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2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/19/2009 1:38 PM

Newby here... I know NOTHING about cars.. I have/had a 2003 Chevy Cavalier.. The other day when I was driving to work, the car would rock back and forth when I'm at a stop sign or light and would sound as if it were about to just die on me. When I got to work, I checked the oil, and noticed there was none in there. I put a couple of quarts of oil in there and it seemed to have fixed the problem. However, the next day, it was doing it again. So I checked my oil again, but it was still right where it needed to be. The trac light keeps/ kept randomly going on and then off. The car would also not want to start. It would take three or four times to get it to finally kick over. This happened at least once everyother day. Finally, I decided to take it for an oil change, just to check the small stuff before I assumed the worst. After I got the oil change, the car started right up, no problem. However, the shaking became worse and it was very loud and kind of smelled like diesel. My boyfriend took it to work, and when he got there, the car died. When he went for his lunch, he got it started, and got half way down the street before it died on him again. It's now residing in a parking lot. I tried starting it yesterday and it made a wheezing sound. And today, it's not turning over at all.

Could it be that I didn't check my oil early enough and the engine is possibly locked up?

Thanks for any information or suggestions.

Kelly

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#1

Re: 2003 Cavalier

11/19/2009 2:13 PM

"It's now residing in a parking lot. I tried starting it yesterday and it made a wheezing sound. And today, it's not turning over at all."

That's the sound a car makes when it needs to tell you you need a new car. Actually, your going to need it towed anyway, so have a mechanic check it out for you and see what it might cost to fix.

Then go shopping for a new car.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: 2003 Cavalier

11/19/2009 2:17 PM

Yeah, I've already started looking online for a new car. It would be better to get a new one first, then see about fixing this one. I was told that since it's making that sound, it would probably be best for scraps. Which disappoints me because I just paid off the car Feb this year. But they say, once you pay off a car, it's only a matter of time before it craps out on ya.

Thank you :)

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#3

Re: 2003 Cavalier

11/19/2009 2:20 PM

But I'm also wanting to make sure that it's something that's fixable so I don't have to junk it.. And this way we have two means of transportation. I'm just really worried that it's going to cost more then what the car's worth.

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#4

Re: 2003 Cavalier

11/19/2009 3:01 PM

Two things:

One:

Semantically speaking it's almost impossible to understand what your interpretation of terms such as "It would take three or four times to get it to finally kick over" means. Does "kick over" mean the starter motor engages the flywheel and rotates the crankshaft, or does it mean that the motor starts running? Don't take offense. This same thing happens with mechanics, too.

Two:

I have to go along with the advice of Bricktop and suggest that you have the car towed to a shop for an estimate.

Three:

CHECK THE OIL IN THE NEW CAR!!!! Or, better yet, get that bum of a boyfriend out there and make him check it.

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#5

Re: 2003 Cavalier

11/19/2009 3:58 PM

Dam! Are you an old ex girlfriend?

She did a similar thing many years ago. She stopped adding oil to her car, which I paid for, because 89 cents a quart added once a week cost too much. (bad rear main seal).

Sorry but its likely your engine is junk. This is why its recommended that ALL fluids be checked once a week or once every 1000 miles. Plus follow the manufactures recommended change intervals on ALL fluids.

Being cheap and lazy never saves money or time. EVER!

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#6

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/19/2009 10:50 PM

I agree the first stop should be a mechanic with good diagnostic equipment. This could be anything from simply a bad crank sensor to a bad timing chain or worse. Was the service engine light on when you first noticed these problems? The computer could have some diagnostic information to help locate the problem.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/19/2009 10:52 PM

"timing chain"

This engine has a belt.

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#8

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 3:26 AM

My take is:-

1) Your engine is junk, sell the car for the best price you can get on ebay, telling them of course that it ran out of oil.

2) Buy a new car

3) Learn how to check oil (make sure you use the correct one!), transmission fluid (on an automatic), battery acid level and all waters (radiator and screen fluid!). Get the car serviced at the correct mileage each time....

4) Buy the longer service guarantee if one is available...

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#9

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 9:43 AM

did your spouse put diesel in it by mistake?

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 10:48 AM

No... the gas station we always go to, doesn't have diesel.

