About two months ago, I tried starting my car. It would start and just shut off complete. I towed it to a reputable shop and was told a day later that they put in some starter fluid and the car started and was running fine. They said they found no evidence of mechanical problems and think that it might be a computer issue. I drove the car for two days, even took it for emission inspection and it passed. Another two days later while driving home the car just shut off in the middle of the street. When I try to start it, sometimes it will start but after running for a few minutes, it just shuts off. I have not driven it for two months now.
Diagnostic from Mechanic:
Stall, checked fuel pump pressure (oK)
needed starting fuel to initially start
Engine ran ok afterwards
checked for voltage (power) to fuel pump
Possible computer malfunction
Intermittent problems are the hardest to solve because any testing has to be done while the problem is occurring. When it's running normally, there is no defect and nothing to find or solve.
Intermittent stalling when warm with a failure to restart until the engine cools down is a very common symptom of a failing sensor or pickup coil inside the distributor, depending on which engine you have. The first thing the mechanic should have done was to read any stored diagnostic fault codes. Those codes are much more comprehensive on '96 and newer models but even on your car any stored codes will identify the circuit or system that needs further diagnosis. These are especially helpful for intermittent problems.
Given that it started with starting fluid suggests there's a fuel supply-related problem which is not monitored by the Engine Computer and will not set a fault code. That would be different than the stalling-while-driving problem. Before we get too involved, the starting fluid clue could be misleading. Whatever is causing the stalling might have been just at the point of working again when they sprayed the fluid in, so the engine might have started anyway without it. I think I'd ignore the starting fluid clue for now and concentrate on why it's stalling and won't restart right away.
February, 22, 2013 AT 7:56 PM
Thanks for the information. Are you recommending that I tow it to the dealer?
February, 22, 2013 AT 8:19 PM
Nope; I didn't say that. All I was able to do was give you some insight on the types of things that could be involved in solving the problem. It also depends on how far you're willing walk back home! In my case that has been ten miles after locking my keys in my vehicle, ... Twice! I don't want you stalled on a deserted highway in the middle of winter.
I am skeptical about the diagnosis of a bad computer unless there was some testing done to back that up. The Engine Computer is probably the last thing I would suspect. Also, no professional just throws random parts at a problem because that's the most expensive and least effective way to solve a problem, but in this case when it is so intermittent, that is often what we have to resort to. The problem for you is you never know if it's going to let you sit somewhere. The problem for the mechanic is he has to remember what diagnostic steps he has already gone through, what he has tried, and what he has replaced. He also can not be expected to stay working on your car until it's solved because that could take days or weeks. Did I mention that intermittent problems can be very frustrating?
Not driving the car is not the answer because then there's no point in having it. Most of the time intermittent problems get worse and act up more often as the offending part wears or degrades more. The more it acts up, the more time the mechanic has to go through the troubleshooting steps. When fixing tvs I often had to tell people to "put up with it until it gets worse, then call me". The same is true with cars except you don't know where you're going to be when it gets worse.