drtidmore

Intermittent engine stall

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Ok, out of the blue the other night, my '89 sputtered a bit and then about a mile later totally died.  I was down below 1/4 tank of gas, so I thought it might even be accumulated water in the tank.  I finally got it started after many tries and it seemed to be running just fine (no codes BTW).  I turned around and head back to my daughter as her house was closer.  Made it almost back to where it sputtered the first time and it died again.  My daughter had met me by this time and I had her bring 5 gallons of fresh gas.  After some effort got it started and again, no codes and it seemed to run fine.  I drove it back to her house and took one of her cars home as this was at 10pm.  Next day got some ethanol stabilizer and added in another 5 gallons of fresh gas.  The car started just fine and in testing it in her neighborhood it seemed to be running fine, and since it was starting perfectly and running well, I decided it must have been fuel contamination.  Decided to risk the 20 mile trip to get it back home and for the first 10 miles at highway speeds all was well, then boom, no warning, engine stalls.  I was near a downhill exit so I got off the highway.  As was the case previously, after many unsuccessful tries, it sprang to life and all seemed well.  In the next 5 miles, this scenario repeated itself 3 more times.  Finally I was where I could get off the highway and take city streets the rest of the way and had no more issues.

 

Since I am not setting codes, this sounds like either the ignition module (replaced about a year ago) or the crank sensor, but my experience with the crank sensor is that it does NOT mysteriously fix itself suddenly. Crank sensor was replaced within the last year when I did the harmonic balancer.

 

Thoughts on where to start or things to test?  

 

At the moment, it starts just fine, so this is going to be hard to trouble shoot.

Edited by drtidmore (see edit history)

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That sounds eerily similar to my saga a few years ago with a crank sensor. A couple of bobbles while running and then just fine. It only did the bobble a couple of times at highway speed but then completed another 15 miles with no incident but wouldn't start after attending my sons wedding (nice timing huh?) Left the car sit overnight and called a tow the following morning. Of course the car started right up and idled for 1/2 hour while waiting for the tow. No issue until I closed the hood. Stopped dead and wouldn't restart. I had the car towed home and tried to duplicate the behavior by blowing a heat gun at the sensor  but the only thing that seemed to make the engine stall was slamming the hood or even the drivers door. Made no sense. Would not stall by tapping on the engine in any location. I think it is possible for it to fail in an unconventional manner not predicated on temperature. Replaced the crank sensor and has been good for several years now. The only caveat is all the failures I could repeat were while idling, so the engine stopped just like the key was turned off (no spark). I suspect if I would have continued to get a failure at speed it might feel like a possible fuel related failure by getting an extended bobble as the engine rpm dropped. I had an extended fuel pressure gauge on the engine at the time so I was certain it wasn't a pressure issue. Did you try the MAF tap test?

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2seater, 

Thanks for the input.   As I replaced the factory original ignition control module previously(leaking green goo) and the replacement has a lifetime warranty, I am going to start there as this does seem to have heat related aspect. From an additional failure since getting it home, it finally threw a code, E041 (i.e. cam sensor).  The code was NOT there while the engine was running but the instant it died, the code popped up.  The cam sensor does route thru the ignition module on its way to the ECM, so a failing ignition module could also impact the cam sensor signal. Once I got the engine running again, E041 was no longer current and since an E041 will NOT cause a failure to start and based on what I saw when the cam interrupter was failing prior to replacement, it does not result in the engine dying.  The E041 looks like a red herring except it points suspiciously to the ignition control module. FYI, I did the Padgett cam sensor interrupter (as well as new cam sensor) replacement about 10,000 miles ago.

 

I need to verify the actual fuel rail pressure but I do know that it is pressurized and the symptoms don't support rail pressure as a culprit. 

 

The MAF is original, but tapping at various points on both the metal and plastic areas does NOT induce the failure to run, so that seems to vindicate the MAF as a culprit.

 

I would LOVE to be able to get this failure to occur predictably as that would make diagnosis less of an educated guessing game.

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Classic ICM. Fails when passes a certain temperature, open the hood cools enough to restart (may not even need to open hood if cool out). Why I carry a spare in every car. If you leave the third nut off (just need two) its a five minute job.

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with the additional info, i'd replace the "new" ICM first.

 

soon after i purchased my Reatta, i had the same crank sensor problem as "2seater" had with it. make sure to check the crankshaft (harmonic) balancer for any cracks/missing in the rubber, both sides. however small, that may cause a no start issue. the sensor gap is as thin as a matchbook cover and the balancer can wobble enough without seeing it while running.

 

also, rule out any fuel pump problems with the pressure check and check the fuel pressure regulator. info on that can be found at the tutorials in the "Reatta Owners Journal": http://reattaowner.com/roj/repair-information/repair-tutorials-a-information/category/67-fuel-system

 

i doubt it's the MAF, but i'd clean it with spray CRC MAF Sensor Cleaner if it hasn't been done in awhile.

 

re: the E041 code - if it comes back - i lucked out since it went away after i cleaned the cam sensor connection with electronic cleaner.

 

hope this helps. :)

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Picked the warranty replacement for the ICM at PepBoys and installed it this afternoon.  Ran the engine for a good hour at various RPMs to both heat soak everything and to simulate as close as I could highway conditions and not even the slightest bobble or hiccup.  Of course the real test will be putting it back on the road, which after the problems getting it home, comes with some trepidation. 

 

Given that the cam sensor runs thru the ICM, I suspect that the random E041 was not an actual sensor failure but rather the ICM failing to transmit the cam sensor signal to the ECM as this was 1st E041 since doing the Padgett interrupter replacement.  Also, no E041 codes while testing things this afternoon.  

 

Thanks for the suggestions and hopefully the new ICM has squashed this gremlin.  

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Just a followup to confirm it was the ICM.  With a bit over 100 miles of highway miles as well as 25 or so city miles since replacing the ICM, the engine has not had a single hiccup or bobble.  Keeping a spare ICM in the car, as Padgett suggested, is now on my list.  

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Up on the AACA "General Forum" there is a young owner who just picked up a car that is experiencing much of the same problems. It has been mentioned to try a ICM but looks like others ideas may be attempted first...

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