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Hello everyone,

(Forgive me in advance for the long post. Given all the symptoms I'm not really sure what all could be related)

This is my first time posting here and would welcome any feedback. My car is a 2002 Malibu base trim. The primary issue is that it is difficult to start, the idle feels too fast when it is running, and it feels like it is going to stall when it idles too long. When I start it in the morning it starts on the first try, though it hast a bit of a jolt to it. If I start it again later in the day after it has been sitting for some time (especially over 2 hours) it is difficult to start, cranking for a while before turning over, sometimes taking multiple tries, sometimes dying right after turning over. These rough starts are accompanied by a light fuel smell. If I start it within an hour of driving it usually starts on the first try with just minor trouble. There have been multiple tests and repairs done by a couple of mechanics, but none have fixed the problem:
1. Cleaned and inspected the fuel system. Mechanic said it was dirty but didn't find any problems. I'm not sure how thoroughly they inspected.
2. Brought car back. Diagnostics found pending code P0300 (Random Misfire Detected) and the scan tool found that cylinders 5 and 6 had a history of misfires and were currently misfiring. Replaced the spark plugs and wires because they were worn. At the same time also had an oil change done and an inspection of belts, hoses, battery, alternator, starting system, and charging system - no problems found.
3. Problem continued to worsen so I tried a different mechanic who found a problem with the #5 injector and replaced it along with the plenum gasket. Also had to replace the #5 spark plug wires because they broke.

The problem continued after that, but a after a few weeks I stopped driving it because of ABS issues. About a month later when I did drive again the problem wasn't quite as pronounced, but definitely still present. I've been wary of continuing to throw money at the problem blindly, especially since the car has been displaying other issues (below), and was hoping someone would have suggestions for what could be checked rather than replacing the car piece by piece until either the problem goes away or I go broke.

In case it's relevant, some timeline around the problems:
January this year (before this currently problem started) I was having problems getting the key to go fully into the Off position until I adjusted the shifter to make it "click" into Park. Note: ignition cylinder lock had previously been replaced 08/2016.
February this year I had a new car radio installed along with backup camera.
Late March I started really noticing the problem with starting the car.
Mid-April I replaced the window motor for the driver window because it completely stopped working. My mechanic at the time replaced it, but wired it backwards. The up button moved the window down, and the window moved very slowly. Found a new mechanic when he suggested it was fine that way and didn't want to fix it. :\
Later in April had to replace the battery when it died. Got the window fixed also, but it remained slow (half as fast as the other windows). Mechanic couldn't duplicate the starting problem.
Late April Mechanic still couldn't duplicate the problem, but they cleaned and inspected the fuel system. When that didn't fix it I made do for a few months because I had already run up the card on the other things.
Early August the ABS light started to stay on more and more frequently, so in mid August when I went back to the mechanic again about the starting problem I had them check it too, but, even though they found a record of an error in relation to the rear driver side sensor, when they tested the sensor they found no problems. They weren't able to fix it and the ABS light stayed on more and more and eventually the brakes stuttered on a few occasions when braking gently, as if I were driving on slippery gravel.
Mid September through late October I stopped driving the car for a while because I couldn't find anyone who could fix it.
Late October I started driving it again minimally out of necessity and the ABS problem was significantly decreased and the starting problem very slightly decreased.
A week ago the alternator failed. Got it tested at O'Reilly's and they confirmed. I have an appointment Friday with a mechanic to get it replaced.

Up until a year ago my car ran beautifully with just the occasional non-maintenance work. This year it is like it has decided to have a nervous breakdown. I really hope this is something that can be fixed without breaking the bank (then burning it down and salting the earth). I've had this car for going on 17 years now and was hoping to have her for some time longer.

Thanks for any help,
Sharon
 

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You're forgiven. :)

We appreciate the important info that you included without having to be asked, and for what appears to be a rather complete description of the car and its woes as they apply.

While reading it, I thought about the battery, but in #2 it was checked. However, so was the alternator, but now it has failed. Have the battery tested thoroughly as well as the condition of the terminals (cleanliness, corrosion, etc.), the ground connections, and the wiring from the alternator to the battery.

Regarding the ABS issue, the left rear sensor is not the only thing that can cause an ABS issue. The wiring from the sensor to the ABS computer can be checked by a wiggle test while plugged into the sensor. If it's getting a tenuous connection, that test may show it up.

I hope others come along and give you more input and guidance.
 

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Beautiful write up how easy language for R. O. W to understand better thousands of times than street language almost first tow alphabets from the basic word and the rest ya ya aa ha… no grammar lazy to write complete sentences talking like ancient human being something like 10000 bc. even songs I can’t listening without lyrics
Thank you for your educated English accent I have to admit that your post is very short I enjoyed reading

Back to the thread, you are in progress to solve the problem as you eliminated many suspected parts/components like spark plugs, ignition wires, battery and alternator.
When you switch off the car you had before the key difficult to remove from the barrel due to the gear change liver not resting firmly in the park position this you can notice on the instrument cluster with the chair symbol warning light stays on, that problem you solved by replacing the electrical part of the ignition switch. I can’t see what is exactly there if the gear lever still sending wrong signal to the car computer keeping it wake up draining the battery.
It could be short circuit/earth fault keeps drainage the battery causing car running rough as the alternator exhausted supplying the electrical circuits fueling and ignition besides charging the drained battery.
Do you find this rough condition definitely exists during cold start and after driving for miles the car running better , if like that then you have battery drainage during car sitting for few hours, when it is running again the alternator give the battery and car circuits some power trying to substitutes that lost.
The only problem I see is in the people who are working in your car all what they want to do is the basics when it comes to any tricky problem they will not do. Nobody will give the car enough time to troubleshoot the problem honestly or may be that what they can do.
If you approach electrical workshop telling them I keep replacing batteries and alternator without solving the problem may be they focus only on searching for short circuit and battery drainage. don’t telling about the running condition roughly or hard starting as they will repeats the basic steps.
You are the only one who knows about your car keeps records and maintenance history , that is very good to manage the repair and direct the labor.
 

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Sounds like u have covered the problems thoroughly (and expensively) but even so issues remain. Rough starting after sitting and faint fuel smell....the nose always knows. Something must be going on with the fuel delivery. Fuel becoming unpressurized and draining out after awhile....small leak somewhere? But u have taken the auto to several mechanics . They should have checked the fuel delivery. U r going to have to address one issue at a time ie slow window movement....at least it works. Address that issue after u rectify the big stuff. ABS brakes... sounds to me the sensor needs to b replaced. Unfortunately, the whole spindle needs to b replaced because the sensor is part of the spindle. Good news is the spindle is approximately $50 bucks but you'll have to have a mechanic install it. Battery draining down.....a halfway decent mechanic should be able to track that problem down. Disconnect the battery negative terminal if u notice sparks (which u should) remove one fuse at a time until u find the circuit using power. I suspect there is something going on with the ignition switch but I don't know. U have an old car that was birthed in the computer era. Electronics get corroded seals loose their seal ability fuel plumbing starts seeping window electric motors...what happened to the old crank.... etc etc. The trick to saving a bundle of money is posting like u r doing (there is some amazing talent here) and getting a manual of some sorts.....go to local library. Ur car is a solid reliable car...but it needs patients and TLC.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Good news, when I took my car in to replace the alternator I gave the mechanic the full history, along with the suggestions I received, and they were able to determine that there was inconsistency in the fuel pressure. They replaced the fuel pressure regulator and my car has been starting and driving great. :). Thanks everyone.
 

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congratulation happy to hear that news and thank you very much for the feedback and special thanks for the details you gave to make this thread great reference for others and documentary.
 
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