Question about 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier

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My description of current problems. I hope I don't get lost for words. LOL

1). I would venture to say, it was no more than 3 or 4 minutes, approx. 3/4 of a mile. (i was on a freeway frontage road.). When I noticed.

2). I always keep my eye on the temp. gauge, and is a habit now. I was pulled into left hand lane, when I noticed. Then I continued back on the other direction frontage, right back to "The Midas touch" (So I noticed immediately)

3).Before I took it in, the only thing wrong with the car was bad gas mileage(oil change needed)
The rattle I had noticed and only brought up to the guy because he said something about the compressor making noise. Which I'm sure was before I told them to change belt. But after the installation of the pump and thermostat, which apparently in tailed them unwrapping a piece of the old belt that had allegedly ripped.
When I first owned the car. There were a couple of times I started the car while it was already on, because it was so quiet.That was one of my favorite features of the car.
About two or three months ago, I noticed my car was not as quiet as it had been in the past. Then when I turned on AC with car door open I heard a small rattle. We're talking' REAL QUIET RATTLE. ( I usually start it when door is closed, so realistically it could have been noisy longer than what I think.)
About a month or two when I first noticed the "un-quietness". My first thought was to check the belt. I noticed it was a smidge loose "maybe?"
No cracks or drying out old look. Matter of fact, unless I'm wrong. I think the belt missing an eight inch strip and being wrapped around a pulley. Would have been more of a dramatic wiggle, and I'm thinking I would've seen the missing piece when I examined the moving belt.(that is what I do. I notice things that aren't as they used to be. I'm real good at seeing future problems with tires. A "tire-psychic" if you will). ........When I worked at jiffy lube, the guys thought it was fun, to make me think part of my job was checking and filling tires. I knew it wasn't, but I didn't care. My short time there (1 1/2 yrs.) A minimum of 15 cars per day, five days a week, for 1 1/2 yrs. That is approx. 5,460 tires I've touched and looked at and filled. Damn near expert if you ask me.
So the rattle I was hearing was more like a sound a car will make when a bolt or two need tightening, and is a little loose.
I think maybe twice about six months apart I heard a faint quiet whistle/whine when ac was on. But no problems
Now when I turn it on, it makes a very loud sound that increases as I accelerate. I will do my best to describe it:
It's in between the sound of a Dodge Diesel engine when a little hot. and an old VW. Bug with no high pitch.
The other way I'd describe it is: If you had an enormous two wheel bike, put giant thick playing cards in the spokes and cruised down a hill.
The difference of Day and night. There wasn't even the start of such a noise. I guarantee I would have noticed it, because if you remember...........That is what I do! (pretend I put a smile face image here)

4).Yes, the faint rattle I heard was only when my ac was on.

To be honest with you, it doesn't sound like air compressors I've heard in the past when they are failing. ( it kind of sounds like something is in something else's way or bent or blah blah etc.
Also, a neighbor walking his dog took a listen. He said it sounded like it was coming from the "generator"? The metal housing right up front of engine. The first reachable pulley in the belt medley. (I can't find a picture, but it's the thing that looks like a large fan motor with the copper coiled wire it it.) To me it just sound like the time I left a hard plastic funnel in my old car and forgot about it. Until I started it and it fell into the fan. A piece got stuck in a spot that just kept slightly rubbing against it and freaked me out, until I remembered what I did and fished it out.
I'm so sorry these messages are so long, and again I really appreciate the time you are spending on this.
Talk to you soon
I'm sure I could say more, but the forum would probably appreciate it if I left room for others to ask a question.

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Kirsten, just what I wanted, lots of detail!
1. I believe that after the water pump and thermostat were installed, they did not completely fill the radiator, whether by oversight or purposely I don't know. If it was intentional, they knew you'd be back for help,aka $$$$. Bottom line is, THEY SHOULD HAVE THOROUGHLY WARMED THE CAR UP to check for leaks, and to add coolant to the proper level. So, because it overheated so quickly, they screwed up. The car MUST be brought to operating temp after the installation of a water pump, so the thermostat will open (it opens when the coolant reaches about 195 degrees. When the thermostat opens, the water (coolant, antifreeze) will be able to circulate thru the engine where the heat of the engine is transferred to the coolant, it then goes into the radiator where it is cooled, and back to the engine. Let's say it needed the flush to clean crud (rust and junk) out of the system, the radiator in particular. This rust will plug up the radiator and result in diminished cooling of the engine. If they warmed it up properly to test the system for leaks (and to make sure it doesn't OVERHEAT), they would have discovered there was a problem then BEFORE U PICKED UP THE CAR. So, was it intentional? Maybe. Again, hard to prove, but since it overheated within just a few minutes, they did not finish the job in my opinion(which as stated, was to bring the car to operating temp and check the system.
2. gas mileage (oil change needed), just so you know, dirty oil is bad for the engine, but you won't see any noticeable drop in gas mileage because of it. I know a lot of people that believe that, but sorry, not true.
3. The noises. This is a tough one, cause u really need to be there to hear it, and try to find where it's coming from. The person walking the dog said the generator was making the noise: cars of 25+ years ago had generators, now they are using alternators (coil of shiny copper wires inside(good description!) Here's a great way for pin pointing an engine noise. You will need a piece of wood about 3/4 to 1 inch thick, and about 2 feet long. A piece of a broom handle would work. VERY carefully check the following--with the car not running, look at the alternator. Note where the belt is located, imagine it spinning. You should do the following as practice. The car is still OFF, not running. Hold one end of the stick in your hand, thumb and index finger closed over the top of the stick, now place the opposite end of the stick against the alternator, away from the belt. Tip your head so the hand holding the stick is up against your ear. OK, do all this again, but w/ the car running. PLEASE be very careful, keep hair and clothes away from the belt, and be VERY careful positioning the stick, you can not come in contact with the belt, pulleys, or anything moving. If your brave enough and careful you'll be amazed at how this intensifies the sound. What you'll hear is the bearings whirring (spinning). I don't have your engine in front of me to look at the location of all the components, but what u want to do is repeat this procedure at each pulley (as near it as u can safely get). The a/c compressor is one of these components. I don't know how much room u have between moving belt and parts. Obviously the lower pulleys are probably the most difficult (dangerous)to reach. U can tell what's making the noise if it's anything the belt powers (spins). Bad bearings sound way different than good ones (good ones make a 'whirring" sound). U seem to already think it's the alternator. As u check moving to other pulleys, the 'bad' sound will lessen, another way to determine what's making the noise. So, if u do it, try 1st w car off to get an idea where to place the stick safely. Careful not to tip the stick when u try to listen, it may hit moving stuff. And kids, don't try this at home. Curt

Posted on Aug 24, 2008


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