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05 Chevy Malibu won't start all of a sudden

  
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05 Chevy Malibu won't start all of a sudden

 
zwilson50 zwilson50
New User | Posts: 3 | Joined: 03/11
Posted: 03/22/11
07:41 PM

I need help diagnosing the problem with my car.  I have an 05 Chevy Malibu Classic.  It is a 4 cylinder and has almost 60K miles on it.  I bought it used and have had it almost 7 months with no problems.  I change my own oil and filter.

The car worked properly and I didn't notice anything up until this point.  After driving it to my son's school, it didn't start but just clicked.  The interior lights, radio, dash, etc all worked properly but it would just click.  I had my in-laws come jump me and it started ok (albeit a little sluggishly).  We drove it to my in-laws house and I turned it off when we got there.  I instantly tried to start it again and the same problem of just clicking.

I ended up needing another jump to get it to start.  We drove it home and I am currently letting it run in the driveway.  

How do I know if it is a bad battery, alternator or starter?

Thanks in advance for all of the help.  Please ask any questions if you feel I need to clarify anything for you.


UPDATE
After letting the car idle in the driveway for 40-45 minutes, I turned it off and tried to start it immeadiately and it just clicked like before.  

waynep7122 waynep7122
Guru | Posts: 1130 | Joined: 08/09
Posted: 03/22/11
08:08 PM

shut the engine off...

disconnect the battery cables....   use hot water to wash them....  use a wire brush to clean them...

put them back on.. the car will probably start..

you could also have had the battery go bad... they do go bad that fast..  but a 70% chance its just dirty battery cables..  

waynep7122 waynep7122
Guru | Posts: 1130 | Joined: 08/09
Posted: 03/22/11
08:14 PM

please... please... PLEASE>...   don't fall into the terrible trap that some people recommend.. of pulling a battery cable off with the engine running...   DO NOT DO THIS>>>..

do you pull the gas station nozzle out of the filler neck while its pumping  when buying gas.. to see if the gas is actually flowing in..   same effect.. a big mess all over the place...   except with electrons...   you build voltage..  enough to cook all your 14 volt circuits with well over 50 volts for the first second of disconnect..  

zwilson50 zwilson50
New User | Posts: 3 | Joined: 03/11
Posted: 03/22/11
08:32 PM

I will try your advice in the morning.  On a side note, is there a reason that every once in a while the car's RPMs will fluctuate when I stop at a stop light.  It fluctuates from normal to low(feels like a hard idle).  

waynep7122 waynep7122
Guru | Posts: 1130 | Joined: 08/09
Posted: 03/22/11
08:51 PM

dirty battery cables do weird things... as the alternator is totally controlled by the computer on these models... its trying to charge the battery...  when the engine returns to idle... the alternator output drops.. the computer usually turns off the alternator at this point to allow the engine RPM to stabilize...  but it is constantly monitoring the voltage..

when the cables are dirty.. there may not be enough current from the battery to keep the various accessories powered up.. so the engine stumbles for that second while the computer turns the alternator back on...

without looking at the system with a fast digital recording scope...  its hard to tell.. you might also plug in a scan tool and check for trouble codes..  

zwilson50 zwilson50
New User | Posts: 3 | Joined: 03/11
Posted: 03/23/11
08:16 AM

Turned out to be a dead battery.  I cleaned the terminals and cables and brushed them.  Battery wouldn't even charge this morning.  I really appreciate the help.

Another question....I need to flush my radiator as the color of the coolant/anti-freeze is not the normal yellow/green.  What will I need and what is the best way to do that so I don't harm any of our cats and dogs?

Thanks a million wayne for the help.  I owe you a six pack.  

Dave632 Dave632
Addict | Posts: 2220 | Joined: 07/08
Posted: 03/23/11
08:52 AM

An easy way to check for a bad battery is to check the voltage when you get it running. If the voltage is in the 13-14 volt range the alternator is working and the car is probably running on it.
I have rarely had a bad battery cable cause a problem.
99% of the time it is the battery gone bad. They will short internally and can even take out your alternator if you run the car with an internally shorted battery.
Another tip, do not buy one of those cheap auto parts store batteries, unless you want to change batteries every 6-12 months. Yes they give you a prorated warranty but in the long run, unless you like having a dead battery you are better off with a quality battery. I learned this lesson over many years of doing the battery shuffle.
I use Optima batteries now and even though they cost 140-170 each, I am OK for about 5 years.  
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waynep7122 waynep7122
Guru | Posts: 1130 | Joined: 08/09
Posted: 03/23/11
09:10 AM

flushing the cooling system....  when i do it... i use bus boy dish totes from smart and final stores or cash and carry.. several of them with the lips overlapping ..  they cost about 5 bucks each now...

