1996 Chevy Cavalier Starting issue

Tiny
JONCHAMBERLIN
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 CHEVROLET CAVALIER
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 185,000 MILES
This one is a doozy!

Here is the story. Last October I had the starter replaced due to grinding (eventually I had the flywheel replaced as well).

After these items were replaced there was still some grinding, but not much. At times I would turn the key and nothing would happen for a couple seconds THEN the car would start. Other times it would start by rocking the car back and forth. And sometimes I popped it into neutral and it starts fine. It hardly ever starts when facing up hill (if it does it would be a rough start). This problem would only happen for one week out of every six or eight. The car the has full power no matter what the position of the key is in.

The New starter has been bench tested twice and there is no dead spots. Two weeks a go, when the car was giving me more problems, I figured out that when I hit the solenoid it starts perfectly. I replaced the solenoid.

After that the car actually sounded powerful at startup. A couple days later it started to grind a little towards the end of ignition. Now I'm back to rocking the car, hold the ignition in the run position or dropping it in neutral.

The car is on its last legs (the head gasket is starting to go), but I need it for work.

Could it be electrical? Or a starter that eats through solenoids? Is it related to a failing head gasket?
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Thursday, October 9th, 2008 AT 2:40 PM

3 Replies

Tiny
JAMES W.
  • MEMBER
My first thought, as I was reading your description, was "is your motor grounded"? By either a cable from the negative post of the battery or from the frame. At one time GM would ground the motor to an exhaust manifold bolt and because of the heat, this connection would corrode, even though it appeared good, and cause starter problems. The grinding may be the shims, or lack of, between the starter and the block. Improper shimming can lead to grinding and even "lock" the starter into the flywheel.
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Thursday, October 9th, 2008 AT 5:01 PM
Tiny
JONCHAMBERLIN
  • MEMBER
Your latter thought sounds like a possibility. Perhaps when I was tapping the solenoid the starter was also freeing itself from the teeth of the flywheel. And I guess it would explain this cycle it goes through, were it's fine for a while then gives me problems. Then again my mechanic has taken the starter off twice, it seems if the shims were missing he would notice it.

I use this car as a delivery vehicle and it seems to give me problems for the first couple hours then is more or less fine (besides a little grinding here and there). Stupid question: could it be flywheel related? Was it not lubricated or installed properly?

Would a non-functioning ground wire cause the starter to work well for a while then fail? Kind of like a new battery with a bad alternator.

Thanks for your ideas! Any further insight would be appreciated.
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Friday, October 10th, 2008 AT 2:59 AM
Tiny
JAMES W.
  • MEMBER
First of all, there is no such thing as a "stupid question", the only stupid question is the one you didn't ask. Moving on, your starter may not have had shims before but over time with heating and cooling, heating and cooling, it may need one or two now. A few thousandths of an inch can make a big difference. I would try one or two and see what happens. On your grounding issue, it will make a good battery appear weak. The engine ground can "arc" itself to ground and everything will appear normal for a while but, it usually will go bad again. As far as the flywheel being the culprit, I have to say no, but, it will be if it keeps grinding.
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Friday, October 10th, 2008 AT 1:07 PM

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