Chevy Aveo - frozen, or worse?

I have a 2009 Chevy Aveo that stopped working on Monday’s cold snap (-20 degrees, plus wind chill) and still won’t start (currently 1 degree). When I turn the key, the car turns, but never ‘catches’, and was starting to turn sluggishly. I had (dumbly) assumed that it was the battery, so after it didn’t start when it kind of warmed up, I took the battery inside and warmed it up. A room-temperature battery and an attempted jump later, and we still have nothing. The charger says the battery’s at 100% and 12.5 volts, but nothing else.

I have no garage, and while the tank is full now it was run pretty low last Thursday/Friday, so I thought that maybe there was a freeze in the gas line… but now the check engine light’s on. I don’t know if a line freeze would cause the light to go on, but I’m afraid it’s calling out a much more serious problem. I’m broke (literally… even spending $100 for a new battery is terrifying) and am hoping that I might have some kind of solution other than towing it to a garage and paying for repairs. We’re a one-car family, and can’t exactly wait for the weather to warm up.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I hope the timing belt didn’t break. check if the fuel pump is working and are you getting spark?

How do you know the check engine light is on if engine is not running? Yes, turning ignition on will light up almost all the dash warning lights. Even a cheap $50 code reader will give you the basic simple codes. Which are almost always emission related.

The check engine should stay on until the engine starts shouldn’t it? So there may not be any codes. But if there is they might offer a hint.

To clarify - once the battery is in, I insert the key and all warning lights come on. I try turning the ignition and the car turns several times (Rrr Rrr Rrr RrRr Rrr) but I don’t get any combustion. After failing to start, the check engine light stays on and all others go off.

Also, Big Marc - how would I know if I’ve got spark?

It’s unlikely that gas is frozen in your line. It takes much colder temperatures than -20 to do that. I think your battery is too drained to provide enough juice to make spark. 12.5 volts is not a particularly great reading for a car battery. How old is it? Do you know anyone with a battery charger that could give your battery a boost?

Aveo’s are notorious for timing belts breaking. How many miles are on it? Have you ever had the timing belt replaced? If it has a distributor it is easy to tell if it is the timing belt. Remove the distributor cap and see if the rotor turns as you try to start it. If not the belt has snapped. Not sure if this engine is interference or not. If it is it could be toast.

The voltage reading on the battery doesn’t tell you much about whether the battery will crank and fire up the engine. The battery could be putting out 12.5 volts, but the amperage could be very low. One check for this is to put a voltmeter across the terminals of the battery when it is installed in the car. If the voltage drops below 9 volts while cranking the engine, the battery is shot.

spark tester sold at any chain auto part store they are not expenive

On a 12V auto battery 12.5V generally corresponds to about 75-80% charge. Fully charged it should read about 12.7V

Aveos apparently do have timing belt issues perhaps worse then most. They are supposed to get changed by 60K miles and can often even fail before that. I looked at a friends, but it was older - like an '05 or something - and the top front timing belt cover was held on only by some clips and could be easily popped to peer underneath. When you open the hood look down the top of the engine toward the passenger’s side. At the passenger’s side end of the engine (which is actually the front of the engine) is a black plastic cover, probably with a couple of hoses routed on top. See if you can pop that cover out at the top. I probably has bolts down lower so it won’t come all the way off, but you should be able to pull out enough to see. (Remember too that I’m going on what I recall about an older model). Under it you should be able to see a couple of pulleys with a belt over them - about an 1 to 1-1/4" wide. If you see the belt push up and down on it - it should feel relatively tight. If you don’t see a belt or see a broken one then you need a tow truck.

If the belt appears to be in order, along with a spark tester get a can of starting fluid - also not expensive. If you find spark, blow some starter fluid into the intake and if that gets at least a momentary fire out of it then you need to troubleshoot fuel delivery.

If you can put a bright flashlight into the oil filler area to see if the lifters move when the starter is tried, you can tell if the timing belt broke. Still doesn’t confirm if it just shredded a little and slipped but can confirm if there is nothing there or also if no spark. Stalling while driving though doesn’t sound like a battery.

Have the battery load tested at your local auto parts store, and verify that the coolant measures a 50/50 mix and good to at least -35 deg F. That’s where I’d start.

What was it doing when it stopped working? Was it running or did it refuse to start?

If this battery is original it may be 5 years old. I’m inclined to suspect the battery, except that you said you tried jumping it without success and since it’s reading in excess of 12VDC there is not a totally dead cell.

The problem is that it’ll probably have to get warmed up in a shop to properly diagnose it. If you have anything causing a weak spark, or if you have a weak gas pump, or even if you have a bad battery cable connection that’s dropping voltage and leaving an insufficient force there to cause spark in the icy cold cylinders, or even if you have a bad sensor (such as perhaps a temp sensor), it might be impossible to diagnose without getting it running.

In '72, in North Dakota, my '64 Fairlane engine froze solid. I brought the battery inside, bought a new car (I had just made Sgt and wanted one anyway), and in the spring I put the battery back in and it started immediately. Whereupon I sold it.

Sorry, but I think you’ll need the services of a tow truck and a shop on this one. Or the return of warm weather.

Get some jumper cables and some heet. Dump the heet in the tank, and go out every 20 minutes and try and start it. after an hour it will probably start, just went through that with another car, no codes etc.

The Aveo is a interference engine…when the belt jumps or goes its some big $$$ to repair. My sister has a 2007 and I keep telling her to get the belt changed…she ignores me…will see what happens down the road. Can’t wait to tell her I told you so. Most anemic car I ever drove. Just used to the v-8’s in my cars. 5.0 Mustang GT, 59 T-Bird with a 1964 4 bbl 390 and 350 Nova 4v.

The 2009’s does NOT have an early timing belt failure issue! Early timing belt failures were more prone to the early 2004 & 2005 Aveo’s. I know there was a recall for the Ignition coil & plugs on the 2009’s which I don’t know if you had done yet or not.

11290 – Degraded Connection Between
Ignition Coil Spark Plug Boots and Spark

2009-2011 Chevrolet Aveo
2009-2010 Pontiac G3/Wave
Equipped with a 1.6L Gas Engine (LXV)

General Motors has decided to conduct a voluntary Emission Recall involving all 2009-2011 model
year Chevrolet Aveo, and all 2009 model year Pontiac G3/Wave vehicles equipped with a 1.6L gas
engine (LXV). A degraded connection between the spark plug boots on the ignition coil assembly
and the spark plugs may cause the illumination of the Check Engine Soon light, rough engine
operation, and lack of engine power.

Dealers are to install new spark plug boots and spark plugs.

Without knowing the mileage on the vehicle there’d be no way to say whether it’s “early” for the timing belt to fail or not. Every car that uses a timing belt has a timing belt issue - in that it has to be changed according to schedule.

The info on the recall is, of course, very useful for the OP.

True, the mileage is unknown. The 2009 Aveo’s with the newer ECOTEC engine requires belt replacement at 100,000 miles as opposed to the earlier ETEC II at 60K. I was just clearing up any misinformation of the timing belt failure on Aveo’s as the 09’s and up is a very rare occurrence…actually a quick search on the net doesn’t bring up any info on any timing belt failures for 09’s and on the Aveoforum not one single thread except for early 1st gen Aveo’s.

The ignition coil is an issue so the OP may want to see if the recall was addressed first as it seems to be related to their issue.