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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
3 / 4
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
66,244 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Chevrolet Cavalier electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Chevrolet Cavalier Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #55

May 012010


  • miles


"check engine" light keeps coming back on for the same issue, supposedly the "air intake temp sensor, replaced that one and several sensors repeatedly, had the complete wiring harness connections checked and cleaned, even replaced my ECM and BCM [neither of which was cheap], and still has "check engine" light, even after being "cleared" over and over again -- this car was well maintained and the body and sub-frame are severely rotting out left and right -- had a weird leak on the pass. Side front, under the dash. It comes and goes. The car smells like an old sneaker inside. Water would pour out of the passenger side heater duct, but there was no rhyme or reason to it. One I even had soap foam from a drive thru car wash literally come blowing in to the cabin, thru the very same heater duct. Thankfully it has seemingly cleared up, but it is still a head scratcher. I've taken my car to several dealerships, privately owned shops, and even had some "car savvy" friends look her over, as well as my dad [ands ase certified tech], and the check engine light still comes back every time. If I would have known I'd put this much money into a car that literally ready to break apart, I would have saved my money to put towards another car. Live and learn, I guess. She was doing so well for 10 or 11 years and it's like she just started "giving up" on me. She's got 165K on her and the pain has gone to crap, but that's GM for you, kept her garaged, waxed regularly, had her looking showroom new, until recently, the paint's clear coat started to "stipple" [sharp bumps] and bubble all over top panels, starting with the roof, then hood, and now trunk. It's embarrassing to drive her, and I am not paying to repaint her, I already have way too much into a car that likely will not pass inspection coming up in August. I'm now handicap'd and disabled, fixed income, can't afford a new car.

- Bath, PA, USA

problem #54

Mar 162016


  • 130,000 miles
Instrumet cluster problems for a few years. Fuel sending unit has been replaced at about 52,000 miles after quiting twice while driving highway speed of 55 mph. Dealer claimed the car quit because of a bad battery the first time and did not diagnose the problem correctly. It was not the battery. The fuel sending unit intermittently reads well beyond full and interfears with the temperature gage function. Now speedometer is stuck at 85 mph while turned off. I was driving with the cruise doing 67 mph, I slowed down to make a turn at an at grade insection to a road posted at 55 mph. I completed the turn and sped up. The speedometer read 58 mph but it felt llike I was gong about 30 mph. I stopped at another intersection and the speed dropped to 40 mph. I made the turn and acelerated and the speed went to 110 mph but I was not going near that fast. The car is in driveway turned off but the speedometer reads 85 mph. Most recent issue is steering rack and K-frame rusted out and needed to be replaced. Mechanic stated he never saw a steering rack rust out or a K frame rusted as bad as the one on this vehicle. We are the original owners.

- Pound, WI, USA

problem #53

Feb 182016


  • miles
Instrument cluster needs to be replaced. The cluster blinks in and out

- Fort Calhoun, NE, USA

problem #52

Sep 302015


  • miles


July 2009 ignition lock cylinder was stuck. I had it replaced for $362.75 at Chevrolet dealership. August 2014 ignition lock cylinder was stuck. I had it replaced for $488.83 at Chevrolet dealership. September 2015 ignition lock cylinder was stuck, my key came out of lock and the car was still running. I had to come off of the clutch to purposely make the car cut off and had to unplug the battery. The 2003 Chevrolet is not included in the recall but it needs to be. My ignition lock cylinder has failed me 3 times in the past 6 years. Thankfully, I'm alive and able to tell you all about this. Chevrolet & GM knew about the lock cylinder recall when I had mine replaced last year.

- Fayetteville, NC, USA

problem #51

Aug 312004


  • 8,161 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier. The contact stated that the vehicle could not be shifted out of park. When the contact inserted the key into the ignition switch, it became difficult to turn and the overhead light did not turn off. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 8,161.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #50

Jan 032012


  • 189,587 miles
Power suddenly shut off, causing power steering to fail, which made me wreck into a ditch. It also caused the airbags to not deploy and prevented seatbelts from locking into place when the brakes were hit.

