I have searched first forum and found quite a few issues describing similar malfunctions, but this seems somewhat unique. All the other similar posts I've found related to electrical power dropping and the car shutting off while driving. Mine is not quite like that.
I apologize for the length of this post in advance, but I'm copying and pasting an email I sent to a GM representative that I wrote earlier today.
2010 Cobalt is having intermittent issues starting. No rhyme or reason for what's causing it, or fixing it. Dealer has already diagnosed it once (found nothing), and now want me to pay for a new diagnosis each time this happens. The full details of exactly what it's doing are included below.
As mentioned, car is a 2010 Cobalt LT with 52,500 miles on it. It's out of dealer warranty (although according to my math, the first time this happened it was under 50,000), but I bought an extended 100,000 mile warranty through a third party company when I bought the car. I'm more than willing to pay the $100 deductible on the extended warranty if they can identify the issue, but as of yet they haven't.
The specific issue I am having with my 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt is the vehicle not starting and having a total loss of electrical power to nearly all systems. I first experienced this issue on November 26th, 2012. I was leaving work for the day and my car had been sitting outside for about 9 hours. The day was not particularly cold, the maximum temperature was about +20*F. I was walking out to my vehicle and attempted to use my factory installed remote starter. I pressed my lock button and saw the vehicle lights flash, which is normal behavior. I then pressed and held my remote starter button on my factory keyfob and the vehicle did not respond. Initially I thought I may have been too far away, so I continued walking towards my vehicle and tried again. This time, no lights flashed when pressing the lock button and the vehicle was unresponsive to all input from the keyfob. I arrived at the vehicle and opened the door with the key manually. This would normally cause the alarm to sound if the vehicle was locked, which it did not. I opened the door and noticed that the Driver Information Center (DIC) did not light up with my mileage when the door was ajar, and the dome light did not illuminate. I placed the key in the ignition and attempted to start the car, nothing happened. I did not see any lights on my dash panel such as check engine, low battery, or otherwise. There was no power whatsoever to any systems in the vehicle. The key became stuck in the ignition and would not move to the OFF position to be removed. I called my preferred dealership, and explained my issues. They offered suggestions, but nothing was able to get the car working. While speaking to my father on the phone he had reached the same conclusion as myself which was that the battery had depleted due to the cold weather. At this point, my father asked if my headlights worked, which I had not checked. When I flicked the headlight switch from AUTO to the ON position, all power to my dash was restored and my power locks unlocked all doors, the vehicle started without issues. I drove it to the dealership and explained the issues. They looked at it for a few minutes and repeatedly started and stopped the engine, but could not reproduce the issue. They offered to do a diagnosis on it but said it would cost $130, and they may not find anything. Unsatisfied with this option, I left. No paperwork was generated at this visit. In this instance, my vehicle was non-functioning about 35 miles from my home, and my preferred dealer. I was quite literally stuck on a very cold night very far from home.
I continued to use my vehicle as normal from then on, with no issues. I use the remote starter nearly every day due to the inclement weather in Minnesota this time of year.
On Tuesday, January 14th, 2013 the issue arose again. I remotely started my vehicle at my home, and drove it about 3 miles to a store to get some items on my way to work. The vehicle had been sitting since Sunday evening and was not driven all day Monday. It sat without being started for approximately 36 hours. It started remotely with my factory keyfob at my home and I drove to the store. I went inside to get my items and returned to my vehicle approximately 5 minutes later. I again pressed my lock button and saw my lights flash. I pressed the remote start button and the vehicle did not start. When I arrived at the vehicle, I had the same symptoms described above. I had to manually open the door with the key, and the alarm did not go off. Once inside the vehicle, I had no power to any of my systems, and the key became stuck in the ignition. I called my preferred dealer and they provided me with the number for GM Roadside Assistance. I initiated a request with GM Roadside and a tow truck was dispatched to bring my vehicle to the dealership, which was about 5 miles away. I was given an approximate arrival time of 90 minutes for the tow truck. He arrived over 90 minutes late (three hour total wait) and told me he was unable to tow my vehicle due to there being too many other cars surrounding it. He insisted that we connect jumper cables as he thought the battery was dead, which I did not feel it was due to the headlights working. The headlights did work, but did not cause the car to turn on again, as they had on November 26th. Jumper cables were connected to my vehicle in terminals under the hood (not directly to the battery in the trunk) for approximately 1 minute and the car started. I was repeatedly turning the key and turning the headlights on and off, so I am unsure if the headlights were again the reason the car started working. When the electrical system was restored, all lights appeared on the dash and all doors unlocked. The jumper cables were removed immediately and I tried starting the car again with the key several times, which was successful each time. Due to the very short amount of time that the vehicle was connected to jumper cables, I do not believe the battery was low in this instance. I drove the vehicle to my preferred dealer and they performed a test on the battery, which came back saying the battery was OK. The service technician started and stopped the engine multiple times, as he had before and again told me it would cost $130 to diagnose the issue. This time, I left the vehicle at the dealership and paperwork was generated for the diagnosis. I received a phone call about two hours later from the service technician telling me they could not reproduce the issue and were stopping work on the vehicle. He did offer to charge only half price for the diagnosis, which I appreciated, but was still very upset that I paid $65 for them to tell me they could not identify or fix the issue. I picked up my vehicle later that evening and ensured that the remote starter worked before leaving, which it did. The weather conditions on this day were colder, with air temperatures at approximately +8*F
I continued to use my vehicle as normal, with no issues. As stated, I use the remote starter daily, and paid extra for it on my vehicle.
