Is my car having a metaphysical crisis? or is it hot flashes?

hi all, i’m a first-time poster and owner of '99 suzuki esteem 1.8 glx wagon. obviously i’m here due to a car issue. it has a very mysterious, intermitent stalling issue. and i’d like to share my story in the hope that someone might shed some light.

in late april, my car stalled out as i was accelerating on an on ramp. it sputtered once, and a few seconds later, done… everyone said, ‘oh, probably the fuel filter’. i had it towed to a mechanic i have previously used and who i like and trust. the way it sputtered before stalling made me think that maybe i was out of gas - i had only two or three gallons in the tank at the time, but given my inaccurate fuel gauge, i thought it possible.

the mechanics were still at the shop when i had it towed, and they spent an hour or two looking at it. next morning, a new camshaft sensor installed, i picked it up, drove across honolulu (approx 8 miles; 20 minutes), and my car stalls again at a red light. have it towed back to same mechanics… they then decide to replace the ecm. and even drive it around town one afternoon - didn’t stall on them.

a few days later, i pick it up, drive across honolulu - literally the same route i did previously… it stalled again at a red light. i have it towed back again to my mechanics.

this time, they simulate driving it on whatever that platform is called. they run it off and on until well after midnight. they were able to get it to stall four times, during which, they were monitoring the engine, fuel system, battery, etc… everything was kosher. this led them to believe that it was electrical and a heat issue, and they could not diagnose it. i got my car back with a full refund.

i then make an appointment with the local suzuki dealership (servco) to let them have a crack, but the appointment was three weeks out, so in the interim, i continued driving my car. during that time, it stalled on me only twice (due likely to my adjusted driving habit). it happened after i had driven 5-6 miles through town (~15 minutes), and then unexpectedly had to drive back home immediately. it stalled just as i pulled up in my driveway. another time, i was trying to get my young daughter to fall asleep in her sleep before we got home, so i was doing circles around the block. both times, i was driving slowly, and the car sputtered a few times -almost like it was out of gas - before finally stalling.

believing that it has something to do with heat, i had been very careful to not drive too much and unnecessarily. i make sure my car has an opportunity to cool. and i park in structures or in shade. this is hawaii after all, and we deal with an intense, tropical sun. i also thought/think it might have something to do with the a/c running. possibly due to the load it places on the system? or maybe it causes the engine to heat faster?

my appointment with dealership was for may 21st. the night before taking it in to the dealership, i did a few errands, and as i returned home, i decided to continue driving my car around my neighborhood for a good 25 minutes, in the hopes that it would stall. but i could not get it to stall. maybe it was because the cool night air was not permitting it to overheat?

i took it in to the dealership, they keep it for two days (got it back this morning), and they cannot get it to stall. nor can they diagnose it. going on what i have told them, they guess that it might be the egr. they say this because the egr valve could stick and cause a vacuum problem with the idle. this would cause a stall without the fuel pressure dropping (remember, fuel pressure has never dropped in the observed stalls). they check it but it seems fine. i asked them not to replace it.

so i picked it up this morning with the suspicion that maybe the stalls were the result of some multivariate phenomenon that has since passed. i pick it up, drive across town. do a few errands. and sure enough, i got to my house, put it in park (daughter asleep in her seat), a/c running, and it stalls.

so that’s where i’m at now… very frustrated.

anyone care to chime in?

I would have the Crankshaft Position sensor tested.

The crank sensor is one of the primary inputs into the computer. And these can be effected by heat. If the computer loses the signal from the crank sensor the computer see’s no reason to to operate the ignition and fuel systems and the engine shuts down.

Depending on where the sensor is located, sometimes you can start the engine and while it’s idling take heat gun and point it at the sensor. If the engine shuts off, the crank sensor is the problem.


copy that, tester! anyone else?

In reading your complaint, I would respectfully recommend that this vehicle has previously -and seriously overheated !!! therefore, according to your complaint, I would recommend that the T-stat and the temperature coolant sensor be replaced, along with a coolant flush to this vehicle. I wouldbe very surprised if this procedure would not fix your problem. Sincerely, Semper Fi.

What on his post leads you to conclude that his car overheated? I would try swapping the fuel pump relay with another one.

thanks semper fi… oldtimer, if it were the fuel pump relay, wouldn’t that show itself at the moment the car stalls? they never saw any issues with fuel system. while i don’t know exactly what there methods and observations were/are, i trust them when they say they watched the fuel system closely during the stalls. so how could a relay failure go underneath their radar?

as for semper fi’s comments, i’m not sure yet i want to conclude that the car is overheating, but there clearly is a correlation between the engine running for a while and the stalling. looking again at the coolant system is worthwhile.

let’s assume that there is a electrical malfunction/rogue sensor… for it to trip the system, that doesn’t necessarily imply that the engine is overheating, right? what sucks is that NOTHING is getting logged on the computer.

nonetheless, i’m REALLY appreciating these observations and comments. as i want to return to my normal mechanics with some possible new avenues of inspection.

someone once mentioned the ignition system. what in the ignition system could shut down the engine?

If the sensors on the car check out ok then I would suspect a battery or distributor on their way out. How old is the battery and can the Suzuki shop test with a known good distributor?

battery is just over a year old and is not the problem… the battery was monitored during the stalls… interesting point about the distributor - i’ll see what the suzuki guy says.

In furtherance to your stalling problem, I neglected to recommend replacing your radiator, prior to your purchase of this vehicle it may have suffered a tremendous overheating event, therefore with a recommended replacement of a new coolant temperature sensor, I would also think that a new radiator is advised. Given the yr and assumed mileage I would recommend a new radiator along with the repair of your Suzuki vehicle. I would respectfully suggest that u face outboard and do it !!! Semper Fi, Chris

thanks chris… as a matter of fact, it has a new radiator - just over one year old. original one had a crack in it that would not have passed inspection. i’m going to pitch the coolant temp sensor idea to my mechanics and let them tinker.

so my car stalled again for the first time since i started this thread on may 23rd. yesterday morning, i drove my daughter to gymnastics… let’s say, six miles, mostly 55mph freeway, 15 minutes, sunny, 80 degrees, running the air conditioner. it stalled when i was one block away. i was driving about 5-10mph, and it sputtered a few times, then stalled. i popped the hood (to allow faster cooling), waited about five minutes, TURNED OFF A/C, it started back up and i was able to continue driving and look for parking. an hour later, after class, i was able to drive back across town, this time in worse traffic - slower and about 30 minutes. i did not run the a/c, and my car never stalled out.

the rest of the day, i drove several times, never with the a/c on, and i had no issues.

so i can’t help but wonder, HOW AND WHY IS THE A/C CAUSING MY ENGINE TO STALL?.. particularly when it is hot out (hence, needing/wanting a/c). at night, i can drive around with the a/c on and there are no stalling issues.

still, my evidence is only anecdotal, but almost every time i have stalled, i have been running the a/c, and when i don’t run the a/c, i seem to be able to drive for longer and farther. so, i keep returning to the idea of the a/c playing role.