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1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/15/2009 10:45 AM

I have a 98 Cavalier that I bought in Oct. I am having some difficulty starting it. I replaced the battery last week - it was producing only 504 amps when my car required 520. I thought this might have been the source of the problem. Even still, the car will crank (and all the lights turn on, so I'm not concerned about battery power) and will not turn over. The cranking is normal - not slowing down or anything, but the car requires a solid minute or more of cranking before it turns over. Once I get it started once during a day and drive it, it has no trouble turning over for the rest of the day. I've been having trouble since it started snowing in Pittsburgh. Yesterday it was 13 degrees and it has some trouble, today it is 5 degrees. I have not tried yet today to start the car.

Since I bought the car in Oct, I'm not sure of the history. The old owner doesn't remember when he replaced the spark plugs, fuel pump, etc - if ever.

Any and all suggestions are welcome. You should know I am a dental student and therefore know very very little about cars, but am definitely hoping to learn and fix this problem.

Thank you,

Meredith

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#1

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/15/2009 12:48 PM

1. Could you run an extension cord and 100 watt bulb to your car? Put the bulb under the hood, close to the battery.

2. Could you have a block heater installed?

3. 30 years ago I used to take the battery inside during the night and re-installed the next morning.

I am assuming you are parked outside and not in a garage.

It was -20 to -25 F ( -29 to -31 C) this morning. Although a co worker said he saw -40F

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#2

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/15/2009 1:19 PM

To make sure I understand, do you think the problem is simply the cold? Or do you think there is something else wrong?

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/15/2009 1:32 PM

I am not enough of an automobile mechanic to know of other problems.

If the problem is simply the cold, those are some solutions that shouldn't cost much money.

The amount of amperage put out by a battery decreases with the cold. In a cold weather state like Minnesota, there are batteries advertised with cold weather cranking power.

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#13
In reply to #3

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 5:09 AM

The AVAILABLE amperage decreases, but the cold weather causes much greater frictional and viscosity resistance. Therefore, the load is greater. I think his problem is a fouled sensor (probably Mass Air), as the symptoms occurred after a snow (moisture & possibly corrosives-i.e. salt), but as with yourself, I'm not an expert. He may try 5W-30 or a synthetic in addition to your good suggestions. It does not sound like a starter circuit issue, as he claims it cranks at full speed, but low temperature viscosity compensating oil would help, don't you agree?

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#4

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/15/2009 8:00 PM

Meredith,

Sounds like a weak fuel pump, contaminated fuel in the tank, or a clogged fuel filter.

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/15/2009 9:00 PM

Is there anything I can do to fix these problems before I replace parts? Like switching to a higher grade gas (I hear it has more detergent and therefore can unclog things)? I used the car today and it was 7 degrees when I started it and it started just fine. I was thinking of getting the fluid you add to your gas tank that helps clean things out. (Like I said, I know very little about cars, I'm just trying to grasp everything.) Would these work at all?

Thanks!

Meredith

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/15/2009 9:43 PM

Meredith,

Yes the drying additive will work to remove water from the tank but it is not a magic fix. The fact that the car started fine at 7 degrees indicates that it is probably not the fuel filter, the pump, or the starting system. The problem may be inside the tank. There could be debris or rust floating around in the gas which will intermittently (at first) then permanently stop the flow of gas. Sometimes (but not always) you can prove that this is the problem by trying the following procedure.

The next time the car fails to start quickly:

1. Stop cranking.

2. Get out of the car and violently rock the car to slosh the gas around and possibly dislodge any debris from the pump inlet.

3. Try cranking again.

If this works, you will be required to remove the tank and have it cleaned and sealed or replaced.

Best of Luck!

Rock1

P.S. Make sure you have a good (correct) gas cap!

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#12
In reply to #5

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 3:58 AM

Tomorrow it will be very cold and a little colder still the next day as this deep freeze or clipper passes to the east.

Ways to help cold starting are make sure the choke has been adjusted for winter, set the air/fuel mixture a little rich, retard the timing a smidgen (3°-10°).

**Have an emergency booster and hook it up before cranking in very cold weather.

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#7

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/15/2009 11:46 PM

I have a 98 Cavalier that I bought in Oct. I am having some difficulty starting it. I replaced the battery last week - it was producing only 504 amps when my car required 520. I thought this might have been the source of the problem. Even still, the car will crank (and all the lights turn on, so I'm not concerned about battery power) and will not turn over. The cranking is normal - not slowing down or anything, but the car requires a solid minute or more of cranking before it turns over.

