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View Full Version : Hey mechanics, is my car fixable? (keeps dying)


MsWhatsit
10-18-2001, 01:36 PM
I didn't think this was really appropriate for GQ, as it's more of a request for advice on my car than a definite question with an answer.

Anyway, I have this '85 Tercel hatchback, and for the last several months it's been exhibiting extremely annoying behavior wherein it will die any time we let it idle too long. Like at red lights. It's worse after we've been driving it at highway speeds and then come to a stop; I can pretty much count on it dying at the first stoplight after I get off the freeway in the mornings. It's also pretty slow to start sometimes, and tends to take two or three tries before it will start without dying. And occasionally it will just die when I'm crawling along in stop and go traffic.

Now, MrWhatsit thinks it's pointless to even see a mechanic about this, because he figures it's an engine problem that will cost more to fix than the car is worth. But I don't know...it seems to me like maybe there's just some timing issue that can be easily fixed? (I don't know much about how engines work.)

What do you all think? Is it worth taking in, or not?

Gatopescado
10-18-2001, 02:15 PM
need more info! if it were mine, and it was in good shape otherwise, and it was the only car i had, i would definetly check it out. (i cant stand to throw anything away and don't sell much, either)

or, sell it to some highschool kid! sounds like a perfect car for him!

mblackwell
10-18-2001, 02:19 PM
Sounds like my car when the fuel pump was going bad. The pump cost $40 and I put it in at home.

wolfman
10-18-2001, 02:43 PM
How long has it been since it had a good tune-up? Some of the symptoms you describe could just be old parts or mis-adjustments of things like the carbureter(I'm assuming it's carbureted). However any more than that is likely to end up costing more than the car is worth by Blue book, it just depends on what you feel the car is worth to you.

P.S. Changing the fuel filter is a really cheap first step, and might help somewhat, even though the symptoms don't sound like it's the main problem.

Spritle
10-18-2001, 02:53 PM
Originally posted by MsWhatsit
...it will die any time we let it idle too long. Like at red lights. It's worse after we've been driving it at highway speeds and then come to a stop; I can pretty much count on it dying at the first stoplight after I get off the freeway in the mornings.

Sounds a bit like the fast idle is too low. It may be adjustable, but the real concern (if it is a fast idle problem) is why this is now a problem. One possibility is that the idle adjustment changed over time - it happens. Another possibility is that as the engine gets hotter the choke isn't setting itself. Now, it's a choke problem, not really a fast idle problem. Yet another possibility is that the engine is getting hotter and the choke is opening, but the engine continues to get hotter. This is usually due to water circulation problems (bad thermostat, clogged radiator, bad water pump in that order). Usually, however, this manifests as a constant increase in idle speed, not a drop.

Also, it may not be any of these.

To consider, unless repairs are costing you $300/month, it's cheaper to fix your car.

MsWhatsit
10-18-2001, 03:16 PM
We get a tune-up once a year, and it's about due.

However, I am more interested by what Spritle had to say. Is it at all possible that if the engine were to badly overheat once or twice, it could cause the choke problem you were mentioning? A while back, we had some problems with the radiator that are now fixed, but at least twice, the engine overheated to the point that we had to pull the car over to the side of the road to let it cool down. (Temperature gauge was inching into the red zone.) After the second time it happened, we took it to the mechanic, who if I remember correctly, put in some kind of radiator sealant? Anyway, we haven't had another radiator problem since, but that WAS about the time this idle problem started happening.

The car is worth enough to me to get it fixed if it's going to cost any less than about $2000, which is about how much I'd be willing to spend on a used car. Yes, I am a big cheapskate. So it sounds like I may just want to take it in and have it looked at.

zut
10-18-2001, 03:47 PM
I had a problem with my '89 Civic that had almost exactly the same symptoms you describe (most notably the it's-worse-when-coming-off-the-freeway symptom). It turned out to be a loose connector on the (oxygen? I think) sensor, which caused the engine to inject an inadequate amount of fuel at idle. Cost to fix: free.

It seems to me that nearly all the plausible explanations I can think of for your problem (clogged fuel filter, bad sensor, low idle speed, dirty/misadjusted injectors/carburetor, stuck valve/throttle, dodgy fuel pump, bad relay) would cost about $50 to $200 to fix, so I think it's worth it.

My money's on a bad sensor.

Spritle
10-18-2001, 04:31 PM
Originally posted by MsWhatsit
Is it at all possible that if the engine were to badly overheat once or twice, it could cause the choke problem you were mentioning?


Probably not. Multiple bad overheatings can cause the head to warp, but usually this presents other symptoms.


After the second time it happened, we took it to the mechanic, who if I remember correctly, put in some kind of radiator sealant? Anyway, we haven't had another radiator problem since, but that WAS about the time this idle problem started happening.