On Monday, January 21st, 2013 the issue arose a third time. I was leaving work after my vehicle has sat outside in the elements for approximately 9 hours. The air temperature on this day was very cold, at -15*F. Exact same situation as the previous two instances; I was walking to my vehicle and pressed the lock and remote start buttons. Lights flashed when I locked the vehicle, but was unresponsive to the start button. The vehicle was completely dead, again. This time, I called my father who arrived with jumper cables due to the very cold weather. Jumper cables were applied to the front posts under the hood, but no change was observed in the state of the vehicle. I repeatedly tried the headlights and turning the key for approximately 20 minutes with no success. Jumper cables were moved to the trunk and connected directly to the battery, with no success. While sitting in my vehicle, I struck the dash out of pure frustration with this now seemingly chronic issue, and several lights on the dash lit up very briefly. I distinctly saw the blue illumination of the high beam indicator, and the amber illumination of the check engine indicator. I struck the dash again, in the center above the air vents and the vehicle alarm sounded, replete with hazard lights, indicated on the dash. I inserted the key and started the vehicle, which started just fine. I shut it off and started it again, and it was OK. I drove my vehicle to the dealership (approximately 30 miles) and again explained the issues. They started and stopped the vehicle several times as they have before and for a third time told me that I had to pay $130 for them to diagnose the issue, with no guarantee they would find the cause. I left without any paperwork being generated.
I continued to use my vehicle as normal, with no issues.
On Saturday, January 26th, 2013 I experienced this issue a fourth time. I remotely started my vehicle and drove it about 25 miles to the Mall of America. I parked the vehicle in an open air outdoor parking ramp for about 6 hours. I returned to the vehicle once to place items in the trunk and used the factory keyfob to remotely open the trunk, and relock the vehicle, but it was never started. When I arrived back at my vehicle after about 6 hours and I again pressed lock, which caused the lights to flash, and pressed the remote start button. This time, I saw the lights come on, and heard the starter begin to turn over the engine, but it never started. The power was apparently cut before the motor started, and the car was again completely dead. The weather on this day was approximately +13*F, and I was again stuck with no way to get home. In this instance I was also with my girlfriend so we were both stranded 25 miles from home. I called a friend to bring my spare key and keyfob for my vehicle, as well as tools for removing the battery. When he arrived, the second key and keyfob did not work at all on the vehicle to unlock or start it. I tried many times to replicate the methods that caused the vehicle to start in the past, which included turning on the headlights and striking the dash, with no success. I then connected jumper cables directly to the battery in the trunk of the vehicle. After several minutes, again some combination of turning the key, turning on the headlights and striking the dash caused the doors to unlock and full power to be restored to the vehicle. I disconnected jumper cables and shut the key off, and restarted the vehicle several times with the key, which were successful. I drove the vehicle home and parked it for the night, at this point feeling helpless and extremely vulnerable driving a car that could leave me stranded at any time.
