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96 Cavalier Won't Start...

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Feb 21, 2010, 11:44 PM

Post #1 of 13 (2160 views)
96 Cavalier Won't Start... Sign In

I have a 1996 Cavalier 2.2, 5 speed if it matters, but I was coming home today and down shifted from 4th to 3rd and the engine started making somewhat of a pecking noise. It didn't seem too bad, I kinda was thinking another lifter was going out or a rocker arm nut backed off, but I made it home. It had lost a lot of power. The car has 236,000 miles on it.

I backed it into the driveway and shut it off, and tried to restart it and it wouldn't start.

I put a lifter in this car a few months ago... and I had to pull the cam to change it because it was battered so bad on the bottom. I didn't change the timing chain at that time which I should have, but I pulled the timing cover off earlier and everything looked good. The timing marks were right on and the tensioner looked good. Chain still looked good. All of the valves were working, and all the rocker arms were fine.

I put everything back together and it still won't start.

It is getting fuel and it is getting fire to the plugs. It seems to have good compression, but doesn't seem to be hitting at all. It will not hit off starting fluid either.

Next, I was thinking maybe crank sensor? But I wouldn't have thought it would run at all. I drove it about 6 miles from the time it started acting up.

And usually if a control module goes bad, it won't fire at all from my past experiences...

The fire at the plugs is a reddish color, but should be more than enough to at least fire up even if it would run rough.

I can hear a noise coming from the top half of the engine when I crank the engine, haven't been able to pin point it though.

Anyone have any other ideas?


(hyperlink removed)

(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Feb 22, 2010, 12:34 AM)

New User

Feb 22, 2010, 2:20 PM

Post #2 of 13 (2148 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

well we got what we need here fuel spark and timeing ok we have spark so crank is ok do we have engine light on ? is the cam ok not broke


Feb 22, 2010, 5:05 PM

Post #3 of 13 (2144 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

I don't think the cam is broke... all of the valves are working which I would think means the cam is still in tact. It was running when I backed it into the driveway, was just running rough.

Engine light was not on when it was running rough, it's on if I turn the key on, but I think they all come with they key just in the on position?


Feb 22, 2010, 7:19 PM

Post #4 of 13 (2142 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

I grabbed a new crank sensor from work and tried that and it didn't work. I got the OBD II tester and it says "Pass" no codes found.

Here's a picture of the dash lights... this is with the key on.

Veteran / Moderator

Feb 22, 2010, 8:18 PM

Post #5 of 13 (2138 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

do a compression test and post back with the numbers.

Loren Champlain Sr
Veteran / Moderator

Feb 22, 2010, 8:52 PM

Post #6 of 13 (2137 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

Agree with Nick. Loss of oil pressure, fuel washed cylinders?
SW Washington


Feb 22, 2010, 8:57 PM

Post #7 of 13 (2136 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

I'll get a compression tester tomorrow from work and get some numbers for you.



Apr 18, 2010, 8:26 PM

Post #8 of 13 (2090 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

Well it finally warmed up enough to get to work on this Cavalier and I believe I found the problem. Although it appeared to be in time, when I pulled the cam gear off, I noticed the cam gear guide snapped and was throwing the timing off. So I'm going to have to order a camshaft for it and put a new timing set in it.

Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Apr 18, 2010, 8:52 PM

Post #9 of 13 (2087 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

Good catch........
The cam gear had to be loose for that to happen, assuming the cam didn't seize.


We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.


Apr 19, 2010, 11:21 PM

Post #10 of 13 (2078 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

I got the cam out of it today in about 45 mins and ordered a new one for it... $239! Which I think is ridiculous - I can buy a nice V8 cam for my 389 for half that. But I need it anyway. It should be in tomorrow as will my timing set.

I wasn't going to pull the head back off so I went and bought a hand full of those pen magnets to hold the lifters up out of the way to get the old cam out and get the new cam in. I doubt I'll get to work on it tomorrow since I have to work a late shift, but Wednesday after work, I plan to get this thing back together and hopefully it'll run again.

Veteran / Moderator

Apr 19, 2010, 11:46 PM

Post #11 of 13 (2076 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

I love it........magnets & clothes pins.............lmao SlySly

Not a bad idea Dave......It's your own ride so that cools...... You said you had the head off before so I'm assuming the bearing were in decent shape.... Nice little time saver.....

Sooooooo those clothes pins are definitely not Snap On......... Matco????? Cornwell????

You might wanna double check #3 I think you have an exhaust clothes pin on an intake magnet there......

Ok, ok..... I'll stop... That actually was a pretty good idea I just couldn't resist and like HT said, that was a good catch on the diag.......



Apr 22, 2010, 10:43 PM

Post #12 of 13 (2063 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

Those clothes pins are top of the line!!! If anyone plans to do a similar job, the magnets and clothes pins worked great haha.

The bearings, cylinder walls, everything looked and felt good when I had it tore down for the lifter job several months ago.

I got the cam back in in no time and the new timing set on it. It starts and runs now, but kinda rough. I'm thinking I got a valve problem now. I sure hope not though. It has a hesitation when I rev it up some, smokes a little and I can hear a popping coming from the intake. My initial thought was it's out of time, but I checked and re-checked it several times and it seems to be dead on. I got the hole in the cam gear and the dot on the crank gear lined up with the tabs on the tensioner.

I'm going to run some tests on it tomorrow after work if it's not raining to see what the deal is.


Veteran / Moderator

Apr 22, 2010, 11:45 PM

Post #13 of 13 (2060 views)
Re: 96 Cavalier Won't Start... [In reply to] Sign In

Double check the map sensor, I had some with bad gromments on those that leaked vacuum. Maybe grab your vacuum gauge, voltmeter & scanner. See what kind of vacuum reading you got and if it's throwin any codes. Ohm your injectors, those Cavs had some issues with those........

If the vacuum gauge needle is shakey at high Rs you may have a valve sticking...........

Let us know what ya find out............


96 Cavalier Won't Start...

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