1987 Chevy

May 31I bought a 1987 Chevy Celebrity for $700.00. Initially it ran fine after just a slight hesitation when the accelerator was first pressed. With a little more gas applied it smoothed out and ran well. Yesterday I took a drive to the library. On the way the engine stalled. After a minute or so I was able to restart the engine and proceeded to the library. On the way home the engine again stalled. I was able to restart the engine but it idled roughly and stalled as soon as the accelerator was pressed even slightly. I tried varying the amount of gas applied from very little to pressing the pedal to the floor to rocking the gas pedal to no avail. So; idles roughly, stalls when gas is applied.

With a 26 year old car, the list of possibilities is…extremely long.
However, diagnosing the actual source(s) of the problem should begin by making sure that all of the maintenance is up to date.

This means that, unless you have at least the last 3 years of maintenance records to verify good maintenance, you need to change the spark plugs, plug wires, air filter, fuel filter, PCV valve, and transmission fluid. Using a bottle of Techron fuel system cleaner is also a good idea.

Then, if the symptoms persist, you should have the car’s OBD system checked for stored trouble codes. These codes should help a good mechanic to diagnose the real source of the problem, rather than allowing him to just throw parts randomly at the problem.

There is a strong possibility that the Mass Air Flow Sensor (MAF) needs to be cleaned or replaced, and/or that the Idle Air Control Valve (IAC) is bad, and stored trouble codes should help a mechanic to zero-in on the problem. But, you first need to do the required maintenance if you want to keep this old car running reliably.


What engine do you have?

2.5 Iron Duke 4 banger ?

2.8 V6 ?

In any case, here’s what I would do first

Clean the throttle body
Clean the IAC idle air control valve
Replace the fuel filter
If you have the 2.8 V6, you apparently have a MAF. Clean it.

If none of that helps, it may be time to do a fuel pressure test

$700 for an 87 Celebrity?

At least it was ONLY $700.

No offense to any Chevy Celebrity drivers reading this, but I haven’t even seen one of those cars in the junkyard for some time now.

In any case, let’s hope the solution is something simple and cheap

Find and unplug the MAP sensor and attempt to start the engine while pressing the accelerator. Post results.

I’m assuming your 87 Chevy is fuel injected with a MAP/MAF sensor, and an IAC. If this were my car, the first thing I’d do is bring all the routine mainenance up to date. If you are unsure what maintenance was done before purchase, change the oil/filter, replace air and fuel filter, replace spark plugs, dist rotor, distributor cap. Check the spark plug wires? Twist and bend them while looking for any signs of cracking in the insulation. Yes? Replace them. If an automatic xmssion, change the fluid and clean the filter. Check all vacuum hoses and vacuum controlled devices for leaks. Set/check ignition timing and idle rpm. Is the check engine light on? If so, read the codes out and post them here. If that doesn’t fix it, then I’d next do a compression check and measure the fuel pressure at the injector rail. I think by this time you’ll have either found the problem and fixed it, or sold the car.

If you find the problem and are satisified with the performance after the fix, next up – assuming you don’t know when they were last changed – would be to replace the timing belt, the water pump, and the coolant. If there’s any indication of overheating, also replace the thermostat and the radiator cap.

"would be to replace the timing belt"
I don’t think that the Celebrity has a timing belt on either the 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder engine. The Gates catalog does not list a timing belt for the Celebrity.
This will eliminate a lot of the expense in bringing the car up to snuff. You may find that for a few dollars in maintenance, you have a good transportation value in your $700 Celebrity.

@Tridaq, good catch. It appears this engine doesn’t even have a timing chain. It’s like my 70’s Ford truck. Apparently the camshaft is direct gear driven from the crankshaft.

(Editted above, brain freeze, my 70’s 302 V8 Ford truck does indeed have a timing chain. Maybe the OP’s car has a timing chain too. The data source I was looking at didn’t spec a timing chain for that engine though. But come to think of it, I’ve never myself seen an engine that didn’t have either a timing belt or a timing chain. )