Timing belt

My 1994 TransAm has 70k miles. As I’;m driving, I’ll notice the tach needle drop to zero with no warning, and the car just dies. Battery is fine, gas tank is full, and it soon starts again and works normally. Friends have suggested the timing belt (or chain?) may be the issue, and one day, it won’t start again, or it will break and ruin the engine. She, like me, is an antique – is it time to take her in to the repair shop, and if so, is it costly?

What motor is in your Firebird? V6, V8, size in liters (L) or cubic inches? I doubt you have a timing belt. If the timing chain jumped it won’t be running normally if at all.

Your first move is to check the battery connections at the battery and motor for corrosion. They could use a cleaning in an old car. Seems you lost all electrical power for a few moments. Shouldn’t be too costly to have this checked out.

Another possible is a worn ignition switch if all in the battery connections are OK.

Your car has a timing chain, not a belt, and the chain should last the life of the engine, which should be significantly longer than 70K miles. Years don’t matter to a chain.

The problem with the car stalling could be ignition or fuel related, but it is not caused by the timing chain.

Thank you, thank you! I plan to drive that Old Diva till they pry my cold dead fingers from her steering wheel, and your quick reply is a great comfort!

It CAN’T be the timing belt or chain…They don’t just repair themselves when and if they break.

I called my excellent local mechanic, Mark at White Rock Automotive in Dallas, and he said the same thing. The Old Diva goes in this evening after work, and I’m a lot less worried. Thanks for all the good help!

Please keep us updated!!! We all like to learn the outcome of things.

Actually, these cars are quite reliable and at 70k miles yours is just a baby.

There are several possibilities right off the top. One is the crankshaft position sensor which can be a hit and miss proposition. There may be codes present to show this.

The other is the fuel pump; especially so if the fuel filter has not been changed (or ever) regularly. Fuel pumps generally have a shorter lifespan when working against a partially clogged fuel filter and they also can be a hit and miss thing.

The bad part about the pump is that it’s a major job on these cars. I think (not certain on your model) the exhaust system has to be physically cut loose, the rear suspension partially removed, the rear axle dropped, etc. to allow the fuel tank to be removed so the pump can be accessed. The pump is also pricier because it’s a self-contained module type unit.

Thank you all – I can’t tell you how much better I feel. If this is a fuel pump issue, I’ll just have to grin and bear it, but I know we’ll be well taken care of, and what you all are suggesting is very helpful. I’ll take her in this evening, and she can just stay there while our weather gets ugly, since the convertible top doesn’t seal very well any more. And thanks for saying she’s still young – we old divas need that now and then!

It’s a 25th Anniversary TransAm convertible – big V8. Oddly, I did not lose electric power – lights and radio stayed on till I turned them off – but of course the power steering and brakes went out. It’s had the ignition coil replaced about five years ago, and I believe the symptoms were similar then. Perhaps the car and I are both having senior moments…

Thank you so much for your input!