on a really big job.. and i do this a lot...   i have one of the 25 buck food storage trays they also sell there.. its like 18x30 and 7 inches deep..

all coolants are dangerous for pets..   so.. not leaving it uncovered where they might taste it..

newer cars might not have green coolant.. it could be orange.. yellow or pink..   i don't know what color would be in that model...

there are also places that will accept your used coolant..  for recycling or disposal..  

ethelkilledfred-#001 ethelkilledfred-#001
Guru | Posts: 1371 | Joined: 03/10
Posted: 03/23/11
12:51 PM

Icon QuoteDave632:
An easy way to check for a bad battery is to check the voltage when you get it running. If the voltage is in the 13-14 volt range the alternator is working and the car is probably running on it.
I have rarely had a bad battery cable cause a problem.
99% of the time it is the battery gone bad. They will short internally and can even take out your alternator if you run the car with an internally shorted battery.
Another tip, do not buy one of those cheap auto parts store batteries, unless you want to change batteries every 6-12 months. Yes they give you a prorated warranty but in the long run, unless you like having a dead battery you are better off with a quality battery. I learned this lesson over many years of doing the battery shuffle.
I use Optima batteries now and even though they cost 140-170 each, I am OK for about 5 years.


I had a brand new work passenger van, less than 500 miles on it that didn't start each and every time due to corroded terminals. Turns out it is a common problem due to the vans sitting before being bought and it sat in our yard while it was being fitted for work and reg was being iron out. No tools so little Coca Cola would help out the problem till it went back to the shop.  

I also use the Optima battery as my field battery when I go into the backyard to start one of my cars. Since it's a sealed dry cell, I use it in the Suburban on the floor of the back seats to power my kids video games and laptop when were on the road. A couple of times they have played them while the ignition was off draining my battery on long trips.  
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idrivejunk idrivejunk
Addict | Posts: 5117 | Joined: 12/09
Posted: 03/23/11
04:52 PM

Everybody owes wayne a six pack already!

This was a classic dirty terminal scenario. These new cars flip out with iffy juice.

wayne, I've tried like heck to find a place for old coolant here, no dice. I bet CA has places though!  
idrivejunk

chevelle83 chevelle83
Addict | Posts: 2280 | Joined: 11/09
Posted: 03/23/11
08:46 PM

same here, where the heck do you get rid of used antifreeze?????????????  I usually just let it evaporate in a large open container it goes pretty quick.


yep seen this quite a few times, what is the address I will send a 6 pack which flavor to you like wayne?  

waynep7122 waynep7122
Guru | Posts: 1130 | Joined: 08/09
Posted: 03/28/11
09:41 PM

to rid ones self of used coolant..   put it in clean looking bottles.. ... stop by your local repair shop...   sometimes they will recycle it for you ...   autozones and other parts stores used to have an antifreeze recycling drum in the behind the counter..  DO NOT DROP IT OFF OUTSIDE.. big fines if the cameras catch you... and they rat you  out..

if all else fails... see if you can find out from your local repair or oil change shop.. who they have dispose of their waste fluids... used motor oils.. and coolants..

there are also city and county hazard waste drop off centers that run once in a while..   they will accept it if its IN antifreeze bottles that are clean and capped... so it can be identified..


oh... and my favorite liquid.. Dr pepper.. or generic variants..   i hook up the IV and go directly into the veins..  ahh..!!!!  the empty 3 liter bottles also come in handy for storing used fluids, from cars that is..


all auto repair shops at least in california .. have to have an EPA permit..   clearly marked storage drums..   keep track of their hauling  bills...   the state officials do come through once in a while to check the receipts..  

what ever you do ... DO NOT MIX CARB/PARTS DIP into used motor oil...    the oil truck will bring the whole load back to your shop...  carb/parts dip has to go to a special disposal center..   hazard waste round up...  ... best to NOT BUY any more.. its really really toxic...   ever read the warning on the label..   AVOID BREATHING VAPORS..  CAUSES BIRTH DEFECTS...  in bolt big print.. everything else is in normal print..  i have been using spray cans of cheep brake cleaner and a hand full of spray cans of carb spray..  or heavy duty cleaner degreaser from cash and carry stores or smart and finals stores. its like 409 or fantastic .. but stronger...  used in hot water.. it really cleans..  

skyeking skyeking
Addict | Posts: 2738 | Joined: 08/09
Posted: 03/29/11
01:04 AM

Laugh Hi there Junkman..Howzit going with you?? All's well I hope.. Cool  
skyeking

idrivejunk idrivejunk
Addict | Posts: 5117 | Joined: 12/09
Posted: 03/29/11
04:29 AM

Hi Skye. Alls well up over! Smile  
idrivejunk