Auto Mechanic-types please advise

I rarely get the opportunity to drive my car because my SO uses it to get to work every day. Tuesday I had to have it to do some errands so I took him to work. As I was about to pull away he tells me “Make sure it doesn’t get too low on gas or park anywhere it’s not level ground.”

Okay. Why should I not park it anywhere not level, dear?

“Oh because it won’t start and you’ll have to push it to a level place to get it going”.

Well…um…what the heck is this? Surely this is not a good thing! I was in a hurry and he reassured me he’d have it looked at this weekend. I try really hard to not worry but I am car cursed so I never turned the car off until I got home.

Fast forward to tonight and he came home with the bad news that he had to have my baby towed home. He knows a few things about car repair but has no idea what the problem might be. It tries to start; sounds like it’s out of gas but the tank is half-full. (He added gas this morning, so it’s not the gauge misregistering). We won’t be able to take it anywhere until next week, so I was wondering if any of you car folks might be able to give me any clues as to what this could be. She’s a '92 Plymouth Acclaim if that makes a difference.

Your fuel pump may be malfunctioning, but I’d go with the easy stuff first. When you say “tries to start”, it might be a battery that’s undercharged. See if you can jump-start the car with another vehicle. If you can, get your battery and alternator checked.

He tried to jump start it today with no luck.

Did it try HARDER to start?

OK, I am a little lost here.
Was the warning not to let the fuel level drop and only parking on level ground based on past experience with this car, or was it based on what he believes to be true?
If it is based on experience with this car, what has been done to remedy the problem?
Right off the top of my head it sounds like a fuel pump failure, you can check the fuse and verify it is good. Probably the best thing to do is just change it, sometimes when fuses blow they can be not terribly obvious.
Other than that, it takes fuel, air and spark at the right place, at the right time and in the correct amount to make the car run.

It’s okay Rick, I’m a little lost too. He just kinda threw out the comment that day and apparently his only remedy was to not let the tank get too low or park on unlevel ground. :rolleyes: I don’t know if he was told to do this or just tried it based on past experience.

Last night he said it had happened several times in the past few weeks but he didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to worry and didn’t expect me to use the car until he had it taken care of. And then he procrastinated. :sigh:

Also I remember last time I used the car, about a month ago, I noticed a faint gas smell while driving but he said at the time he didn’t notice it. He drives with windows down and I keep them up with the A/C so maybe he wasn’t fibbing about that.

I’ll tell him to check the fuse when he gets home.

I’m inclined to think about a clogged pick-up or contaminants/water in the tank - do you all think this is related to the fuel level and the admonition to park on level ground?

He didn’t have much time for studying on the car tonight but he did say the fuse wasn’t the problem.

How would one find out if it’s contaminants in the tank? Are there any cheap diagnostics a person could do before calling in a mechanic. Mig knows a bit about cars but I don’t know how much. He’s fixed brakes, changed oil, put on new belts, kept his old clunkers running, that sort of thing.

Also a bit more information: It didn’t just not start cold; it died at a stoplight and wouldn’t start up after that. If that makes a lick of difference.

I doubt it is water. Water will be picked up at any time, since the water lays on the bottom of the tank. In fact the water would be more prone to be picked up if you parked on flat ground than if you parked on a hill.
I am leaning toward a fuel pump that has died of old age. Pumps usually quit all of a sudden, but every so often they just get weaker and weaker till they no longer put out enough pressure to start the engine.
It could also be a case of high electrical resistance in the connectors to the pump, resulting in the pump not getting enough jucie to run. Your SO can check that if he can go to the library and find a Chilto’s or Motor’s manual with a wiring diagram. Follow the fuel pump circuit back from the pump and check each connector.

The timing belt was broken.
It’s replaced and running, but I’m wondering if that would have anything at all to do with those fuel pump symptoms or if I’m going to have more repairs to deal with soon.

The timing belt will for sure cause the died and no re-start condition. It would not cause the got to park on level ground or it won’t start condition.
Did you ever find out if this was an actual symptom or just something he heard?

It was something he had to do a few times. It wouldn’t start until he pushed it to someplace level. Or maybe the pushing did it and he just assumed it was because he pushed it downhill.