Oldsmobile Vehicles:

  • Cutlass Ciera (& Cruiser) 3.8L
    • 1993
  • Intrigue 3.8L
    • 1998, 1999
  • LSS 3.8L
    • 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999
  • Regency 3.8L
    • 1997, 1998
  • Silhouette 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995

Pontiac Vehicles:

  • Bonneville 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
  • Firebird 3.8L
    • 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
  • Grand Am 3.8L
    • 1993

Pontiac Vehicles:

  • Grand Prix 3.8L
    • 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Trans Sport 3.8L
    • 1993, 1994, 1995

“My wife and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met.”
Rodney Dangerfield

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