74AMC Gremlin dying

I recently bought a 74 AMC Gremlin. I drove it 90 miles home without an issue but the past few days it has been dying intermittently. It starts right back up and drives another mile or so and dies again…Everytike it starts right back up as if nothing happened. I know that it could be any number of things but I’d like some opinions about what to check first.

Check the wire to the ignition points in the distributor.

The ignition points sit on the vacuum advance plate in the distributor.

The vacuum advance plate is constantly moving back and forth as the vehicle is being driven.

Over time this movement of the advance plate flexes the wire to the points to where the strands in the wire break.

This results in intermittent shutting down of the engine.


Check the nearest retirement home for a mechanic who knows how to work on this.:grinning:
Next time find a mechanic to check out the car before you buy.


Does it die while driving along or only when stopped and idling in gear?

But certainly, as @circuitsmith advised you need to find a ‘seasoned’ mechanic or begin climbing the steep learning curve toward being an expert on carburated classics. Your car is one of the most basic of the classics though so Good luck with the problem.

This gremlin is in great shape and came at the right price so I did rush into buying it. Should have had it checked out first. I will check the wires I also plan to replace plugs as well as the fuel and air filters.

@Rod_Knox it seems like it always dies after turning during acceleration.

That would seem to indicate a problem with the float in the carburetor, or–possibly–a loose wire.

1 Like

I should also mention it had been sitting for some time before I bought it… the first thing I did was put a tank of fresh premium gas in it. It just blows my mind it drove 90 miles without an issue and now I can’t drive around the block without it dying.

Check the primary ignition wires that are close to the engine block. When accelerating after a turn, the engine moves on its mounts. There may be a bare spot on the primary ignition wire that grounds out against the block as you turn the corner and accelerate, thus killing the ignition.


Fresh gas is a good thing, but if that engine didn’t require high-octane gas in the first place, using fresh “premium” gas won’t accomplish anything that fresh “regular” gas could not.

1 Like

I was more worried about the ethanol in regular gas. Previous owner always used premium so I figured I’d follow suit.

It is in premium fuel as well .

1 Like

It might be worth while to check the battery connections and even have the battery checked.

The battery is 3 weeks old and I have checked the connections. Everyone has mentioned primary and plug wires and the possibility of a gunked up carb. Luckily I have an AMC guy in town hopefully he can teach me a few things

Thanks for all your help guys!!!

I’d put in a new fuel filter.


One other thought:. Pull the vacuum hose that goes to the distributor off at the base of the carburetor and try blowing through it. If there is no resistance, the diaphragm in the vacuum spark advance may have a hole in it. This will cause a vacuum leak. I once owned a 1975 AMC Pacer which had a similar engine to your AMC Gremlin it had a bad vacuum advance diaphragm. I can’t help but think your problem is in the ignition system.

1 Like

@Triedaq can I ask why you assume it’s an ignition issue?

@74AMCGrem. My over 60 years experience tinkering with cars and the three AMC products I owned over the years with engines similar to your Gremlin and your description of the problem lead me to think your problem is in the ignition system. I owned a 1965 Rambler Classic 550 with the 199 cu in 6, a 1968 Javelin with the 232 cu in 6 and a 1975 Pacer with the 258 cu in 6.
Let me ask another pertinent question:. When the engine dies, does it act as though you turned off the key or does it sputter? If it acts like you turned off the key, I would bet on the ignition system. If it sputters before it dies, then forget my diagnosis and look in the fuel system.
Does your Gremlin have ignition points or electronic ignition. My 75 Pacer had electronic ignition. My earlier AMC products had ignition points. I don’t know which system was used in 1974.
These are my thoughts. I am not a professional mechanic as are some others on this board, so their advice and diagnosis may be more on target.

1 Like

@Triedaq the points were replaced by an electronic ignition system. And you are spot on, it’s as if I turn the car off just dies without warning.