"Cranking" and "turning over" is the same thing. Perhaps, you meant to say that the car cranks, but does not start and run, until the starter has been employed (cranked) for a minute or more.

Once I get it started once during a day and drive it, it has no trouble turning over for the rest of the day. I've been having trouble since it started snowing in Pittsburgh. Yesterday it was 13 degrees and it has some trouble, today it is 5 degrees. I have not tried yet today to start the car.

Since I bought the car in Oct, I'm not sure of the history. The old owner doesn't remember when he replaced the spark plugs, fuel pump, etc - if ever.

The non-start condition of vehicles, following the first really cold weather (10 degrees or lower) of the season is not uncommon on vehicles needing a basic tune up. The remedy is often accomplished by just adjusting the gap on the spark plugs, since this is often overlooked on vehicles that have been running okay, during the warmer months.

Any and all suggestions are welcome. You should know I am a dental student and therefore know very very little about cars, but am definitely hoping to learn and fix this problem.

Thank you, Meredith

Please don't let the fact of being a dental student hold you back or keep you from expanding your knowledge base, including auto maintenance. But, now that I consider it, I know of no dentists that know anything about their vehicles. Maybe it's just a professional quirk, or more likely... dentists make so much money, they can easily afford to have someone else fix their Mercedes or BMW. :-)

Best wishes.

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#8

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 1:04 AM

First, as my login suggest, I am a problem solver. I have had over 25 years experience in automotive including 10 years working for GM dealership. The fuel pump in you car is electric and in the fuel tank. If it runs fine after start, the fuel pump is not the problem. If it were a filter, then it would be more of a problem at higher speeds, therefore I do not believe it to be a fuel filter. There is however, a fuel pump relay that operates when the key is first turned on, and continues while the engine is turning ( cranking or running) until the ignition signal has been lost for 2 seconds or more. On some vehicles, I am not sure about yours, there is also a fuel pump relay bypass that is operated by the engine oil pressure. If the engine requires long periods of crank time, the engine could be building oil pressure and bypassing the relay. If this is the case, the relay is relatively cheap and normally easy to change. it will be under the hood normally around the firewall close to the right hand side of the car. Your local parts store should be able to help you with the location. Since it started fine on the cold day, you may be looking for a bad connection. Disconnect the relay in inspect for corrosion on the contacts in the connector. there are several connectors in the system that can affect this circuit. If you are serious about learning to repair your vehicle, invest in FACTORY shop manuals. you can find most manuals on ebay for 50-75 dollars a set (get all for your year and vehicle). This is a lot of information but cars are not what they were in the 60s. Best of luck

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 1:36 AM

Since it started fine on the cold day, you may be looking for a bad connection.

Not to belabor the point, but OP said that the hard-starting problem showed up when the weather turned cold. Then, after finally starting after long-cranking, it will start normally, during the day. This is indicative of a vehicle with mis-gapped plugs, since the engine does not cool down completely, during the day, once is has been started and run long enough to reach normal operating temperature. Then, while sitting overnight, the engine cools to ambient air temperature, becoming hard to start the next morning. Checking plug gap would be the easiest test to perform, initially... then, moving on to checking battery cables for corrosion.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 1:50 AM

Once the engine has started, the fuel system will hold pressure most of the day. It will slowly drop over night making it hard to start in the am. I did not refer to corrosion on battery cables and i do not believe that to be the problem. The engine cranks at normal speed. Cold is likely only a coincidence. Also, at freezing temperatures, if there is any "water" in the fuel system adding any additive to the fuel will not absorb the water/ice. If there is water in the system the engine will display other symptoms such as occasional misfires, at temps above 32F.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 2:31 AM

Cold is likely only a coincidence.

Perhaps, but I often see an inordinate number of vehicles sitting at curbside with jumper cables connected to running vehicles, during the first few days of temps under 10˚F. While it may be coincidence, I think the correlation of the number of non-starting vehicles to low temperatures proves otherwise. Post hoc relationships are not always incorrect.

Since below freezing temperatures have such a dramatic effect on starting/ignition systems, it seems only logical to look at the simplest fixes, first.

