Welcome to the year 2020. I hope everyone had a good holiday season with lots of good food, friends, and fun. I found myself with a surplus of use-it-or-lose-it vacation days at the end of last year, so I’ve had a few weeks off. I used some of that time to put the finishing touches on the engine before attempting the first start in months. In anticipation of this event, I filled the cooling system with distilled water to flush any remaining sedative and gunk that might be lurking in the block and radiator. After the engine (hopefully) ran a little I’d empty that out and put in actual coolant.
With the coolant tank topped off and the battery recharged (it had been sitting in a cold garage for months, so it was stone dead) and installed, I took a moment to jump the left side of fuse four (the in-tank pre-pump) to the left side of fuse six (the high pressure fuel pump) to get them both running. This was to check for fuel leaks which, thankfully, there were none.
The moment had come. I crossed my fingers and turned the key. After a couple of seconds of turning and a stall or two, the engine hummed fantastically! I was pleased to say the least, and a little proud that I had managed to put everything back together correctly. I let the engine run until the temperature rose to a normal operating level and shut it off. After it had cooled down again I opened up the lower radiator hose and drained the water. It looked pretty clean if not a little murky. I then refilled the system with Pentofrost A3 blue premix and called it a day, happy and confident in my work.
That would soon change.
The next morning (Christmas day, actually), flush with confidence from the previous engine run, I decided to try a cold start. Immediately old familiar problems returned. Instead of the even, steady running of the previous day I was seeing the “stall after start” I had been experiencing before.
This was disheartening. I began to make a checklist of what I knew it couldn’t be.
- The plugs had been changed awhile back.
- The ECT sensor was brand new and from Bosch.
- The IAC was working correctly. Since this seemed to be an idle related issue, I even took it out and retested it to make sure. Yup, it was working fine.
- The fuel pressure regulator had been replaced, so barring having been sold a bad one I didn’t think it was that.
- The injectors were cleaned and tested.
- The distributor rotor was new.
- The timing belt was new, along with all the other belts.
- The in-tank fuel pump and filter had been changed.
Really the only unknown were the fuel filter, the main fuel pump, the MAF sensor, and maybe the O2 sensor. I was pretty sure the MAF sensor was good, but I hadn’t fully tested it. I also wasn’t getting any codes from the ECU or EZK which suggested the computer was satisfied that everything was working. Perhaps it was the computer? I just didn’t know, and it really bothered me. I decided to take a few days to think on it and maybe enjoy the holiday.
A New Year
Come new year’s day, our friends and neighbors invited us to a dumpling making party. This friend was also the main “car guy” I know, so I thought at some point I could ask him for advice. After going over what I’ve done and what I thought might be the issue, he simply said “Cars are meant to run. When they sit for a long time fluids settle, gas separates, water accumulates in the wrong places. Just take it out and run it to work all that stuff out.” That seemed like the simplest place to start and certainly a better plan that just firing the proverbial “parts gun” at the car to solve the issue.
The next day I jumped in the car, started it up, and before the engine stalled I threw it in reverse and backed out of my drive way. Well, I half way backed out before the engine stalled. After a restart I managed to get on the street before stalling. Another restart got me down the street. I repeated this process several times before the stalling went away, and the more I drove around the smoother the engine seemed to run. I drove around for about 20 minutes before returning to the driveway where I let the car idle to see if it would stall. Miraculously, it did not.
This was promising, but I wondered if it was a fluke. Was the engine now running well since I had pushed it up to operating temperature? I would have to return after the engine had cooled and see if it would still show the same stalling behavior. Later than night after the sun had gone down and everything had cooled off I tried to start the engine. Success! It started right back up and idled (relatively) well. I did the same the next day and got the same results. Could my engine issues be solved? Time will be the final judge, but I am very encouraged by how things have gone and am particularly thankful for the advice from my friend.