Low Power, Stalling and backfiring 1996 Dodge Neon

From the title post above, you can see that I have multiple issues with the car, or just maybe one causing all the symptoms.
First, I am an American living in Norway and getting anything done around here costs an arm, a leg, and an extra pinky so I am going at this the maker way and trouble shooting my problems with the car.
The initial problem is this.
When the car starts, it starts up fine and has normal power. After driving for a few minutes, the car starts exhibiting the following symptoms.

  1. If I step on the gas pedal hard and hold it, it sounds as if the car is drowning, the car loses power, then may back fire, then instantly, it regains power and accelerates. This is by keeping the pedal down.
  2. If I feather the pedal, it doesn’t lose power and accelerates decently but as soon as I begin to go up hill, it bogs down and does the drowning noise again.
  3. I created a video showing this issue for my friend Ken who typically helps with these things.
    Here is the link
    In the video, the car is idling fine but when I throttle it, it begins to drown, then just picks up right away for no apparent reason.
  4. Just two days ago, the car will not start after it’s been running for a while. If I let it sit, it starts up again.

Ideas of what it could be.

  1. Could my catalytic converter be bad and therefore it somehow creates back pressure after the car warms up?
  2. Would it be a fuel injection problem? I put fuel injection cleaner in the tank and it seemed to run a little better.

Any help is appreciated.
Thank you!

  1. Possibly, but probably not. However, a mechanic can check the functioning of the cat with a vacuum gauge.
  2. Sort of. Instead of a fuel injection problem, I think it is much more likely that you have a fuel filter or fuel pump problem.

If you have not changed the fuel filter in the past 3 years, I suggest that you do so, as your symptoms match those of a partially-clogged fuel filter. Even if this does not relieve the symptoms, this is necessary maintenance for prevention of more expensive problems.

What type of more expensive problems? Well, running an engine with a partially-clogged fuel filter will eventually kill the electric fuel pump. So–it is even possible that you have both a filter that is overdue for replacement and a failing fuel pump.

Change the fuel filter and then report back to us!

The fuel filter on your car is easy to replace but I’m not yet convinced that is your problem. I suspect your check engine light is lit. Are you able to read the codes? That will certainly shed some further light on the problem.

I’ll try the fuel filter first as that seems to be the cheapest to fix then report back.
@SteveF The Check Engine light is actually not on! Crazy enough.

After the fuel filter, locate and disconnect the EGR valve. If this emissions control part malfunctions, (sticks open) it can cause these problems…Should that cure the problem, you can remove the valve and clean it which will usually restore normal function.

@Caddyman Thanks! I’ll give that a shot and report back in a couple of days. I’m still waiting for my Haynes manual from the states!

@Caddyman, how do you recommend cleaning it? Gas? Carb cleaner?