CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Mitsubishi Falls Asleep at the Wheel

Hello friends!

So I went and bought a 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer from a reputable toyota dealer, thinking that I’d have some sort of better luck there. Well, I’m young.

The salesman, Ramsy, told me that it was a “certified used vehicle” but I do kinda remember seeing “As Is” on the stickers in the cars around it. After I bought the thing, with a good deal (for me) of loan payments looking at me in the face, I drove it around for the month that I thought was my certified warrantee period. I brought it back to the dealership with a list of complaints: the car wobbled when driving it, the keyless entry button dangler didn’t work after the car had been sitting in the hot sun, and…gosh, this one time, it just stopped in the middle of the road! Turned off! But when I turned the key again, it started back up. The parts and service lady had a hard look about her. This car, she said, was never a certified used vehicle. It was sold As-Is. She called in Ramsy and quizzed him. Did you tell this girl that this car, with 90,000 miles on it, was certified? To my astonishment, he was honest and admitted it! She lectured him, told him that they NEVER certify cars over 50,000 miles. Then she b*tched about him after he left, and told me she could do something for me even though they shouldn’t have to. She replaced an axel or something, which was the cause of the wobble, and which they’d actually already replaced once but I guess the new part they put in was shoddy or something. It’s all Greek to me - but she had them fix that part and they actually put different tires on it too. But since the key dongle was working fine - an overcast day - she said they couldn’t do anything about that, and the car was testing out fine so she didn’t know about the stalling and that was that.

I drove it for 5 months and it was fine - I kinda regretted my decision and wished that I would’ve just taken a loan out of the bank and gotten something off craigslist for cheaper, but whatever. Then, one day, it just stalled out in the middle of the road. Wouldn’t turn back on. My boyfriend was driving. He called a tow, and we took it to the mechanic around the corner. When they got in the car the next morning it started fine - they couldn’t reproduce the problem, but they found a loose wire somewhere so maybe that was it and that’ll be $30. A week later: same thing. Stall, Tow, Can’t find anything wrong, but it does stall out for them while test driving - though once they put on the diagnostics, it starts right up. The mechanics throw up their hands. We drive it another week, and this time we take it somewhere different. But they have the same problem, when the equipment goes on, the car starts up. The equipment goes off, it stalls out. But now it’s not stalling out anymore so come get it. By now my poor boyfriend has asked for multiple rides from his coworkers and missed a lot of work. Somehow, when I drove the car, it was always fine. An odd sort of luck to have in the middle of having bad luck.

We do the same several more times, taking it to different mechanics. Finally I decide to take it to a Mitsubishi dealership - I call them up and the dude on the phone, Gary, assures me that they have an employee who is Mitsubishi certified and has been working exclusively on Mits for 30 years. Sounds promising, so next time the thing breaks down, I tell boyfriend to have it towed there. He complies, and busses back to work. The next morning I get a call, and Gary explains that I have a bad electronic control module thingie. I’m not that clear on the details of exactly what’s being fixed, but I do know that it’s going to cost $2,330. Holy lamppost, that’s my entire savings plus about a thousand bucks. I call the Toyota dealership, somehow thinking I can convince them to pay for it since the car displayed this symptom in the first 30 days. Why haven’t you been bringing it to us, the guy asks, and then he says he’ll talk to his supervisor and see how the paper trail reads. When I get a call a few hours later, he says no - there’s nothing to be done they have nothing in the paper trail about stalling out and the thing’s not under warrantee anyway. A few days later Gary calls and says they found a deal on a part and it’ll only cost 1,800. That’s slightly more manageable. Fine, do it.

Get the car back a day or two later. Boyfriend brings it home, says it drives a little better, we think we’re done. But no - within a week: stall. At this point boyfriend has cell phone issues too. Terrible luck going on for us. He breaks down right in front of an elementary school and walks in to use the phone - everyone seems pretty sketched out at first, but they’re really friendly when he explains what happened and they let him use the phone to call the tow truck, me, and work. Then he ends up taking a 3 hour tow detour because right when the tow trucker arrives, he gets a call from the police, and explains that they go through the towers in alphabetical order, and if they call you and you don’t come one time, they skip you thereafter, so he can’t afford not to come tow for them. Boyfriend goes along - it’s nasty out and going to a crash scene seems better than standing out with a car that won’t start in front of an elementary school for a few hours. He’s over four hours late to work that day, and pretty well seething. I get a call from Gary at the mechanics the next day: they think that the new delay that they installed needed to be “flashed” or something so that the car would recognize our keys as valid, and not think it was being stolen. So when a car thinks it’s being stolen, it just turns itself off and won’t start after a while. I don’t like my car to be that smart - especially when it’s acting so dumb. But the explanation sounds reasonable, he’s not charging us, and he apologizes for our inconvenience. Boyfriend gets a ride to the mechanics and brings it home. That night? Stall.

So here we are. I drive the car to the mechanics yesterday, and on the the way there, the dash electricity flicks out at one moment, and the thing stalls EXACTLY in the middle of my left hand turn on the busiest road. Thank goodness it starts right up again. This is the first time it’s happened to me while driving. I talk to Gary - he’s pretty well baffled.

So I’m not going to school next semester because I spent all this money on the gosh darned car - but I need the car to GO to school since it’s in a different town than I am. I’m waiting to hear back from Gary. Does anyone have any ideas on how I can get out of this pickle? I have insurance that if it’s pronounced “totaled” or if it’s stolen, my bank will forgive my loan and give me a grand towards a new car loan. How many times would it have to stall out to be totaled? Gary said that usually they have to be in collisions for that to apply - has that been y’all’s experience.?

What do you guys think I should do?

For starters, I think that you should give us a concise recitation of the problem, leaving out the social novela that seems to make up the majority of your post. If you can be more concise, more people will read your post and more people might be able to come up with some suggestions.

I am being serious, because once I saw the length of your post, I just skimmed the bulk of it until I came to the end, and I doubt that I am the only person who doesn’t want to wade through all of that detail.

Allow me to summarize: you bought the car used, were told by the salesman that it was “certified”, which it was not. It wobbled and they fixed that at no charge with a half-shaft (axle). 5 months later it started stalling randomly.

To date, no shop has been able to correct the stalling. One guy replaced the ECU (the engine’s computer) but the stallling continues.

There are perhaps two most common reasons for stalling; the first is loss of spark. The OBDII system (On Board Diagnostic) system stores codes for pretty much everything spark related. Since the shops have repeatedly been unable to find any codes, I’d begin checking the fuel supply. A simple line pressure test might yield results.

It might also end up being a loose connection (has anyone checked the battery cables?) or even a bad inertial sensor (designed to shut the fuel pump off if the car rolls over).

These are places to start. However, someone will have to get hands-on with the car to actually diagnose it. An “event recorer” might be necessary. This recording device can measure key outputs during an actual failure and find out what’s happening.

Abd don;t beat yourself up. Used cars are always a crap-shoot, and people get stuck with problem used cars every day of the week.

You need a car but do you need THIS car? I had a car for about 15 years that started to stall on me. In the shop a couple times, replaced a bunch of parts and thought it was done. When it started to stall again, I got rid of it. I’d had enough. Never looked back.

To solve it is going to take some work and time in the shop and some help from you I’m afraid. If it were a Honda product, I would say it sure sounds like the main fuel relay when it gets hot. But it could be anything. When it stalls, you need to know whether fuel pressure is missing or spark is missing. That would help to isolate the problem. I really don’t think its worth trying to figure it out.