On Wed, 10 Apr 1996 SimJaysun@aol.com wrote:
> I knew when I started this that it was going to be a hellion to
> describe...Let me try to be a bit more accurate, and less confusing. (try,
> that is :-) )
> 1) I'm driving along, at any given speed, RPM, shift point (or not shifting
> at all), or acceleration rate.
> 2) Suddenly, there is NO power from the engine, no response when the
> throttle is depressed, and the tach has dropped to zero. I can't even really
> hear the engine running at all, so I go to step 3...
> 3) Assuming the engine has stalled entirely, because there is no response
> from the throttle, I can't hear anything, and the tach is at zero, I take the
> car out of gear, depress the clutch, and turn the key. The starter grinds,
> as if the engine was running. Looking to my dashboard in astonishment, I see
> the "ignition" light is not on, also signifying that the engine is, in fact
> 4) I give up, and start to steer the car to the curb with the tranny in
> neutral. Looking at the dash, I see that the "ignition" light is now lit.
> (???) Okay...so I try to start the car now. It turns over, but doesn't
> fire. Try again...same reaction. I'm thinking that the car is flooded, so I
> wait a couple minutes. Turn it over...still doesn't fire. Try again...AH
> HA! A sputter AFTER I quit turning the starter. Try again...it fires.
> 5) I go along my merry way (naively) and a couple miles down the road, it
> "dies" again... return to step two.
> same problem. Also, this challenge has gradually gotten worse, and worse,
> meaning it happens more frequently each time I drive it (or drove it, as the
> case stands now. I can't even get it to idle for more than two minutes now
> without stalling).
I am going to take a Wild Assed Guess. One scenario seems consistent
with everything except the grinding of the starter that led you to
believe the engine was still running.
If you have an intermittant short to ground in the primary coil circuit,
it would explain everything (I think). I had the same exact symptoms
once in a VW bug. In my bug, the movable side of the points were
adjusted by shim washers on the post. I replaced the points, and one
washer dropped into the distributor unbeknownst to me. The bottom of the
distributor was slightly dished, and the hot lead entered by way of a
post in the bottom, insulated from the body of the distributor.
At -5F on a lonely road between Lebanon and Staunton IL, I experienced
your symptoms. The high frequency vibration of the running engine would
cause the washer to creep over until it shorted between the hot terminal
from the coil and the body of the dist. It was like turning off
the ignition. It had no tach, but an electronic tach would have gone
immediately to zero.
Then cranking the engine would shake it at a lower frequency, move the
washer, and the car would start. It would then stop again at an
unpredictable time, but restart. Yes, I found it. When it's this cold,
your motivation really goes up.
I would suggest you start with a careful examination of the wire from the
contact breaker side of your coil to your distributor, to the points, to
make sure there is no place where it can contact ground. Then examine
the points and their connection to ground to make sure that there is no
place where the connection to ground might be intermittant.
Ray Gibbons Dept. of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics
Univ. of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
firstname.lastname@example.org (802) 656-8910