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#15
In reply to #11

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 8:35 AM

Cold does have an affect on starting, yes. But If it were simply the cold, it would NOT have started at 7 degrees "just fine" as stated in the post. The battery has been changed, the engine cranks but does not start. If the engine cranks slow then possibly the starter is overdrawing current resulting in ignition system voltage low. The starter draw should be between 180 amps and 220 amps in 50 degree plus temps, and 250 amps to 300 amps is expected when cold while cranking. If the battery is rated at over 400CCA then there should be no problem cranking. The ignition systems on GM are capable of producing in excess of 100kv. with long crank periods, the car starts. If it were in the ignition system the output will continually decrease while cranking thus reducing the ability to fire the air/fuel mixture in the cylinders.

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#14

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 8:11 AM

Hi, TUNE THAT SUCKER UP. Low voltage starting has always been a Chevy problem. When the starter is turning bad spark plugs don't fire. Use a can of SEA FOAM (auto parts) to remove condensation (water) from the fuel system. We call this stuff "tuneup in a can. Works wonders.

Ray Cockrell

Supervisor- Warren Wilson College Autoshop

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#16

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 9:31 AM

It sounds like a condensation problem we Canuks get when the fuel tank is low and the weather cold. Adding methyl hydrate or ethanol usually cures the problem but will dislodge built up gum in the fuel system. Changing the fuel filter is usually on the to do list before winter sets in list.

Prior to engaging the starter (when it's really cold like today...-36'C) I usually turn the headlights on for a minute or two. This effectively warms up the battery without pulling too many amps and allows for easier starting.

Switching to synthetic oil (5w-30)has also dramatically improved my cold weather starting.

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 9:39 AM

Check that you have an appropriate oil viscosity. Switch to the lowest viscosity it will hold. 10 or 20 weight. It may have 30 weight. That makes it very tough to start in extremely cold weather. The light or a dipstick heater will help also. I don't know if multi viscosity oils are as useful in very cold weather.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 9:47 AM

Thanks for all the help! I will give these a shot! Meredith

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#19
In reply to #17

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 9:54 AM

Dipstick heater is a damn good idea. I'm using one at this moment.

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#21
In reply to #17

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 6:39 PM

I wish I would have said that! Also, I agree w/ TheProblemSolver.

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#20

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/16/2009 10:37 AM

I'm sorry.

I used to sell cars for awhile. We had some Chevy Cavaliers on the lot that were always hard to start. We had to spend a couple hours to get them started then once we did we had to let them run for awhile so that they would start regular for the rest of the day. This was an everyday process.

Now since I've started coming to these forums the #1 car that people come to ask for help with is the Chevy Cavalier. It doesn't matter what year car it is, people are always having problems with them. In Fact, I think it's the only car that I've seen on here that people are having trouble with. Well come to think of it, there was a Chevy Malibu question too.

I recommend that instead of putting bandaids on the one you have, that you go out and buy a new car. Just about anything will run better, new or used. I think it would be cheaper for you in the long run.

It just seems to me that the Chevy Cavalier is the most plagued car of them all. I can bet you that the salesperson that sold you that car got a special Spiff just to get rid of it. We had special spiffs on the Cavaliers at the dealership I worked at.

My career as a car salesman was short lived. I worked at a dealership that primarily sold Dodge, BMW and Suzuki. The sales manager would tell us "You need about this much larceny in your blood if you're going to make it in this business." Then he would hold his fingers about an inch apart. I just didn't have enough larceny in my blood. When ever I had a deal lined up and I'd take it back to get approval, they'd want me to squeeze a little more out of the customer. I was required to get a credit app filled out with every customer, even when they were paying cash. It's that credit application they were using to see how much more we could squeeze out for a down payment. But that's a different story.

