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2001 Chevy Malibu, 89,000 miles, 3.1 engine, won't start

2001 Chevy Malibu, 89,000 miles, 3.1 engine, automatic transmission.
Problem: Car won’t start. Had been driven home and would not start the next time it was tried. Car turns over and catches momentarily, but just won’t start. Sometimes gives a “swishing” sound when one stops cranking; sounds like air rushing back through the intake manifold.

Battery is fully charged. Checked all fuses; OK. Checked plugs; dry and clean. Does not appear to be flooded. Taped fuel rail and sampled gas. Pumped about one pint of gas. Gas has no water and looks clean. Pressure rail reads 52 PSI and holds pressure. Can hear fuel pump run and shut off when key is turned on. Changed both crank sensors and cam sensor. Had ignition module checked by Autozone; ran test multiple times and it tested OK. Coil resistances are within speck. All tested OK. Checked spark with in-line neon timing light. Spark level looks good plus saw spark jump from open plug connection to ground. Looks like lots of spark.

Used Autozone’s OBT tool and had no stored faults.

Used oscilloscope and measured voltage on several injectors. Observed just one pulse (opened) injector while turning over. Appears injectors are not being told to open to inject gas.

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  • rahoelz Aug 18, 2009

    I would like to know if a the anti-theft system will allow the car to turn-over, have spark, but stop delivery of fuel. If so, that may be the problem.

  • Chris Gulick Oct 08, 2012

    youve got it section 2-18 of the owners manual turn key to on for 10 min then off and then start good luck

  • Anonymous Mar 13, 2014

    Truck wont turn over I've checked the grounding the spark plugs added gas and it wants to start its cranking just not turning over

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CLICK HERE for the injector schematic.
CLICK HERE for the Ignition schematic.

Since the PCM uses info gatheres from the crank and cam sensors to calculate ignition - and there are no OBD codes - in all likelihood, the PCM itself is bad.

The Ignition Module, also transmits to the PCM.

It appears after all your testing - that the PCM is at fault.

It does not error report on itself (unfortunately).

The ignition timing is controlled by the Powertrain Control Module (PCM). No adjustment is necessary (distributorless ignition) or possible.

Please see the following....

The ignition timing is controlled by the Powertrain Control Module (PCM). No adjustment is necessary or possible.
The engines covered by this manual are equipped with distributorless ignitions, ignition timing is controlled by the Powertrain Control Module (PCM), as applicable. No adjustments are possible. If ignition timing is not within specification, there is a fault in the engine control system. Diagnose and repair the problem as necessary.
Ignition timing is the measurement, in degrees of crankshaft rotation, of the point at which the spark plugs fire in each of the cylinders. It is measured in degrees before or after Top Dead Center (TDC) of the compression stroke.
Ideally, the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder will be ignited by the spark plug just as the piston passes TDC of the compression stroke. If this happens, the piston will be at the beginning of the power stroke just as the compressed and ignited air/fuel mixture forces the piston down and turns the crankshaft. Because it takes a fraction of a second for the spark plug to ignite the mixture in the cylinder, the spark plug must fire a little before the piston reaches TDC. Otherwise, the mixture will not be completely ignited as the piston passes TDC and the full power of the explosion will not be used by the engine.
The timing measurement is given in degrees of crankshaft rotation before the piston reaches TDC (BTDC). If the setting for the ignition timing is 10 BTDC, each spark plug must fire 10 degrees before each piston reaches TDC. This only holds true, however, when the engine is at idle speed. The combustion process must be complete by 23° ATDC to maintain proper engine performance, fuel mileage, and low emissions.
As the engine speed increases, the pistons go faster. The spark plugs have to ignite the fuel even sooner if it is to be completely ignited when the piston reaches TDC. Spark timing changes are accomplished electronically by the engine and ignition control computers.
If the ignition is set too far advanced (BTDC), the ignition and expansion of the fuel in the cylinder will occur too soon and tend to force the piston down while it is still traveling up. This causes pre ignition or -knocking and pinging-. If the ignition spark is set too far retarded, or after TDC (ATDC), the piston will have already started on its way down when the fuel is ignited. The piston will be forced down for only a portion of its travel, resulting in poor engine performance and lack of power.
Timing marks or scales can be found on the rim of the crankshaft pulley and the timing cover. The marks on the pulley correspond to the position of the piston in the No. 1 cylinder. A stroboscopic (dynamic) timing light is hooked onto the No. 1 cylinder spark plug wire (2.2L engine only, on the 2.4L engines, special adapters are needed) . Every time the spark plug fires, the timing light flashes. By aiming the light at the timing marks while the engine is running, the exact position of the piston within the cylinder can be easily read (the flash of light makes the mark on the pulley appear to be standing still). Proper timing is indicated when the mark and scale are in specified alignment.


WARNING When checking timing with the engine running, take care not to get the timing light wires tangled in the fan blades and/or drive belts.

The engines covered by this manual are equipped with distributorless ignitions, ignition timing is controlled by the Powertrain Control Module (PCM), as applicable. No adjustments are possible. If ignition timing is not within specification, there is a fault in the engine control system. Diagnose and repair the problem as necessary.




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Posted on Aug 18, 2009

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Had there been a distributor like the earlier models it would be the one at fault. However now microchips control that aspect, the problem being synchronizing with the cam shaft rotation, the injector valves being controlled electronically are not opening & closing as per the compression in the cylinders leading to un-synchronized firing. Thus preventing the engine to start & hold a rhythm. This can happen overnight if the insulation has given way due to condensation, contact, etc. It's basically an electrical problem & I am afraid that the wiring will have to be checked thoroughly again meaning repeat of many of the tests which were carried out plus a replacement of the wiring near & around the induction coil & the chip involved. Hope this helps....sodeep

Posted on Aug 18, 2009

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