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Car won't idle long in cold and occasionally dies while driving

Hi everyone! I was hoping someone could give me some advice how to go about fixing my 1987 AMC eagle. I recently just purchased the service manual and am trying to figure out what I should repair first. I noticed a few weeks ago my car wouldn’t idle in the cold.After bringing it to the shop multiple times it still does not run right. In fact, it seems to have gotten worse and has even died while going around 45 mph. Once it does die I find it very difficult to start. I have noticed some bad smells while trying to start it again sometimes gas…sometimes almost a burning rubber smell. (The belts are still in tact) Once it starts again it acts much like it had gotten flooded. The motor seems to be fine and sounds good when running at proper temp. Recently, it will even die when the engine is all warmed up.Often when I get back in the car after driving it (while engine is still warm) I can turn it over almost instantaneously it doesn’t necessarily sound good though. I noticed before all of this began that it would putter when going down a steep hill (or letting off of gas). Do I need to rebuild the carburetor ? Could it be as simple as a bad pcv valve? Any suggestions? Thank you all very much for offering your time. I have already put in 600+ into fixing this and no results. I am pretty convinced it some sort of fuel issue. I am also concerned the choke might be sticking and needs adjusting.

Info about previous shop visits:

I brought it into the shop and they tightened the timing belt and secured some loose battery cables. They also said I needed to replace the battery which I then did. This did nothing to improve the how well my car ran. I brought it back and they replaced the distributor cap and adjusted the timing which apparently was way off. This did improve the performance of the vehicle but did not help it from dying.

The fuel system in your vehicle was never designed to handle E10 Gasoline.

So components inside the carburator may be damaged.

One option is to replace the carburator with a remanufactured unit that utilizes components that are tolerable with E10 gasoline.

As far as not idling when cold, check for proper choke operation.

With engine cold, step on the gas pedal and release it.

The choke plate should be completely closed.

Start the engine. The primary choke pull-off should open the choke plate slightly.

Step on the gas pedal and release it. The secondary choke pull-off should open the choke plate and close it each time the gas pedal is applied and released.

As the engine idles and warms up, the thermal choke pull-off should slowly open the choke plate to the completely open position.


Thanks, Tester, for the tips! I will check the choke and see if this helps! When I sprayed some carb cleaner in earlier it did seem like the choke was sticking a little bit. Are these very hard to adjust?


You state that you just got the service manual.

The choke adjustments/diagnostics procedures should be reflected in the manual.


I had a similar problem with my older Ford truck one time. I tried various quick fixes, checked all the vacuum operated devices for leaks, no good, same symptom. The way that worked, I removed the carb off the engine, cleaned out all the spacer passages of carbon, replaced the EGR valve with a new one, replaced every single vacuum hose and connector, and rebuilt the carb, and installed everything back together with brand new gaskets. I’m not sure what exactly fixed the problem, but once everything was back together, the problem was gone.

Edit: This may sound like a difficult task, but it wasn’t really that difficult. And it probably takes less time than the try-this, try-that technique in the long run. And it’s a lot easier to tinker with a carb when it is sitting on a table in front of you with good lighting rather than on the engine.

I did the choke test Tester mentioned and noticed that the choke was closed after applying the gas prior to starting. It did open slightly after starting the car and slowly began to open more and more. It did not seem to respond to me hitting the throttle (as in opening and closing) . I also replaced the spark plugs and found that 2 of the cylinders have been cold fouling pretty bad. I had replaced the fuel filter and pcv valve today and it actually ran really well for about an hour- no stutters or anything . I then replaced the spark plugs and that is when it began dying again. Every time it would suddenly die I would then try to start it back up and it would make a very loud whirring sound. It would be very loud and then it would fade. The engine stops turning when this happens. Eventually, it would start again but sound pretty rough.


The whirring sound that happened when I would attempt to start the car was a bad starter FYI.

Thanks for posting back @Westin … glad you are back on the road :slight_smile:

Thanks George! @GeorgeSanJose I did end up rebuilding the car, changing plugs and wires, did some modifications on the carb (drilled out the idle tubes a little) changed the PCV valve, fuel filter etc! I should probably go ahead and replace the vacuum tubes since some are pretty weathered. Did you just do one at a time ? How did you go about replacing every hose?

How did you go about replacing every hose?

I carefully sketched out how they were all connected, doubled checked I had it right, then removed them all and replaced all of them with new hoses at once. One advantage to doing it that way is I ended up with a drawing of the vehicle’s complete vacuum system for future use.

If I was going to do this again, I’d see if I could get some of that hard plastic vacuum line instead of the rubber kind. That plastic kind seems to last much longer. And it comes in different colors, which can make keeping everything in place helpful.