My car is suffocating!.. sometimes

I drive a 2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS, and it drives great. Except under one very specific circumstance, where it gets awful for a while.

When I start my car, if I don’t let it start all the way and warm up (at least to the point where the idle drops back down) before turning it off, it will run like it’s flooded for quite some time thereafter.

When it’s running badly, I have to keep the rpm’s above 2000 or it will sputter and stall out (which makes stopping difficult - I put it in neutral a lot). Furthermore, I can hear the car’s air intake being restricted. I know what the air sounds like normally going in to the car, and when I’m having the problem, it sounds like the car is suffocating!

It’s my understanding that my car doesn’t have a choke, per se, but it must have some sort of equivalent. Essentially it’s acting like the choke is stuck in.

So on the rare occasions where I forget to let my car warm up, or if I turn the engine over but accidentally release the key too soon, I know for certain that the next time I start it, it will run like the choke is on.

It usually behaves like this for around 30 minutes or 15 miles, sometimes more, sometimes less. Eventually the “Check Engine” light will come on. Finally, the car returns to normal, and then eventually the “Check Engine” light shuts off, and I say to myself, “I have to remember not to turn the key with my greasy french fry hands!”

It seems like there should be a simple way to disengage whatever it is that’s “choking” my engine. Anybody have any ideas?

If the Check Engine light is coming on, you need to have the computer scanned for DTC’s to see if it’s related to the way the engine is performing. Some parts stores such as AutoZone will plug in a code reader to the diagnostic connector and pull codes for free. Until this is done, there’s no telling what’s causing the engine to run this way.


I’m not going to cause the problem, if I can help it. It had been months since the last time this happened. If things go according to plan, it will be some time before I can get the car to Auto Zone while the check engine light is on.

Other than agreeing about getting the codes pulled I may make a guess at an Idle Air Valve control problem. Either a sticking dirty valve or faulty one.

The computer will store the code(s) after the light goes out.

It will only store them for a period of time. If the code doesn’t reappear after a certain number of drive cycles, it gets deleted. The codes need to be checked within 30 drive cycles after the CEL goes out for most vehicles.

I second the idea of checking the Idle Air Control Valve (IAC). Check it with your multimeter, and while you’re there, check your air intake sensor as well. But definately get the codes pulled, even though that will only tell you which circuit the problem may be in, not which part.

My text indicates 40 cycles must occure and freeze frame data is not erased until the associated history DTC is cleared

As unbelievable as it may seem, it turns out the my car’s problems were being caused simply by a bad battery terminal. Total cost of repairs, $5.