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My 2000 Spectra 5 speed has developed an intermittent misfire, and it is getting worse. I will be driving along and the engine skips a beat, then another, and another. It has almost become undriveable. Now is it missing at idle, sometimes. When this happens, the exhaust smells acrid.

Also, headlights dim when brake lights are applied. Dome light seems to flicker. At idle, dome light dims noticeable when cooling fans or A/C compressor kick on.

Months ago, this started as a stalling, dimming lights, radio losing all pre-sets type of problem, and has morphed into this. The car drives ok for awhile from dead cold, then the problem starts as it warms up (5-10 minutes).

Here is what I have done so far:

New NGK plugs and wires
One new coil, moved around to make sure coils are ok.
New battery
Cleaned every ground location in engine compartment
Disconnected and reconnected every electrical connection in engine compartment, plus fuel pump and fuel level sensor connectors
Swapped various relays around in fuse box
Disconnected and reconnected ECU

Car has thrown the following codes:

(Ok, I can't find my notes, so these are from memory)

#1 cylinder misfire
#4 cylinder misfire
Random & multiple cylinder misfires
Fuel level sensor circuit malfunction
O2 sensor voltage low (I think)

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

K-Dog
 

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Have you checked the drivebelts around the alternator, and the alternator output once the engine is warm? If it is starting to fail, you will have the strange electrical issues, but as the battery becomes slightly discharges the coils may not be getting enough juice and misfiring. Alternator should put out a consitant 12 volts (maybe slighty higher on some). If not, you may have your problem.
 

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I didn't know there was a 2000 spectra...I thought Spectra started in '01.

Anyway, It sounds to me like electrical. Either the alternator isn't charging, or there is some intermittent short in the system.

The first thing I would do is put a voltmeter on the battery. With the engine off, the battery will read about 12 volts. The alternator should put out about 14.4 volts, so with the engine running, the battery should now read 14.4 volts. I would monitor the voltmeter and watch what happens when it misfires. If there is a sudden drop in voltage when it misfires then there is an intermittent short somewhere. Then begin the process of isolating the short. Does the misfire happen only when the headlights are on? Only when the blower motor is running? Only with the stereo loud? Only when applying brake? etc.

If it will only misfire while driving, I would use a lighter plug attached to the voltmeter to monitor while moving.

Again, 12v or less means the alternator is not charging and you're running off your battery (Only a matter of time until your battery is dead). More than 13v means the charging system is working.

Mark in MA
 
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