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#10

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 10:48 AM

It's not as though I don't know how to check the oil. I got the oil changed a little over three months prior. It didn't even go over 3000 miles yet. When the problem occured, I didn't think it would be the oil. Again, a little over three months and not up to 3000 miles yet. But I checked it, and was shocked that there was no oil in it. I have never had that problem. So why would it burn up the oil so quickly?

I added this post to get suggestions. Which to those who have given me suggestions, thank you. For those who poke fun at, "get that bum of a boyfriend" (does it make him a bum because he doesn't know how to check oil? or less then I do about cars?), "being lazy and cheap" (does it make it lazy because we have one car, and the car is never at the house every long? Cheap because it wasn't time for an oil change and there was no oil in there, but again, not really time to check it),"dam, are you an old exgirlfriend" (don't associate all girls being ignorant.) just a simple, Yes, it could be the oil so the engine is locked, or no, it sounds like ignition problems, is good enough. The car doesn't have a timing belt, it has a chain. And that's been checked as well. (car was having issues 5months ago about dying while I was driving)

I just thought that if there was no oil in the car, and the proper oil was put in upon noticing no oil, then take it in for a change immediately there after, then I thought it would be fine. But I guess not. I guess it was too late. Possibly after the oil change, it would still let me go home and then to work, but nothing else after that. And I'm sure the oil has nothing to do with the car not wanting to start a few times and then finally starting up, and acting as if everything was ok.

I'm not an ignorant girl when it comes to oil. But I was never told that I needed to check it weekly. I have always been told, check it inbetween oil changes (which I haven't, so if you want to consider me lazy because I haven't had time, so be it. It's not as though I've been up to doing "girly things") and take it in for an oil change between 3000 and 5000 miles or every 3 to 4 months. But since I moved to a city about a year ago, I think maybe it should be more often since city driving is harder on the car, then driving long distances.

Thank you for suggestions, I will be taking it into a shop and making a decision based on how much it will cost to fix.

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#12
In reply to #10

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 10:55 AM

Always check your oil AFTER taking it for an oil change. The lube shops have been known to forget to put oil in, forget to put the oil drain in or cross-thread it so the oil all leaks out. Never fully trust a shop using minimally-trained techs.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 10:58 AM

That's a good piece of advice. One time, they forgot to put in power steering fluid. I had to put it in myself until I could make it back up there. But they gave me a free oil change when I called and complained.

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 12:03 PM

"...lube shops have been known to forget to put oil in..." Yes - or to "accidentally" leave it a quart short of full. I knew a repair shop owner who instructed his employees to put in a quart less than called out, "..because putting in too much is so dangerous." Of course, if the customer needed a quart between changes, he charged about three times the going rate to add it. He was also known to charge for Quaker State and put in El Cheapo brand oil, etc.

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#15
In reply to #10

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 1:10 PM

When you first have (any, new or old) car, you check the oil every few hundred miles, so that you learn how much oil the engine uses.....in how many miles....

Once you know that, you check it around the mileage that would usually require a pint, or even a touch earlier.....certainly no later.....at half a pint it would be even better.....especially in a hot climate.

New cars/engines use (often but not always) use more oil than normal, until they "bed in", over a period of some miles, then the oil usage should reduce......

Some engines require that the driver not overload them in the first 5000 miles or so, no trailer work for example.......all VW Diesels for example.

My VW TDI engines (I have had 5 over the last 12 years or so) all used quite a lot of oil till about 7,500 miles, then it reduces and reduces till the engine has around 60,000 miles, when the oil usage is almost nothing, around 1 - 2 pints for 20,000 miles, which is the next oil change time......

Some of the engines were the 1.9 TDI (2) and the others were all 2.0 TDIs.....

I am sure that there are other car engines which are similar and others that have a completely different oil usage profile......

My old Mitsubishi (2.0 L. petrol) bus that I drove from new in '89 to '97, used no measurable amounts of oil between services after the first 20,000 miles, till I sold it with 360,000 miles.....but it needed oil/filter changes at 10,000 miles.....

Since I bought the Bus, I have ONLY used synthetic oil in all my cars, never had an engine problem either.....must be around 1 million miles in all (guesswork only! Might be much more....)

