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2003 Chevy Malibu - cut off while driving

Not my car - I am trying to help my stepdaughter’s friend.

2003 Chevy Malibu (believe the LS version)
Drove about 25 miles - mostly highway
Cut off when pulling into a parking lot
Unknown amount of time passes (probably minutes, defiantly not hours)
No work is done to the car
Car starts again and drives to a parking spot

My mind went to alternator but the fact that the car started again seems to rule that out. I figure it could also just be out of gas. My only other idea within my skill set could be battery cables may need replacing.

Mechanically I also think the culprit could also be the ignition switch. It could also be the fuel pump. I am going to check it out during my lunch hour and try and get a better diagnosis.

Any thoughts, tips, tricks and ideas for things to check on a case like this? Thank you.

Start simple:

Does it have fuel? (ask the driver along with checking the gauge- gauges can fail)
Are the battery cables tight and clean? how old is the battery?
When you crank it, does it crank strong? Or does it sound weak?
Does it have fuel pressure?
Does it have oil?

Thank you. I will head out there in a few minutes. Battery was new in June 2019. I suspect there may be a cable problem. That makes rational sense to me.

Looked at the car. It’s really raining so I didn’t stay long. It cranks right up. Perfect. Awesome. Has a half tank of gas (was filled on Saturday).

The negative battery cable is severely bent and twisted where it connects to the battery. I could see how hitting a bump in the road could cause the connection to fail.

Would that also cause the car to cut off?

Yes. No electricity = no ignition system working.

1 Like

A faulty crankshaft position sensor will cause a car to shut off for no reason.


All your ideas are definite possibilities as well as the ideas from other posters above. When this happens it is usually either no-spark or no-fuel. Once you know which of those it is, solving it will be much easier. Do you know if there’s a way to test for spark at a spark plug on this car?