- Wewahitchka, FL, USA

problem #49

Jun 022014

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • 115,000 miles


I had been reading about recent recalls with GM, especially ignition switches. I have a 2003 Chevy Cavalier and it was diagnosed with a bad ignition switch. I first noticed when I went to start the car in the morning, a day after coming home from work. Good thing it happened then because I would have been stranded off site. I went to start the car, nothing happened except wipers and radio did not work as well which I thought was strange. Finally the radio at least came on at some point, but car still would not start. After it was fixed they said the ignition switch was bad and the mechanic asked if I had looked for the recall on it. I searched online but did not find it. I know my car is older, however of all the cars I ever owned and I had many, I never had any issues with ignition switches! I think I had one of the defective switches and would like to look into this matter. Unfortunately I probably can't go back to get the physical ignition switch at this point, too late. I have the proper paperwork for it however. Also on another note, my rear driver side signal keeps going out, no matter how many times I replace it. That might be something GM should look into as well.

- Hilliard, OH, USA

problem #48

Aug 132014


  • 120,000 miles
Instrument cluster gauges malfunction periodically and lock into one position or don't work at all. Cant tell what your speed is, temp is, RPM etc! this I think is a safety issue and should be addressed. I see this is happening to many people as I have investigated it on line. This is pretty much what's happening...

- Spencer, IA, USA

problem #47

May 062005

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • 35,000 miles
2006 Chevrolet cobalt & 2003 Cavalier. Consumer writes in regards to both vehicles power steering and cutting off problems. The consumer stated the Cavalier, cut off, just like the cobalt. However, the cobalt was recalled. The Cavalier cut off weekly since it was purchased. The power steering was replaced during a recall. It was replaced at 35,000 miles and again at 68,000. Updated 08/07/14 updated 09/24/14.

- Rustburg, VA, USA

problem #46

Jun 172009


  • 50,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier. The contact stated that the key seized in the ignition and they were unable to shut the engine down. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 50,000 and the current mileage was 130,000. Updated 08/19/14

- Holt, MO, USA

problem #45

Jan 012007

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • 55,000 miles


Cluster defect: Purchased a 2003 Chevy Cavalier brand new off the lot in December of 2002. Just after 5 years and approximately 55,000 miles, we are driving down the highway during snowfall while the speedometer stated we were traveling at 65 miles per hour, we did not know that the speedometer was not reading correctly until we got to a corner and the speedometer showed we were driving at about 20 mph when we were flying at atleast 50 mph which indicated the speedometer was about 30 mph off. Then the tachometer would stop working, get stuck, or not operate correctly. I then began to have problems with all of the gauges, the gas gauge needle would go backwards on top of the temperature gauge causing the temperature gauge to stop working then all gauges would malfunction, then they would stop working completely. I took it into the Chevy dealership, they came back to me and said it's working fine, there's nothing wrong with it. And again and again and again the gauges continue to go haywire Chevy stated when I took the vehicle in that they have never heard of such a complaint and I told them to look it up on the internet, there are hundreds/thousands of complaints regarding this problem. Currently none of my gauges are working and am having to use a gps to navigate speed and fill my vehicle up every 4 days because I have no idea when the car is on empty. It is high time something be done about this. Chevy recalled a bunch of other models, but not the cars. Something has to be done about this and quickly before someone is killed. Or does it take a death or many more to get someone's attention that this problem needs to be addressed. Please investigate this defect further. There are too many of us out there that are dealing with this problem and are just keeping quiet about it. This problem definitely warrants a recall and fast. [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Eagle River, AK, USA

