Piston Slap: Fix My Sunfire, Sanjeev!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap fix my sunfire sanjeev

TTAC Commentator Tankinbeans writes:

Hello Sanjeev –

I have a goofy problem that I’ve run into my mom’s car. She currently drives a 2005 Sunfire, 2.2 auto, and it has developed an irritating tick. When running, the car sounds like a ticking time-bomb; it’s similar to the sound that might occur when you put a playing card in the spokes of a bicycle tyre.

From what I gather it’s related to the ventilation system because if you turn the airflow selector to foot only, all the way to the left, the noise stops. However, when the selector is on defrost the noise is there. This happens if the fan is off and if the fan is on. With the car running I can hear it outside the car clearly, but it’s more clear near the passenger side windshield wiper. If I place my hand at the base of the windshield I can feel the vibration from whatever is causing it.

We didn’t really notice this until she had an aftermarket radio installed. I don’t think this has anything to do with it, but figured more information is better.



Sanjeev Answers:

Who is this Sanjeev guy and WTF is up with him getting into my business? Seriously, since I was a little kid, this has been my second name. I blame my parents for NOT giving me this fantastic name to start. But I digress…

I can’t find a correlation between your stereo and the ticking noise, unless the stereo installer had a REAL hard time getting the aftermarket bits in without mucking up with the HVAC control unit and the big box o’ crap (blower motor, evaporator, heater core, blend door, etc) behind the dash. And anything is possible, for sure. Just for giggles, disconnect the stereo’s new wiring harness from the Sunfire’s factory wiring and see what happens. If the noise goes away, you got a big problem with the installer.

If the stereo isn’t at fault, there has to be something wrong with the blend door system in the HVAC box behind the dash. But that makes no sense, since the noise is independent of the fan’s (i.e. blower motor) operation. Dammit: SANJEEV FAIL.

Perhaps there’s a relay for the blower motor that’s connected to the stereo’s wiring…nah, SANJEEV FAIL.

Have you considered the possibility of badge engineering being at the heart of the problem? Put the stereo in a 2005 Cavalier and see what happens…nope, SANJEEV FAIL.

Sanjeev gives up. Off to you Best and Brightest.

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2 of 25 comments
  • Rick S Rick S on Nov 22, 2012

    My guess would be A/C compressor. I've had them make some pretty strange noises as the bearings wear down, and because defrost setting = compressor always engaged it could be an option. Try opening the hood and having someone click the A/C button on and off while the fan is blowing. Watch the pulley and see if there is any correlation between sound and use of the compressor. Just a random shot, but good luck!

  • Chicagoland Chicagoland on Nov 22, 2012

    There a yellow 2004 Sunfire with many parts to pick from in Murlee's favorite bone yard! Can fix in a jiffy!

  • JLGOLDEN In order for this total newcomer to grab and hold attention in the US market, the products MUST be an exceptional value. Not many people will pay name-brand money for the pretty mystery. I can appreciate the ambition of selling $50K+ crossovers, but I think they will go farther with their $30K-$40K offerings.
  • Dukeisduke They're where Tesla was when it started - a complete unknown. I haven't heard anything about a dealer network. How are they going to sell these? Direct like Tesla? Franchises picked up by existing new car dealers?
  • Master Baiter As I approach retirement, and watch my IRA and 401K account balances dwindle, I have less and less interest in $150K vehicles.
  • Azfelix With a name that sounds like a bad Google translation, problems appear to permeate every aspect of the company. I suggest a more aggressive advertising campaign during The Super Terrific Happy Hour show to turn things around.
  • Buickman GoneFast.