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#21
In reply to #10

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

05/06/2010 1:09 AM

Hey hun. Don't feel bad most people don't check their oil every week people who constantly work hard for a living anyway. It is good to do but usually not necessary. I kinda don't think oil is your only problem. Yes not having oil in your car is bad very bad but that wouldn't make it just dies and not start and then poof start back up. If your car is burning oil that bad then its time to rebuild it get a new car or engine. it also could be a leak your not noticing which you could have fixed and whatever is causing it to die randomly which could be a lot of things. Usually not to big of a deal (usually) but you could fix it and keep it for awhile they are good strong cars just regular mantinence and they're good to go. That's what I would do take it to a shop or someone who is car savvy and have it checked. May be a couple of stupid things causing potentially big problems. Good luck to you!!

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#16

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 1:30 PM

A very common problem in a number of brands of vehicles is that the PCV valve is made of cheap ass plastic and just falls apart. That makes it possible to have your engine just suck its own oil out over a few hundred miles. My 99 Ford V10 did this a few months ago. It went from not using any oil in 5000 miles (propane powered) to being off the dip stick in 400 miles (three quarts low).

Sadly many many engines have been wrecked because the manufacturers are using more and more inferior materials on critical but low cost items. It almost cost me my engine and has cost countless others theirs already.

Your rapid oil loss could have been caused by this as well. Its because stupid stuff like this does happen that I check my fluid levels every week. It may seem like needless obsessive nitpicking but had I not done so I would have likely wrecked my engine a day later when I went on a long distance trip while pulling a heavy trailer. A few minutes spent once a week saved me thousands of dollars and days of lost time!

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 4:14 PM

You earn a GA from me. Good answer!!

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#18

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/20/2009 4:54 PM

Kelly,

I've read through the posts here, and unless I missed it, no one asked the first question that came to my mind. When you said "There was no oil in there", do you mean that the oil didn't touch the end of the dipstick (I assume that's what you mean.)? If that's the case, how many quarts did it take to bring the oil back up to the "full" mark on the dipstick? I know on most cars I've owned, if it was more than two quarts low, it wouldn't register on the dipstick. If it was only down two quarts (out of 4 or 5), then the engine would not be likely to be locked up because of that.

If it's not turning over at all, the first things to check is the battery/starter systems. Don't haul it off to the scrap yard just yet! A paid-off car is something to be proud of, and something to hold on to so you don't have a car that's NOT paid off!

Please post again with some of the missing details.

Tom

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/21/2009 1:33 PM

I honestly can't say for sure if there was NO oil in there. But there wasn't any oil on the dipstick. I put 3 quarts of oil in the car before I went to get it changed. And the dipstick was half way up. I guess that's where it needs to be.

The battery did completely die 2 months ago, but went to have it recharged after I got a jump. I do think it possibly could be the battery since I never got it replaced, and it's the original battery. Don't most car batteries have a life of 6 years? At least standard ones.

I emailed a local shop, so I'm hoping they get back to me. I'm not wanting to give up my car that I've had since July 2003. Not unless, I absolutely have to. I'm not giving up hope.

I'm thinking it can be a combination of things, battery/starter/engine. Why else would the car rock back and forth when it's idle? I can't really say that has to do with the battery. But maybe the reason it didn't want to kick over could be the battery and starter. And maybe the reason it's trac light keeps coming on and off as well as the shaking could be the engine because of the oil.

I know one thing's certain, if it's fixable, I will be checking the oil once a week! lol That's WAY cheaper then a commitment of 5 years and $400 (if I'm that lucky).

Thank you so much for the suggestions.

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

11/22/2009 8:34 PM

Battery life depends on usage and climate. Hard usage means shorter life. Harsh climate also equals shorter life. Here in the Phoenix, AZ area, two years is about the limit of battery life.

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#22

Re: 2003 Chevy Cavalier - Engine Problems

10/15/2010 12:38 PM

I have a 2003 Chevy Cavalier to and it started to lose power, you step on the gas peddle and it felt as thow it was starving for gas so we put new fuel filter on and 4 new pluggs and did and oil change well guess what still not workin right come to find out that the fuel pumps and i a c valve for fuel delivery are bad on the 2003 cavaliers so we are goin to get my uncle who is a machanic to look at it to make sure cause we were also told the motor could be gone. Not sure if that would be your problem but worth a look!

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