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#22
In reply to #20

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 2:23 AM

I have owned cavaliers all of my life.i live in the north country ny state..we get to -50 degress at times..we get large amounts of snow.not inchs ..feet.. i own a 1998 cavalier .and a 1998 z24 cavalier..they have always started,they have never failed me.i live 50 feet from a river which puts of a dew every night and freezes the car over.your soulition is of two things..your starter is just getting week.or your coil pack is bad...on other cavaliers i have fixed that was there problem.the coil pack gets week when cold,time for more fire power.i have owned them sence 1985.i have put over 300,000 miles on a 1991 RS cavalier and traded it in running beautifully.for a 2001 sport cavalier ..ill never sell my Z24 , i adore that car.but i would replace your starter and have your coil pack checked at a local napa or parts store.itll have to be removed of course ..i think itll solve you? steve

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#23

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 9:14 AM

HELLO AGAIN, IF YOU ARE RUNNING motor oil, DUMP IT AND RUN SYNTHETIC. IT DOESNT CARE HOW COLD IT IS AND IS MUCH SUPERIOR. DUMPING THE CAR IS EASY, BUT, i KNOW FOLKS WHO HAVE 300,000 ON THEIRS. ALSO RUNNING HIGH TEST IN THE WINTER HELPS TO GET THE FIRST CRANK RESULTS.

RAY AT THE AUTOSHOP

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 9:37 AM

Re the synthetic oil. Does it come in various viscosities? What brand do you recommend? Price per quart? How often do you change it? I just bought a new Aveo and would like to run synthetic. Thanks, Ron

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#26
In reply to #24

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 10:08 AM

COOOOL, PERSONALLY I RUN NAPA SYNTHETIC. MOBILE 1 SAYS TO BREAK IN YOUR NEW ENGINE ABOUT 3000 MI THEN SWITCH TO 5-20 SYN. prices vary -go to walmart and get castrol or mobile 1 - IT'S KINDA TRICKY, I CHANGE THE LUBE EVERY 10000 BUT I CHANGE THE FILTER (BEST QUALITY) EVERY 5000. MY ENGINE TAKES 4.5 QT AND AT FILTER TIME I JUST USE THE OTHER 1/2 FOR THE FILL UP. I DONT LIKE TOO THINK ABOUT THE NEWLY ADVERTIZED 15,000 OIL CHANGES (extended life). HAVE A 92 CHEVY S10 WITH 250K AND HAVE NEVER ADDED A DROP OF LUBE. I TOW (race car)AND HAUL (wood & rock) MORE THAN MY TRUCK CAN HANDLE. SAVE THE WORLD - USE LUBE INSTEAD OF FOSSIL. THANKS FOR THE QUESTION. RAY

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 9:48 AM

Yep, totally agree with you.......it's -32'C and my Accord started first crank this morning. Neighbour just blew his engine using ether....nice rattling sound followed by a loud bang as con rod went through the oil panel....thinks it can be repaired by Mon.

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#27
In reply to #25

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 10:11 AM

IT MAKES YOU WONDER WHO SOLD HIM THE ETHER. WHAT A SAD TALE.

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#28
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Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 10:22 AM

He was warned....repeatedly. Didn't listen. Knew it all.

Any idea what a rebuilt Mercedes diesel is worth? Installed?

Ether available most places here. Good for the mechanics.

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 10:30 AM

$8500-$13500 USD depending upon series

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#33
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Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/19/2009 9:00 AM

That just put a stripe through his Carribean vacation.

99 500D.

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#30
In reply to #28

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/17/2009 10:43 AM

I've started fogging the air intake instead of shooting it down the pipe. Maybe a heated garage will cost less than the engine? I love being a mechanic (sometimes).

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#31

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/18/2009 6:54 PM

Cold start injector.

edmund

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

01/19/2009 8:54 AM

Hope we helped the lady in the cavalier

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#34

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

02/03/2009 10:57 PM

You guys totally helped!

Thank you so much for all your advice. As it turned out, I crashed the car shortly after this post (the right brake went out and I didn't know, lost control in a snow-storm going 20 mph, spun on the freeway, and hit a pole, then went into a ditch) Luckily I'm okay but the car had to be fixed - new strut, knuckle, control arm, subframe on the left, brake, brake cylinders, brake line on the left, and have the transmission pan replaced... ugh... all in all very expensive. But, as for the original problem, I used some fuel tank/line cleanser (you can get at Pep Boys and such) for the fuel line a few times and I have been having no problems at all starting the car since!

Thanks so much!

Meredith

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#35

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

02/03/2009 10:59 PM

Oops, the brake work was one on the right, sorry for the typo.

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#36

Re: 1998 Chevy Cavalier and Cold-Weather Starting

04/11/2009 10:54 PM

I have been having the same problem with my 1998 Chevy Cavalier . I say its not a morning person lol . It takes forever to get it started in the morning and then its fine . I live in Tx. so I dont know if its just cold weather .

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