How to Troubleshoot a Chevy Cobalt

by Anthony Petronzi

Like any car, the Chevy Cobalt has some typical problems that any driver might run into, even if they take good care of their car. Some problems are quick, easy fixes that can be done right in your driveway, but others will require a trip to a mechanic or dealership to be repaired. Some problems will come with warning lights that make them easier to diagnose. Others will be a matter of a vibration or manufacturing.

Easy Fixes

Changing oil on a Cobalt can be awkward because the car does not have a normal oil filter setup. The oil filter can only be accessed by removing the engine cover under the hood instead of being under the car.

When changing a headlight or front turn signal, remove the two bolts on top of the headlight. It won't just slide right out. It must be tilted, forced and maneuvered, but don't push hard enough to break any plastic.

Driver center displays POWER STEERING and the steering isn't working, take the car to the dealership. All Cobalt power steering systems have been recalled, making the trip to the dealer a pain, but free.

Locking, Key and Door Problems

If doors unlock and lock continuously while driving, it's either a problem with a sensor in the shifter assembly or water damage to the switches.

Turning the key, but the car not starting is another common problem. The battery could be dead or--more common in cold climates--the security system might not remember your key. Change the battery and--if the car still does not start--turn the key to run setting (without starting car) and leave the key there for 10 minutes or until the car starts beeping.

Locking of the key in the ignition--even when the car is off and in park--is a problem with a sensor in the shifter. It will have to be replaced.

Engine and Traction Control Issues

Knocking or hesitation of the engine--particularly while idling--can be issues with air or fuel filters, dirty fuel injectors or a problem with a number of different sensors in the engine itself.

Jerking and stalling while TRACTION CONTROL is displayed on the driver interface is a serious problem with the Cobalt. (There is an underground movement to get GM to make this a recall). It's caused by either a loose wire or a damaged computer module.

Displaying ENGINE POWER REDUCTION on the driver display is another common problem. It can be a bad sensor in the fuel system or simply dirty injectors. Run the injector cleaner through the fuel system and if that does not fix the problem take the car to the dealership.


  • check Although cars are amazingly complex, it is still simple to do much of the work yourself. This is a byproduct of the assembly line so it is usually just an easy step-by-step system.
  • check Having a computer diagnostic tool will help. The computer will generate error codes even if the driver display does not generate error messages. Usually AutoZone will have this tool and might not charge to use it. But any charge will probably be less than a mechanic and much less than a dealership.


  • close If your vehicle is under warranty, never do any work that isn't explained in the owner's manual. It will void the warranty.

Items you will need

About the Author

Anthony Petronzi began writing in 2002. He works for the government and covers sports for "In Play! Magazine" in Chicago. He has edited a book on poetry and art for Siena Heights University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and journalism.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera automobile engine image by palms from