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Almost at the end of the Road in Alaska

We need your opinion. We own a 1995 Town and Country with 178K miles. When we leave the car parked for 2-3 hours outside at temps below zero our car starts fine, then a few miles down the road will die when braking for a downhill or stop sign. The problem is when it dies we can’t steer or brake much at all. It is clearly a safety issue especially since we live in Alaska. Only if it is completely warmed up (10-15 min. of idling) will it run normally. We have had a tune-up and that did nothing to touch the problem. Given the age of the vehicle we are hesitant to continue spending money to fix this problem. We can continue driving it, but we have to ALWAYS warm it up in cold weather. Our tire place also told us that one of our front CV joints is “on its way out.” So, our question is… When do we say goodbye? Does anyone have a good rule of thumb as to how much money is too much to spend on an old car? How much longer could we possibly hope this car could last? How dangerous is it when a CV joint finally goes? Please help us.

Does it resstart after it stalls? If so I would suspect the EGR Valve or control solenoid. Where your van is pre OBDII a sticky EGR probably wont turn on the check engine light.

If the van runs good otherwise it is worth fixing. We put 230K on our old one before I hit a deer, and our 97 Town and Country has a 185K and still going strong.

It is interesting that you lose brake assist when the engine dies. The power steering will quit when the engine stops turning. But, the power brakes should have 4 - 5 assisted applications after the engine stops. If the assist is quitting immediately, there may be a problem with the brake assist unit or its check valve. I am wondering if the power brake assist unit is leaking air and that excess air is causing the engine to quit as well as dissipating the assist. BTW, do you hear hissing coming from under the dash when you step on the brake pedal with the engine running? Hissing would confirm the faulty brake booster.

Hope that helps.

Yes, our van always restarts. This might be splitting hairs, but when this happens it doesn’t feel like it’s stalling, there’s no sputtering at all, it’s just instantaneously gone. The check guages light does come on though. Would the EGR valve idea make sense that it only happens in cold weather and never at any other time? thanks

That rule of thumb issue is certainly dependant upon the overall condition of the car (like fixing the engine when the body,interior and AC are shot)you must look at the total situation.

I will answer th CV joint question by saying my view of “total CV failure” is when the outer race of the CV wears so much the inner justs spins (the car goes nowhere) I have only seen it once on a early VW all it caused was a tow. Usually they just click more and more,people drive with them clicking forever.I don’t list it as a “dangerous” situation,unless you consider getting stuck in sub-zero conditions,then I guess it is dangerous.

I like the EGR approach on your stalling concern.

“[The car]… will will die when braking…” , spells a leak in the brake booster.
The failure to start when warm sounds like an air leak, or too little fuel commanded by the engine computer.
Extra air can come from components, like the egr valve, which are open when they should be closed. It can, also, come from leaks.
Sudden stalls could be wiring to, or from, the ignition control. Check wire connections—both power and grounds. Connect and reconnect the electrical connectors going to the ignition control. This will include connections, like the camshaft position sensor, that the ignition control depend on signals from.
First, check out the brake power booster. Then, see what happens.