Print this page Notes: Widespread instrument panel failure is a common and frustrating reality for many 2004-2005 Chevy Cavalier owners. They're often left in the dark when it comes to knowing how fast they're going, what their engine temperature is, or even how much fuel they have left in the tank.

The likely culprit is a series of bad "stepper motors" which control the gauges and are no longer covered under warranty. Think not being able to see your speed is a safety issue and should be recalled for all owners? We'd agree. Trouble is, apparently the NHTSA does not.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
40,575 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.

2004 Chevrolet Cavalier engine problems

engine problem

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2004 Chevrolet Cavalier Owner Comments

problem #8

Dec 012011


  • 92,400 miles


After consulting licensed mechanics, and one such nationally certified airplane-engine tech-mechanic, being ranked in the top three (3) of the nation's aviation mechanics industry from 1981-1983 period (and still has qualifications authority), [and before making a fool of myself], the consensus/verdict [by these professionals] was agreed that it borders on criminality (and I quote), that automakers are using plastic coverings and seals, as the engine's oil filter housing caps. Known (industry-wide) to exert pressures in 'pounds per-square-inch' ( lbs/psi) and extreme temperatures that these plastic materials--such as the oil filter-housing caps, cannot withstand. They also strip. It was explained to me by the certified airplane mechanic that, to understand the effects of pressurization theory behind that technology, and the knowledge that fifty-50 to sixty-60 pounds (lbs/psi) of pressure per-square-inch is being given to the plastic caps from the engine's internal combustion will cause any plastic cap, housed under such pressures to fail. He said he was surprised it did not cause engine failure two(2) years after being newly purchased. He said the science that industry insiders do not want us to know is that the proper semi-precious metals, as aluminum, copper and the like are perfect conductors of electricity and heat, allowing the metal to expand/contract according to temperatures and/or torque pressurization of the 50-60 lbs/psi being release to housing. Even tampered steel would work as it would conform. But plastic once overheated will remain in warped state causing oil leakage in that area. This depressurization of engine physics and chemistry, a couple-to-few years later results in engine's crank case housing depressurizing to the point of cracking after pistons themselves giveway rendering engine being irreparable. My car should have flipped @ 70mph.

- Alexandria Bay, NY, USA

problem #7

Aug 012005


  • 8,000 miles
Car will accelerate on it's own usually occurs while slowing down or while making a turn pressing the brake hard slows the car but it continues to apply power what stops the engine from continuing to accelerate is to push the clutch in, at the moment the engine will accelerate to 6500 RPM then return to normal like it is completing some cycle. It is very dangerous in the winter. We have expected a recall but nothing. I can guarantee a lawsuit if my wife and kids are injured. This is a true case of sudden acceleration that the feds can investigate.

- Lawrenceville, PA, USA

problem #6

Dec 262010

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • 110,000 miles
When driving my car at times, it will accelerate on it's own, causing it to run rpms into the red, need to shut car off so it does not excel on it's own. This has only happened a few times.. very dangerous, the 1st time was in Dec, 2010 in an ice storm, so I thought it was just a fluke and it was frozen now it is in the 80S and it did it yesterday Sept 6th 2011 what is causing this"?? is it a defect??? anyone else have this??"

- Virginia Beach , VA, USA

problem #5

May 102010

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • 74,000 miles


My 2004 Chevy Cavalier has suffered a number of defects since its purchase. While they did not result in any collisions or injuries, they easily could have. At 10,211 miles (8/31/2004) the water pump failed; luckily, this was covered under warranty, and the pump, along with several seals and gaskets were replaced. At 29,522 miles (5/23/2005), white smoke began billowing out of the exhaust. Multi Chevrolet in union, NJ discovered that a cylinder head was defective, the head gaskets were cracked, and the timing chain needed to be replaced. These repairs were again covered by the warranty at 48,241 miles (6/9/2006), the instrument cluster and a suspension beam failed. Luckily, we had purchased an extended warranty, and the repairs were again covered. Finally, at 74,000 miles (5/10/10), the vehicle suffered catastrophic engine failure. Luckily, my son [xxx] was driving on a local road, and was able to pull over safely. After having the vehicle towed, [xxx], service manager of bill defouw Chevrolet in lafayette, Indiana, informed us that every lifter was broken and every valve was bent, and the pistons were irreparably damaged as well. Because the vehicle is outside of warranty, GM has refused to replace the engine, and we cannot afford to do so out of pocket. We are reporting this in case other buyers of this model/year or later have experienced issues, and are currently driving unsafe vehicles. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- West Lafayette, IN, USA

problem #4

Oct 262005

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,300 miles
While driving the contact's vehicle was involved in an accident due to a possible medical condition. The vehicle caught on fire immediately upon impact. The vehicle was deemed a total loss from the insurance company. A representative from the manufacturer inspected the vehicle and was unable to determine the cause of the fire due to the extensive damage. The solid fuel lines were intact as well as the gasoline tank. Updated 02/26/06.

- Woodstock, IL, USA

problem #3

Jul 192004


  • 9,700 miles
While driving vehicle stalled. Dealership was notified, but did not resolve the problem.

- Fulton, MO, USA

problem #2

Jan 302004

Cavalier 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 100 miles
With less than 100 miles on the car it began to rev up on its own. It has been to the dealer on 9 different occasions. They even installed an on board computer and were able to see the problem that occurs. The mechanic says he believes it is a glitch in the computer and is unable to fix it. It has now begun to accelerate on its own while driving, and the only thing you can do is push in the clutch and hope the engine blows up. This is now a real safety issue. GM refuses to do anything to correct this problem. We filed a lemon law case with them and they said they are unable to do anything.

- Polk City, FL, USA

problem #1

Dec 102003


  • 100 miles
A strong fuel odor entered the inside of the vehicle when the vents were used. This odor caused nausea and headaches to any one riding in the vehicle. At any temperature, the vehicle took a very long time to crank up. Also, while driving at 50 mph, the vehicle suddenly decelerated and bogged down. The vehicle would eventually pick up speed and act as if nothing ever happened. These problems occurred eight times. There was rattle in the drivers side door panel due to the regulator, there was also an intermittent noise on the passenger side rear, the vehicle would not start due to the power train control module, the engine was hard to start at times and was unable to be duplicated, the engine would lose power, the driver door made a rubbing noise, the floor area was buckling, and the A/C displayed a burning smell.

- Sumter, SC, USA

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