Car stops running when not moving

The car in question is a 2003 Chevy Cavalier, 5 speed.

I’m driving to work this morning, stop at a stoplight, car quietly dies. I turn the key, it cranks immediately, I drive to the next stoplight. Wash, rinse, repeat. This happened like 3-4 times in a 7 mile drive.

I’m really hoping it’s one of those things that will just go away by itself, without me having to do anything. My luck usually isn’t that good.

A second acceptable option would be if there is somewhere I can bang with a hammer, kick, and/or curse, and the problem will then go away.

Beyond that, I’m out of my mechanical league. Any ideas on what the problem may be? Do I need to take it to a shop this afternoon, or could I run with it for a few days before taking it in?

Sounds like you have a problem with your idle timing. It’s adjustible. You can also practice lightly holding the gas pedal at stops to keep the engine running. I have the repair manual for it in my car; typing on a mobile phone though. I’ll see if it’s an easy fix and post instructions once I get to a real computer, unless someone else has them and can do it faster. Sorry I can’t be more help right now.

Edit: forgot to ask, do you have the 2.2 L or the 2.4 L engine (I believe it’s the SS model with the larger displacement.)

A bad EGR valve can cause a rough idle or a very low idle (leading to stalling) when you stop. Typically it gets worse once the car is warmed up.

I dunno. It’s green, and has 4 doors. I’m very much not a car guy. Is there somewhere I could look to determine whether it is the 2.2 or 2.4? A door sticker or something? I guess it might be in the owner’s manual, but I dunno if I even have one.

Bad plugs and or wires.

It could also be a vacuum leak. If so, it’s a minor repair. I don’t think it will hurt the car to drive it that way, but in general, driving a car that periodically stalls is a good way to get into an accident… I would get it checked out at your earliest convenience.

There is no such thing as “idle timing,” and neither the idle speed nor the ignition timing are adjustable. Bad plugs and/or wires will not cause dying at stops without having worse symptoms during acceleration.

It’s a pretty sure bet the symptom will not go away on its own, and that hitting stuff won’t fix it (you can try tapping on the idle speed actuator, but don’t get your hopes up). There are several possible causes – stuck EGR valve, vacuum leak, faulty idle speed actuator, carbon buildup in throttle body, etc. I recommend taking it to a competent shop.

It’s not urgent in terms of the mechanical health of the vehicle, but as mentioned there’s a safety concern, in addition to the aggravation of constantly restarting it.

The top of the engine of the 2200 for the 2003 model says, “ECOTEC 2.2”. I don’t have a picture of the 2.4 version, but I assume it would say 2.4. You’d probably know if you had the 2.4. It’s a sportier version and insurance is more expensive.

The troubleshooting section for ‘engine stalls’ has seven different possibilities for error, in order from most likely (and easiest fix) to most difficult. Yours is a 2003, is it a high mileage vehicle? Do you get regular maintenance?

The car probably needs a modern-day “tune-up”, which would be things like air filter, fuel filter, cleaning the throttle body, etc. My Ford Contour used to do that and it was the Intake Air Temperature sensor.

My last car would do this, but only when it was cool and damp in the Spring. It followed this pattern for a few years.

Low mileage, I think. About 50,000 miles or so. I’ve had the oil changed regularly…not every 3000 miles, but close to that. Just did an oil change last week, and I think it had been about 5000 miles since the last one. That’s longer than I usually go.

Other than oil changes, nothing has been done to the car–maybe a burned out tail light got fixed a couple years ago.

Guy in my office said to dump some of that STP fuel additive/injector cleaner stuff in the gas tank. Turns out those are two different things, a red bottle and a black bottle. Bought both, dumped them in. We’ll see if it helps.

If not, based on the advice given in this thread so far, I think I’ll have it checked out by a good shop next week, maybe spring for a tuneup as well.

Thanks, all.

I had a '77 MGB that stalled when it stopped. Turned out to be a cracked ‘doughnut gasket’ for the exhaust manifold. The engine bay was filling up with carbon monoxide.

Many cars in Europe do that by default now. (ECOTEC sounds like these…)
Although you don’t need to turn the key to turn them on again, just step on the gas pedal.

Might as well check to see if the oil cap was put back on. That can sometimes act as a vacuum leak.

Car ran smoothly on the drive home. I even stopped and picked up something for supper. Still think I’ll take it in for a tuneup, at least. It’s served nobly and well for lo these many years and all.

I’d just also add for the “outta left field” file that a bad clutch switch or neutral switch can cause odd stuff like this. On many newer fuel injected cars, the computer shuts off the fuel entirely when you’re coasting in gear. If one of those switches is bad, you can take it out of gear and the computer doesn’t know to start idling the engine again and it’ll stall.

I’m curious what they did to fix my dad’s car, then. The claim was that they made it idle faster. It now runs about the same as it did when dad lightly held his foot on the gas while stopped.

What’s the year, make, model, and engine size? His car may have had an adjustment.

I had a similiar problem 20 yrs ago…bad EGR valve.

If the EGR valve has the same function as the old PCV valve, that would be my culprit, also.