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Pull the air cleaner off and crank the engine. If puffs of air come come out of the throttle body when cranking the engine then the timing is not set correctly. Otherwise, after cranking pull a spark plug and see if it is wet with fuel and if so this indicates an ignition problem (coil, distributor/cap/rotor or faulty ECU).
i know industry jargon can be confusing, but lets try this. if it turns over but won't start, it could be your ''ignition module'' that sits on top of the vave cover on the motor or it might be the fuel pump or filter. make sure when you crank the engine that the key is all the way turned or it may not always make a proper contact to activate the ignition module. iv'e seen this before & had to change the ignition switch & all worked ok after that. i would need to know engine lt size to give you more details on the matter. please get back to me.
This is an all too common problem with the Cavalier and other GM J-body cars. Usually it is because of the crankshaft position sensor or the harness going between it and the DIS (aka ignition module). Without the DIS seeing a signal from the crank sensor, it doesn't know when to trigger fuel and spark.
Sometimes this can also be caused by a faulty ignition switch. The switch will allow you to "crank" the car, but it doesn't make the proper connections for the ignition system, so the car never actually runs.
The previously indicated oil pressure switch could also be causing the problem, but if you hear your fuel pump run then it's OK.
Hopefully this helps. If not, your Cavalier is as messed up as mine and probably not worth fixing.
Did you try changing the fuel pump? I would try a local salvage yard for parts. They will be much cheaper. As you no if no gas its not going to fire. Good luck and its really nice of you for helping her. I hope things work out for her..!
The ignition modulator may have to be replaced, you can pick one up at Auto Zone and it's still pretty expensive so you may want to try the Salvage yards. The ignition modulator's are common interchangeable part for the GM line so you can get one from a newer car then your 89 cavalier. Good luck and hope this helps. I believe Auto Zone can also test the ignition modulator too, the modulator is what the coils sit on.