Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Fuel delivery problem?

alright, so I drive a 1988 toyota corolla wagon (this model still has a carburetor) and the other day it just shut off as I was driving. It was a very nonviolent stall and the engine just stopped and I coasted to a stop. I tried to restart it and it was turning over fine but it wouldn’t start. After about 10 minutes, it started up fine. The next day on the way to work it did the exact same thing after about the same exact distance driven. So I waited about 10 minutes and it started. so it basically does this after 15 minutes of driving without fail now. Anything less it works fine. It turns over fine after stalling but won’t start, then restarts after 10 minutes of sitting. I’ve tried replacing the fuel filter but that didn’t do it.

Also, I ran out of gas about a week ago before this problem started, I don’t know if that could have caused any of this.

Help us help you! You need to find out if this is a fuel problem, or a spark problem. When it stops, spray Starting Fluid (or, similar product) into the air tube to the carburetor. If it starts, runs a few seconds, then dies, the problem is fuel. If it doesn’t make a difference, the problem is spark. Let us know which.

ok so I drove it around for my entire lunch break and no break down, this is the first time thats happened since the initial problem. I gave her a double dose of of fuel line carburetor cleaning additive this morning, could that have fixed it?


It could have, you could have some loose crud now clogging up the fiter on occasion, but I’d be more inclined to suspect the ignition coil. It sounds like it’s breaking down when heated up. I believe on that car it’s under the distributor cap.

This sounds like a textbook example of vapor lock. This has been an issue for a lot of people these days since the up to 10% ethanol blends used in many places have a much lower vaporization point than regular gas.

Give the fuel lines in the engine compartment a look to make sure there’s not any point where they get too close to something hot and, in addition to the starting fluid, next time it does it try soaking a rag in cold water and putting it on the fuel lines to see if that makes it go. If it does, you may need to re-rout the fuel lines and/or put some insulation on them.

Ok so it happened again, and I tried the starting fluid thing and it didn’t start. I then poured water all over it because it seemed excessively hot and it seemed to start a little sooner than it usually does. don’t know if that actually did anything though…

Well, if it didn’t run for a few seconds with the starter fluid, it probably is an ignition problem like Mountainbike was thinking. Generally the coil or the ignition module are what cause heat-related no starts.

ok so now its happening after much less driving, like maybe 5 minutes. I guess ignition coil is my next step?

Here is a link to testing, and REPLACING, the ignition coil ($42). Also, inside the distributor is the pick up coil ($42). You might want to do the tests after you replace one, or both, parts.

My though it is neither the coil or the pickup, but the ignitor. Obtain a can of “Freeze Air” or some such chiller in a can spray from Radio Shack or the like.
Next time it fails, spray the ignitor with this substance till it is frozen, see if it recovers faster.
Electronic circuits often fail when heated and recover equally fast when chilled. This points to a stress fracture in the electronics that is causing an open circuit when it expands.

and these fractures tend to get worse with time, thus the time to heat up and fail diminishes with time till it is completely failed.

aha, so I couldn’t even get to work today so I decided it was time, and went ahead and brought it to a local mechanic, they said the carburetor is really dirty and the jets were getting clogged, and that was causing the problem. then they said $250 to clean it, which i declined becaused that seemed a little pricey for something i could probably do, so thats my next step i suppose.

thanks for all the input!