re: 1997 VW Jetta, 2L 4cyl, 107k miles (weather in NJ is 65 degrees, damp, overnight rain)
First time this has happened to me (this morning):
Starts up fine. Runs fine. I go around the block, return home and grab something I forgot. Go back to the car after 15 mins, start 'er up and go to acell and the gauges go out (tach, fuel gauge, etc, just go limp).
Okay, I get to the end of the block, stop at Stop sign, go to acel and same thing happens, and engine stutters bad.
It ran well when cruising. When I go to Stop light, then accellerated, the gauges go out, warning lights are on, engine does not die, but stutters hard.
I turn around to head home stop for traffic, and engine stalls upon accel. I start 'er up. I drive home (5 mile trip) gingerly. I notice the car is fully warmed up, so I pull over and come to complete stop. I go to accel and it runs fine. No signs of trouble.
I am at work…drove 25 miles and it ran like a top since I pulled over.
How old is your battery? Is the car idiling rough? If so, can you give it gas to get the idle more steady?
My first thought is a poor electrical connection somewhere. Depending upon where, it may be fairly simple to find and fix (e.g., corroded battery terminal) or it may be a tedious nightmare to pinpoint (e.g., obscure ground wire).
My volvo does this in rainy weather; it’s missing an O2 sensor, which supposedly means it doesn’t compensate for high humidity.
Battery is only 3 months old.
Car idles fine. Ran like a dream once cleared up.
When it happened, it only happened during accelleration. This made me think about the ignition system. In other words, it couldn’t provide the spark needed for the increaed demands of acceleration. On an older car, I’d be looking at things like points and condesor, but would that still apply to a 97 Jetta? The gauges going limp is the odd part. They wouldn’t drop dead until the engine dies normally. However, they were going limp before the engine crapped out that one time. They were going limp when I accelerated (at which time the engine stammered, but kept running).
Making this incredibly goofier is that I started it initially, drove it a block and went home to grab some forgotten docs, and it was fine. When I came back out, then it acted nuts.
It definitely could be some weird electrical thing, but it’s best to check for obvious stuff first. Could be your alternator, take it to Advance Auto and have them do a free test on it. They can test it and your battery in place.