1990 Cavalier- stalls at stop and acceleration


Old 07-28-09, 11:17 PM
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1990 Cavalier- stalls at stop and acceleration

Ok, here's my situation. I have a 1990 Chevy Cavalier that keeps stalling on me. When I'm at a stop it'll chug and then either kill out, or just before dying comes out of it (on it's own) and then idles fine. It seems to run fine when it's at a steady speed, but acceleration bothers it too. It's worse from a stop, but anytime I give it some gas it stutters a bit at the least. From a stop, it'll kill out if i give it better than about 3/4 throttle. To complicate the issue it doesn't always do this. It almost seems to be affected by the weather. The days where it's been hot (around 87F or hotter) it runs really well. I could kill it from start by giving it a lot of gas and that's about it. On the other hand cooler temps have been where the worst happens like stalls at stops. By the way, it'll chug and then idle fine MORE than it'll kill.

The only thing that I've done to it is replace the fuel filter. It wasn't good... the gas was a rusty color and there were particles that poured out of the old filter. This did help out a little but just didn't completely solve the problem.

Any help would be great. I'm no mechanic so it may take a while for me to get work done, but I will respond with updates. Thanks for any help
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Old 07-29-09, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by JayQbert View Post
To complicate the issue it doesn't always do this.
This is actually a very helpful clue. This probably rules out a leaking vacuum line, for example -I think -unless oddly there was some split in it that depending on how the engine moves, or ?, it closes up the crack.

It almost seems to be affected by the weather.
You have to rule out coincidence and get enough test chances, with good and poor/moist weather conditions to find this out. (Or induce it -see below) If it is wether related, I'd say you then could suspect the electrical rather than fuel.

You could have, for example, spark easier seeking the wrong path to ground if say it was real humid/fog conditions.

Idle the engine with the hood open in the dark, and look to see if you have sparks jumping out of wires or covers.

I have also heard of people trying to spritz water at the high voltage electrical components to see if they can induce this leakage. But unless you hear from others to do this, I am not advising this, as I do not want to be responsible if you get mad if then your car does not start back up after doing this.

Oh. And from my experience with cracked spark plug ceramic down inside the plug hole, during idle, the spark would jump and take the wrong path to ground(as stated above), but otherwise spark correctly during cruising. So this shows me that during either slow sparking intervals or perhaps a weker intense spark?, it becomes easier for the spark to track wrong, if you have say a crack in the wire(s)?, or carbon tracking or poor electrical contacts at say a rotor? and the plug wire terminals?, or whatever?, - that this could explain why it picks on idle.

And it may also be balking upon acceleration due to the sudden demand of the car, under load, to perform properly. If the car starts to stumble while under load(for reasons stated above), this then can affect other good cylinders to the point the vehicle could stall out.

Last edited by ecman51; 07-29-09 at 07:02 AM. Reason: added 2 bottom paragraphs
Old 07-29-09, 12:48 PM
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You may want to check for a loose spark plug that backed out a little bit. I had kind of the same problem, after two bring ins my mechanic thought it was in my head due to no codes. Third time was the charm and they caught it. Hope this helps.
Old 07-30-09, 07:31 AM
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possible cure.

Egr valve could cause this problem. It is suppose to close at an idle. If it sticks open it will die. This could be why it is intermittent. Sometime it sticks and sometimes it doesnt...

I wouldn't rule out a vaccum problem yet either. Either of those two problems on that old of a car may not kick on a ses light.

Spraying vaccum lines with brake cleaner while at an idle and listen for the car's idle to change
Old 08-21-09, 03:07 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: cheverly, maryland
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Talk about having flashbacks!

I had the same problem with my Cavalier. It would sometimes die when I stepped on the gas at a stoplight, just like you described. And it wouldn't do it all of the time - only occasionally, but often enough to scare the heck out of me when it died in the face of oncoming traffic. I finally basically junked it.
My mechanic at the time was also my best friend and he worked as a Cadillac roadside mechanic and was one of their best. He was unable to pin down the cause and neither were the shop guys he consulted with. I finally just gave up on it.
Old 09-01-09, 11:33 AM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: California
Posts: 13
Try replacing the distributor cap and rotor button. The cap may have a crack in it and letting moisture/condesation in more so than in hot dry weather.

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