On Sunday, January 27th, I removed the battery from the trunk of the car after it sat for about 20 hours overnight. I never unlocked the car or used the keyfob, and the factory alarm did sound when I opened the trunk with the key. I silenced the alarm and disconnected the battery, so that it could be tested without being driven. I took the battery to a local auto parts store that performed a battery check, and stated that it was OK and healthy, the same results that I was told on January 14th at my preferred dealership. I went home and used a battery post cleaner on my battery before reinstalling it. After it was installed, I started the car with the key with no issues. I shut the car off and simulated the steps I would take when I was leaving my vehicle. I opened and closed the door (to turn off the radio), and pressed lock once on my factory keyfob. This caused the amber alarm indicator to come on and stay on (waiting for the vehicle to be armed). I waited until it started blinking (vehicle alarm was armed) and pressed the lock button again to initiate a remote start. I then pressed and held the remote start button while still inside the vehicle. I saw the check engine light come on and heard the fuel system charge. I then heard the starter motor engage very briefly before all power was lost. It sounded as if the starter motor shut off as soon as it made contact and met resistance with another gear. I placed the key in the ignition and turned the key to the RUN position, which did nothing. I flicked the headlights on manually, and all power was restored. At this point, I was convinced there was a problem with the anti-theft system, or the remote starter system, so I stopped using the remote starter completely and only started the vehicle with the key. The only use of the keyfob was to lock and unlock the vehicle, or open the trunk.
On Monday, January 28th, I drove the vehicle to work and parked it all day while I was there. I then started the vehicle with the key with no issues and drove it to the dealership (~30 miles away). I explained all of the events listed in this email a fourth time, and was again told that a diagnosis fee of $130 would be required, with no guarantee of the issue being found or resolved. While I was explaining the issues, the dealer service representative repeatedly started the vehicle with the remote starter and the key in the ignition with no issues. I also spoke to one of the mechanics at the dealership and answered some of his questions regarding the issues. He stated that it sounded like an issue with the Body Control Module (BCM). I asked if this was a part that could be removed and tested, and he stated that it was not, itís a part that either works or doesnít work. I found this strange as the vehicle clearly works sometimes and not other times. They again said I could leave the vehicle there for them to look at, but it would cost $130. I left with no paperwork being generated.
I continued to use my vehicle this week and had no issues while starting the vehicle with the key only.
Yesterday, January 30th, 2013 I was at work and my vehicle sat outside for approximately 5 hours. The temperatures were approximately +2*F. I then moved the vehicle into an indoor heated garage which has an air temperature of approximately +50*F. At 11:00pm when I was done with work I went to the garage and started the car without issue. I stopped at a store to get some items and the vehicle was parked outside in +2*F temperatures for approximately 10 minutes. When I returned to my vehicle, I unlocked the doors with the keyfob and inserted the key to the ignition. I turned the key and saw the back lighting on the factory radio illuminate. However, there was no power to the dash or any other systems. After several seconds, the backlight on the radio shut off and the only system that worked as the headlights. At this point, I was again extremely frustrated, very cold, and very worried about being stranded 35 miles from home on a very cold night when all dealerships are closed and I had no one available to pick me up or jump start my vehicle. I again struck the dash out of frustration and saw the blue high beam indicator and amber check engine light illuminate very briefly. I struck the dash several times with the same result. On the fifth or sixth strike, the power was restored and the vehicle started. The same symptoms as before were present, with the doors unlocking and all power being restored. Additionally, in this instance when the vehicle did start, the Driver Information Center (DIC) briefly showed -40*F for the air temperature for several seconds before returning to the actual temperature of +2*F. I drove the vehicle about three blocks to a gas station to fill up my fuel tank. When I was done fueling, I put the key in the ignition and turned it on. As I was turning it, I heard all the doors unlock, very similarly to the way they do when the vehicle restores power after being dead. I drove the vehicle home and parked it for the night.
After I arrived home I began searching on the internet for these symptoms and found no relevant information. I then initiated contact with your team via the Chevrolet.com website in hopes of resolving this issue. I understand that this is a complicated and likely rare situation with an otherwise great vehicle. This is the second Chevy Cobalt that I have owned and I have always been 110% satisfied with the vehicle, its performance, and the service I have received from the network of Chevrolet dealerships I have had it serviced at. While I understand that you cannot be held responsible for losses and missed work as a result of my vehicle malfunctions, I hope you can at least understand my frustration and fear of being stuck in extremely harsh and very cold winter weather here in Minnesota. I take pride in my vehicle and am not asking for anything other than a resolution of this issue and the peace of mind and safety I have come to expect from my Chevy vehicles.
I have begun using my cell phone to record video of each time I start the vehicle, but as of yet have not been able to capture a failure on video. I understand this may not help solve the issue, but I feel as if the dealership does not believe me when I explain the symptoms to them. If this is helpful, please let me know and I can continue to try and capture these events on video and share them if necessary.