problem #44

Feb 042013

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • 170,000 miles
Erratic instrument panel..sometimes after turning ignition key on all panel lights stay on (beyond normal)and all gauges go off..sometimes ok when starting but some lights come on (air bag, service eng, ABS gas gauge, etc) after driving..sometimes all instr gauges go out completely while driving including speedometer...they sometimes come back on and sometimes not...I entered my make and year on google to see if other owners have similar problem and found out many do..interesting to note that while researching on google I found out chev trucks in year 2003 had a recall due to faulty instrument panel controls but the autos were not recalled.. I feel this is a definite safety hazard since I sometimes have to drive with no speedometer, gas gauge and an airbag light that stays on. I do not feel safe driving this vehicle for any length of time and have to resort to only short trips (grocery store, dr appts, etc) I would like to know why GM has not recalled this 2003 Chevy Cavalier..esp when they have recalled the same yr and make trucks for faulty instr panels.. I feel this faulty instr panel is placing me in a very dangerous position each time I get behind the wheel and needless to say do not feel safe driving this auto at all...

- Berlin, CT, USA

problem #43

Mar 052014


  • 115,000 miles
The entire instrument cluster panel completely went hay wire and the speed would increase and decrease. Everything was flashing to the point it was actually scary. I pulled over to the side of the road and it stilled continued. I finally decided to continue home and after about 6 miles it finally just stopped. I researched this problem on the internet and have found that so many more have experienced the same thing happening but some have had their car actually start on fire. Please advise if there is any recall in the near future before someone has to lose their life over this. Thank you so much for any consideration.

- Belen, NM, USA

problem #42

Oct 102012


  • 710,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier. The contact stated that while driving 50 mph, all of the illuminated gauges and interior lights switched off independently. The contact mentioned that the vehicle failed to stop. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was not available. The failure and current mileage was 710,000.

- Prescott Valley , AZ, USA

problem #41

Jan 202012

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
When driving on a long trip, I noticed that the speedometer kept increasing after each time I stopped the car. When I stopped, the speed read 25. I went 45 mph, it went to 70 mph. Etc. It now rests in vertical position facing down. The gas gauge has also begun to go haywire. I also noticed that the car would longer can go into cruise control (without working for a few minutes then shutting off), I am thinking because of the speedometer or cluster. Either way, it now no longer works at all. Seeing everyone's complaints on here and with "government motors" not doing anything about it, I will not put my trust in their brand on any future vehicles. This also happened on my 2005 Cavalier. Good thing for a gps...

- Imperial, PA, USA

problem #40

Jun 012011


  • 51,900 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier. The contact stated that when driving at various speeds, all of the gauges on the instrument panel cluster failed. The vehicle was taken to a dealer and they advised him that the cluster needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was contacted and they offered to pay half of the repair cost. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 51,900.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #39

Jan 032012

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • 155,000 miles
Speedometer stopped working and is stuck on 52 mph. Fuel gauge is stuck on full, temperature gauge is pointing to nowhere, and the tacometer is pointing at zero. It seems to be a common problem with this vehicle.

- Columbia, SC, USA

problem #38

Jun 302010


  • 89,000 miles
The instrument panel stopped working. I ordered 2 used ones they did not work. I had the dealership rebuild it and it still does not work. I have searched online and several people have the same problem. GM has recalled this item on several models but not on the Cavalier as of yet. I have spent hundreds and still have not fixed the problem. No speedometer, gas gauge.

- South Point, OH, USA

problem #37

Feb 262011


  • 63,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier. The contact stated that while driving mph and above, the speedometer and temperature gauges would not illuminate. In addition, the fuel gauge was providing inaccurate fuel level readings. The vehicle was neither inspected nor repaired. The manufacturer was contacted and they offered no assistance. The failure mileage was approximately 63,000.

- Ardsley, NY, USA

problem #36

Jun 132009


  • miles
All gauges work erratically or not at all. Lots of other people having similar problem. Read there stories here:

- Raleigh, NC, USA

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