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2000~ Chevy Malibu Starting Trouble

Hello, this is Philip, and I’ve got a Chevy Malibu with roughly 120K miles on it. It runs relatively well - when it starts - which is why I’m here, obviously. The battery is brand new with all the connections seeming to be great, so I doubt it’s an electrical issue in that regard. Furthermore, in cases where the car doesn’t start, almost always it’s on an incline where the gas tank is lower than the rest of the vehicle. When it’s either level or higher than the rest, it seems to start up fine, which has led me to wonder if it’s something to do with the fuel intake (note that the car doesn’t stall at all - it simply won’t start in the adverse conditions I said here). So what do you all make of this? I’m no car mechanic, so your guess is as good as mine, and any help you may have would be great.


You have to describe “doesn’t start” - in full detail. “I turn the key and…” Also it must end up starting eventually, so say whatever you can about that.

When I turn the key, I get the rattling sort of noise, as if the engine is about to turn over but never quite gets there. When the car does start, it’s typically on the first try with no issues or odd sounds at all. My apologies - I’m new to the whole car mechanics thing, but if you need to know a specific thing, I’ll try my best to describe it for ya.

When you say “rattling sort of noise”, do you mean like a rapid clicking, or does it sound like it always does when you go to start it, but the engine never actually starts (this would be described as “crank but no start”, and “crank” and “turn over” are interchangeable, although many people outside the mechanic community seem to think they are different).

By rattling do you just mean it makes a bunch of fast clicks - or do you mean it actually revs over making that RR…RR…RR…RR…RR kind of sound?

If you turn the key and its just clicking (which could sound like rattle), AND if your battery is new, then the battery cables and alternator need to be checked out. If that stuff is good then you move on to suspect a failing starter.

If its actually revving over when you turn the key then try turning the key just to where all of the dash lights come on, wait a few seconds, back to off, back to dash lights for a few seconds - do that about 6-7 time and then try to start. If that solves the issue then you’re probably headed toward a new fuel pump.

The way you’re parked is probably not relevant.

Here’s the most recent encounter with this issue, as well, if it helps. The car was parked on the side of the road with the right side (if you’re sitting in the driver’s seat) of the car slanted downwards as well as the rear - gas tank - slanted downwards on a slope as well. I tried to start the car up, but i got the ‘nearly-there’ sort of rattling sound when I turned the key. Myself and a friend then pushed the car onto our driveway with the rear and gas tank slanted above the rest of the car. When I turned the key then, the engine started up without a hitch.

Hope this helps.

*RR…RR…RR… is about the sound we’ve got. All the lights came on, etc. Perhaps it is the fuel pump, but we certainly tried multiple times to get it to start that first time, waiting for the dash lights and all.

You seem to be very hung up on the whole incline having an influence on the car starting thing. Do you keep track of your gas mileage? I always reset my trip odometer when I fill my tank. Reason: so I know how far I have driven on that amount of gas. If there is a discrepancy of any sort in fuel consumption or gas gauge accuracy, I will know right away. The reason I mention this is because GM vehicles of this era are notorious for fuel tank sending unit failures, which will usually result in an empty tank reading 1/4 on the gauge. Try filling your tank every 150-200 miles regardless of what the gauge says and see if the problem goes away. If you are sure that is not it, we will continue trying to figure it out.

As a matter of fact, our gas meter has been out for some time, and we’ve used the odometer to fill up about every 250 miles.

Do you have a flashing “security” light in your instrument panel? If so, the Passlock system may be having issues. That will create a “crank, no start” condition. If your security light comes on from time to time and/or flashes when you have this problem, try leaving the key in the “on” position for ten minutes, then try starting the car. If the car starts then, 99% chance you have a Passlock issue, most likely the ignition switch.

The Security light is flashing in the instrument panel, too. If that ends up being the case, what would I need to get replaced or repaired?

Actually, just hit up YouTube, and it looks like there are some fixes available. I’ll check to see if it is the Passlock system that’s having trouble, and then I’ll try the fixes if it is. I’ll hop back on here if I need further help. Thanks so much, you guys! (And thanks for having patience to deal with my automotive incompetence :stuck_out_tongue: )

It will need to be properly diagnosed to verify that is indeed the problem (preferably by a mechanic who can experience the failure mode, but it’s pretty certain if leaving the key on for ten minutes will cause the car to start). Then the cause of the problem will have to be verified. Nine times out of ten, it’s the ignition switch, which contains a Hall effect switch that tends to go bad. If that is indeed the problem (as I said, 9 out of 10 times, it is), you will either have to replace the ignition switch or bypass the security feature within it, which involves splicing a resistor into the circuit. It’s not difficult to do, but you do have to find a mechanic who knows how to do it and is willing to do it.