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NOW what to do?

I own a 2004 Chevy Cavalier (LS coupe if that makes a diff, it seems to with tires anyways)…I digress…

I am the original owner, change the oil regularly. NEVER had a problem with this car…I mean NEVER (sans tire changes and brake pads) until last yr. My wonderful and trustworthy car has 170K mileage on it. Mostly freeway miles. I am a gal, but I take great care of my ride…the body looks great, the interior too…many think my car could pass as brand new. This past year…I have had to replace the alternator, have major bearings work done on the front wheels…change out the battery… My car has died on me twice on the road. Those two things alone made me learn to get a trusted tow guy and mechanic. I am thinking I need to get a timing belt change NOW before it is too late. Any of you experts out there have some advice for me? Since my two door black car still looks awesome and runs great…I am going to keep it forever…(it is cheap to operate, looks good and if it gets a ding on the door…I just cuss for a minute then touch it up)…Thanks ahead of time!

You have been doing good. My only question is why did the car die on you twice? It can happen to any car but in a well maintained car, which yours seems to be, it should be rare.

If your motor has a timing belt, it is overdue for a change. Go to the web site,, and enter the info on the motor in the car to learn if it has a belt or not.

If your motor does not have a belt, then it has a timing chain which means no need to change it. In that case just keep up with oil changes and other maintenance as per the owner’s manual.

As far as transmission servicing, if the owner’s manual says “lifetime” fluid, don’t believe it. Whatever the manual says auto transmissions need fluid changes every 30K miles is you want them to last.

You and your car should have many more years and miles left to share. The repairs you’ve had so far are expected items given the miles on the car. You will need to budget more for repairs in the future just to replace things that simply wear out.

I’m with Mr. Meehan on this. This dying twice on the road would concern me.
What exactly transpired with this problem? Was the cause of this ever found or did the car restart after being towed in? Different causes each time and repaired as necessary?

I don’t think the OP’s car has a timing belt, IIRC the 2.2L has a timing chain

The 2.2L Ecotec motor in your car has a timing chain, not a timing belt. No routine maintenance is needed to keep the timing chain going except for routine oil changes. Routine coolant flushes can keep the water pump going, which is driven by the timing chain and is a major pain to replace on this engine. If the water pump fails, you might as well replace the timing chain and guides while you are in there, but that is a story for a dark and stormy night.

Well the first time was the alternator died on me and the second one (I forgot to mention) was a fuel line snafu…I had that replaced as well. Now I am squeamish of taking it on any trips as I was at least close to home when that happened.

I notice the road noise more than before and trying to decide if it is because I am just paranoid or really hearing more noise then I did before. But she is running great other than that.

haha dark and stormy night…

If the car has been taken care of as well as you say I wouldn’t be too concerned about driving it on longer trips. I have an '88 Ford Escort with 515K miles on it and just drove it on a trip of about 500 miles a few months ago when I moved from NC-KY and didn’t have any problems. If you saw how my Escort looks you’d probably be afraid to drive it across town, but I do keep the keep up the mechanical parts of the car. You may actually be hearing more road noise, that’s common as a car ages and starts to get squeaks and rattles and weather stripping may be starting to deteriorate allowing more noise to get into the passenger compartment.

Have you done some maintenance like air filter, coolant change, sparks plugs, brake fluid change? Lastly an important one is automatic transmission fluid change but if never done keep motoring on.

No timing belt to worry about.

You’re probably hearing more noise than before. This could be because your tires are getting more worn (some tires get loud when they wear a little) or more likely because the thing’s 170k miles old and panels don’t fit as flush as they used to, which admits noise to the cabin. Nothing much to worry about really.

The things you’ve described as going wrong are fairly normal. That’s a lot of miles on that car, so even though it’s not even 10 years old yet, it’s an old car, and old cars require parts replacements.

More important than worrying about the timing chain (which as others have pointed out you don’t need to worry about) is the transmission fluid. That should be exchanged (NOT flushed, exchanged) every 30,000 miles.

What you are asking is, if I may interpret, “how do I make my great car more reliable so I wont get stranded on a dark road some stormy night?” My suggestion is this, replace all the old accessory parts with new ones, not re-built but new. the fuel pump, the water pump, the timing chain and gears, the starter, the main ignition components such as igniter, coil, etc. all belts hoses, and vacume hoses, and so on. You already got the alternator and battery. Put in new lamps too, and change all fluids including brake fluid. It will cost you something, but if the engine and transmission are in great shape, it will prevent a lot of little breakdowns in the next several years. All of these components have limited lifetimes, and they will go out one at a time in the next 25,000 miles anyway, so why wait? If you can afford it now.

I will definitely get the transmission fluid changed (if it wasn’t done already by my mechanic) so thanks for that tip. As for my tires, all of my tires are less than a yr old.

As for the noise in the cabin, what you say makes sense. Maybe I’ll get the floors carpeted. (joking) haha…thank you for the advice…

First open the Owner’s manual and find the maintenance schedule.
It probably only goes up to 100 or 120K miles.
So, everything there should have been done at least once.

Get those things caught up.
Avoid the extra flushes and cleanings many shops try to talk you into.
The only extra things I recommend doing are changing the automatic trans fluid and filter every 30K miles and changing the brake fluid every 3 years.

A 2004 with 170K and this is one of GM’s lower level cars (were they not all lower level cars in 2004?) That being said, all your problems and concerns can be worked on, no questions about that BUT it is clear you are a driver (I mean just look at those miles) and you want and value the reliability your car had many miles ago. If you have any choice in the matter I would consider replacing this car (to be sold on the private market, by you). I say this as I just do not think you are going to stay happy being so well aquainted with a mechanic and tow truck driver.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still devote 3 days a month for this car to be with the mechanic, all mechanical can be made almost new again, but I do not think you will like this game very much.