This might be part of the probem if the mechanic used something like an Aluminum silicate "stop-leak". If it settles to a point where it can restrict water flow the engine can continue to overheat. However, with your symptoms, I doubt that this is the case.

I'm still thinking it's idle adjustment or choke adjustment. When you take it in for a major tune-up, mention the problem to the mechanic.

I also like what zut said about connectors. Depending on how Toyota did their PC system, there could be a problem with an oxygen sensor or even with a vacuum pull hose. Most of my work is on Triumphs, which don't have all that complicated stuff, so I don't know too much about sensors and what-not.

handy
10-18-2001, 07:13 PM
radiators are easy, just look at them if they have a big hole time for a new one.

That car is pretty old so you could visit the auto store & get some fuel injector cleaner or carb cleaner (which every works on your car) & try them they go in the gas tank. They usually have an effect on old cars. A car like that isn't worth $2000 or anything near it, I presume.

Tyklfe
10-18-2001, 07:36 PM
On older cars - like the '91 Jetta I had - sometimes have problems like this.

The problem that I had with the Jetta was that the Vacume Lines had cracks and holes in them

I replaced them all and imediatly started getting much better performance outta my car.

Good Luck

Kylle

ArturoBandini
10-18-2001, 08:04 PM
Originally posted by MsWhatsit
Now, MrWhatsit thinks it's pointless to even see a mechanic about this, because he figures it's an engine problem that will cost more to fix than the car is worth. But I don't know...it seems to me like maybe there's just some timing issue that can be easily fixed? (I don't know much about how engines work.)

What do you all think? Is it worth taking in, or not?


That's a lot like saying, "I'm not going to go to the doctor about this pain in my chest because he's just gonna tell me I need expensive heart surgery." Maybe he'll just tell you to start exercising and eat better and thank god you came and saw him as soon as you did, because if you had waited, the problem would have only gotten worse.

Any number of things could be causing this problem, from bad spark plugs to vaccuum leaks to anything else people have mentioned here. But why not spend the $60-$80 on diagnostic time to find out if you can keep your car going even longer than it has? You may like what you hear.

A good rule of thumb is that if you're spending around $2000 or less per year on vehicle maintenance, keep your car. A monthly new car payment will probably cost you more, and any used car you purchase will need repairs of its own. You simply can not own a car that won't need regular maintenance: oil changes every 3000-5000 miles (or about every three months, whichever comes first); tune-ups (new spark plugs, distibutor cap and rotor, air and fuel filter) about every 15,000 miles; brake fluid flush every 1 - 1 1/2 years; coolant flushes every year or two; plus every other problem that might crop up.

Your financial budget should include at least $100/month for auto repairs. And hold on to that money, even if you don't use that $100 every month. Eventually, you'll need every penny.

I hope this isn't too much of a hijack from the OP. I have opened a thread in IMHO to deal strictly with automotive questions (I called it "Vehicular Advice, blah blah blah" or something) if anyone is interested. All automotive experts and all automotively curious are welcome...

Spritle
10-19-2001, 08:22 AM
Originally posted by handy
radiators are easy, just look at them if they have a big hole time for a new one.


While this is factual (if it has a big hole get a new one) it is not encompassing all radiator truths (especially the being "easy" part). Often, radiators develop multiple pin hole leaks that are closed when the radiator is cold. As the engine heats up and pressure builds water/fluid can start to leak out of the holes. When the engine is shut off and circulation stops, the leaks tend to stop/slow down and are completely nonexistant when the engine cools to ambient temperature.

Far more common in radiators is clogging within the coolant tubes. This restriction in flow causes temprature build up mor quickly than coolant loss.

Philster
10-19-2001, 10:44 AM
Generally, based on the symptons you decsribed, you can rule out electrical issues.

You have some type of fuel delivery issue. It could be as simple as a clogged fuel filter, or as bad as blown sensors that control fuel and air flow - I'm pretty sure that would still pertain to a car that old.

Is this car fuel injected? Old injectors didn't last as long as new ones because:

1. they weren't made as well
2. they spent a good part of their life before detergents were used effectively in all gasoline brands and types.

DaToad
10-19-2001, 11:37 AM
Both Arturo and Philster have already given good advice.

It sounds to me like a fuel problem too, but because of the sensors and vacuum system involved, isolating it may take some good trouble-shooting. If you have a mechanic or shop you trust this may not be an issue.

Before you take it in somewhere and drop a load of cash, you might want to check out this website: http://www.marksalem.com
He has some FAQs that may help you. He has some very good recommendations about what to say, and what not to say, and what questions to ask your mechanic.

Good luck!