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2002 Cavalier won't start after taking apart dash

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New User

Nov 18, 2015, 3:42 PM

Post #1 of 3 (849 views)
post icon 2002 Cavalier won't start after taking apart dash Sign In

A couple days ago, I took apart my dash to install a new stereo. Never got around to finishing it, because I needed some accessories, but I took out the old one and put the dash back together so I could go to work in the meantime. The next day, I reconnected the battery and the car wouldn't start. No click, just a faint hum. There is a blinking airbag light for a couple seconds, a THEFT light for a couple seconds, and a persistent battery light. I checked the terminals multiple times, it's a new battery, the connectors are clean and screwed on as tight as can be. I don't really know anything about how the airbags or antitheft work. There's no aftermarket alarms or anything fancy installed.

The odd thing is that after ~30 minutes of trying to get it to start, I went inside for an hour, did some research, came back out to take a video for a friend, and the car just mysteriously worked. I proceeded to deliver pizzas for five hours, starting the car some 10-12 times throughout with no problems, except that one time it quickly died and I had to restart it.

I came home from work, and a couple hours later went to the grocery store two miles away. On the way out of the store, the car wouldn't start again, and I ended up walking home. It's still sitting there now, and I don't know what to do if I head out there with some tools. I figured maybe I shorted something under the paneling, though I don't remember there being exposed wires... Or maybe there's some sort of feature where the car won't start if the airbag's not secured 100% tightly? I don't know. The panel's on pretty good, though I just put on one screw on the far left and right. I also looked at the fuses and none of them look blown. I don't have a multimeter or any real experience testing electronics, but there would be a visible gap in the connecting bit inside, right?

Precise list of what I did:

Disconnect negative terminal (car key was in my pocket)
Disconnect positive terminal
Take apart dash
Remove stereo
Put dash back together (leaving some screws out for easier access later)
Reconnect positive
Reconnect negative

New User

Nov 19, 2015, 6:28 AM

Post #2 of 3 (814 views)
Re: 2002 Cavalier won't start after taking apart dash Sign In

Possibly relevant: If trying to start the car with the headlights on, the headlights don't dim.

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Nov 19, 2015, 9:45 AM

Post #3 of 3 (801 views)
Re: 2002 Cavalier won't start after taking apart dash Sign In

OK - I try some guessing with this: First off as a 2002 how do you know what might have been altered, added aftermarket crap that already failed and removed and so forth unless you know everything about it from new you really don't.

With the problems now pertinent to me is headlights don't dim when starter requested - is probably VERY pertinent.
Since the first GM side post battery terminals they've been a spot for trouble unseen. It's worse since lead wasn't allowed for the eyelet ends you may not see well or some lead and zinc concoction there under rubber boots now missing or rock hard like plastic.

Just touching those you can cause an assortment of problems if not tended to all along with cleanings and greasing which almost nobody does. Look at the ground cable as a guess it has a smaller wire off of it also going directly to body ground, the larger gauge should go directly to engine block.
Hard to know without both looking and can be electrically tested but there's a clue there in that they've been touched at all if any corrosion is present.
Starter is the huge draw but if body had ground headlights might work fine which a large draw but nothing compared to starter motor.
You said above you once anyway heard a hmmm sound with starter request suggests it had trickle power/ground not even enough to flutter the starter's solenoid is another clue of bad connections now where you messed with both battery mostly and a chance at dash?

Check those battery cable ends you removed. They might just respond to twisting a bit on them while in place now or surprise you and one snap off!

Dash w now 2 missing screws? Just maybe those two or one of them made a ground contact of dash metal to metal that wasn't well grounded.

Improper power will cause intermittent and or erratic behaviors either power or ground. Grounds all over get ignored big time and counts on first engine block with maybe direct also to header for headlights, and here and there throughout the car.
Plain IDK is if plug to radio OE has anything to do with dash anything at all. I would suggest getting an exact adaptor if replacing radio/sound item such that it is designed NOT to alter OE wiring and use existing harness.
It all began with this project including touching the battery at all a known trouble spot so I suggest back track and check what you've touched for look or find a problem by eye even and with any luck it will show the issue easily and snap to for you.
From my overworked crystal ball that's where I would probably begin looking for troubles and go from there if nothing found,


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