95 Mitsu Mirage S Won't run or drive

I have a 95 Mitsubi-shit Mirage S and I need help diagnosing an issue that is preventing me from driving the car.

Initial problem; I was coming off the freeway and stopped for traffic at an exit, after I started to accelerate the car started sputtering and violently idling until it stalled. My first thought was I ran it out of fuel. After getting gas in the tank (about 6 gallons) I turned the key on and off a few times trying to get the fuel pump to get pressure back in the lines and it would not start. Fuel pump is working like new.

The car still (a week later) cranks and sputters and refuses to run. Until recently 2 days ago to be exact the car would start and idle while it was cold, then stall out when it got warm. A day later I could start it and it would idle all night (forgot it was on and went to bed). I was able to put it into gear and it would idle roughly, but it wouldn’t die. Here is all it does to me:

Next day after stall on the exit ramp:
Starts when cold and will run until it reaches normal temp, stalls out when any amount of throttle is given, stalls when put into gear, will NOT restart until cool after a stall, idles rough and surges in RPMs unless any kind of electrical strain is on like lights, ac/heater fan etc…

2 days after:
Starts cold and runs to normal temp and continues to run until i shut it off, I can apply throttle gently and bring up RPMs to redline, to much throttle and it boggs out and will stall if not feathered, will idle in any gear until throttle is pressed…

2 days ago:
Starts cold with hesitation, idles rough unless electrical strain is on the engine, can drive in any gear if I keep throttle under 1/4’th, hesitates above 25 mph, will not re-start after a stall when warm, dies constantly when driving…

I have cleaned the throttle body, replaced injectors, replaced fuel filter, checked fuel pump to make sure it is keeping pressure in the lines, changed out to new plugs and wires, when hot after a stall I have tried poring cold water on injector rail and fuel line to see if it is v-locking (no affect) and when I pull the gas cap off after a run it releases pressure from the tank noticeably with a loud hiss. Distributor cap was pulled off and cleaned by a local shop.

Also to add, I tried smoging it recently and it failed the idle part by 47 points due to unburned fuel. Everything else passed with flying colors. I am thinking cat?

Is there any fix for this before I have to foot a shop bill???
Thanks- John

Engine is a 1.5l
Tranny is 3 speed auto
Hood is Tin foil I’m pretty sure…
exhaust is still attached amazingly
and all wiper gaskets, blinker fluid, mufler bearings, headlight bearings, and duct taped windows have been serviced at appropriate dates.

Have you tried checking for spark when it won’t restart after a stall? Would help to narrow the possible causes down.

Try running it without the gas cap on. I’ve seen gas tanks that don’t vent properly cause a lot of fuel delivery problems, especially with fuel pressure. If everything smooths out, the evap system must be plugged. Many '95 and older cars don’t monitor the evap system, so no codes are set.

Since it’s starting and running when cold until it warms up, and sputtering when warm and you add gas (try to accelerate), I’m wondering of the coolant temp sensor is bad. If the ECU thinks the engine is cold, it’ll run it rich and it’ll ignore the oxygen sensor so there’s no “double check”. Since it’ll already be running too rich once warmed up, any additional fuel (trying to accelerate) might flood it and kill it.

Try testing (or replacing) the CTS and see what happens. Post back.

The first thing that comes to mind is the fuel system, but you have already shotgunned that pretty well. The next step for (the first step I would have taken actually) is to mark the spot on the distributor body just below the cap at the #1 spark plug wire. Then remove the cap and turn the engine, either by wrench or but bumping the starter, until the timing mark on the harmonic balancer is at TDC. Then check the position of the rotor. It should point at either the mark or 180° away from the mark. If it is off, then put a timing light on the engine and check timing.

The timing belt on this engine tends to strip off teeth rather than break. This can cause the valve and ignition timing to jump as a result. Good news is that this is not an interference engine so no damage will be done and the timing belt is pretty easy to change on it.

Next, I would look at the crankshaft position sensor (CPK) and the ignitor. After that, I would look at the coil, it could have an intermittent short that shows up under certain conditions. Also look at the distributor shaft for excessive play especially if you have over 150k on the engine.

Note that all the above are troubleshooting and do not involve throwing parts at the problem. The ignitor, CPK, and coil can be checked at most car parts stores for free.

Jesmed - i have checked spark on all wires by touch… it was rather shocking. Spark is strong.

The same mountainbike - cts was replaced this morning to no affect, still doing the same stuff.

Kieth - ran through every thing you posted and caved in after no success and had a local shop check it out for me. They called this evening scratching their head asking thing i should be asking them, but are leaning towards throttle position sensor. Well post update when i get it back.

Hua -John

The symptoms do not indicate a TPS. If the rotor lines up as I indicated, then an actual timing light needs to be put on to check the timing while running. I think right now, I would replace the coil. They can get into a condition where they spark part of the time but arc across the turns of the coil internally the rest of the time.

BTW, if you are getting shocked just by touching the spark plug wires while they are connected, you have bad wires, even if they are new. If you put on some high performance, low resistance wires, then that is your problem. You must have spark plug wires that match OEM specs.

Wellp… after a full day i was told the distributor is the culprit. It is only working when cold, or until the throttle gets touched. Found a new one in eBay for $83, shop wanted to charge$400 +. I spoke with the mechanic who is doing the work and he said the distributor that is on it now is not even a year old, i guess they go out like candy? Or could it be something internal making them go out constantly? Either way, planning a wedding and busting my ass working to pay for that and the car… i can’t keep buying new distributors every time the car dies.

The more digging i do, the more i find other people who are having the same problem, so again is there anything that would cause it to just decide to fail every few months to a year?

The distributors in these cars have several ignition modules built-in including the coil. If any one of these goes bad, the entire distributor is generally replaced, not just the failed part, which usually means disassembling the distributor a good bit just to get to it. Because it has already been replaced and failed, I’d not want to put the cheapest one you can find as a replacement. Find a quality remanufactured distributor. Also, replace the wires and plugs, since bad wires and plugs can cause the coil to overheat and fail.

The issue with the distributors is the center shaft bushing gets worn down so the shaft wobbles around which causes the gap used for the camshaft position sensor to become unreliable. The computer losses the position of the engine so it doesn’t send the spark consistently.

A lot of remans do not knurl the body of the distributor, or drill it out and install a bushing so they don’t address the problem. If it looks good in the shop, then it goes out the door, but it may fail soon.

Get a quality reman from a place like NAPA. A cheap one will just not last. Unless you don’t plan on keeping the car very long, then a cheap one might be OK.

Thanks Keith,
I have started looking for a new one now, May have the car fixed by the end of the month. Even if I were planning on selling the car I would put a good and new distributor on it so nobody else has to go through all of this drama, stress and shop fees… It sucks.

Thank you all for the help and input you have given, Now that the issue has been addressed I hope this thread will help another person with the same problem and save them time and money!

Hua! - John