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Guest Message by DevFuse

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HELP, New to Sub's...random engine shutdown

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16 replies to this topic

#1 Highway 101

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 09:44 PM

Hello all,

This is my first post here. I hope someone can help with this trouble I am having. Please be patient while I bore you with the details leading up to where I am now......my wit's end.

This past summer I bought a 1988 2WD Subaru station wagon. It is a fuel injected non-turbo 1.8 with an automatic transmission. It is loaded with options (A/C, P.S., etc.). I bought it from relatives who had kept it well maintained, and were not experiencing any difficulty with it. Prior to me purchasing the car, they had just done lots of engine work to it....new head gaskets, timing belts, oil pump seals, water pump, tune up, fuel filter, etc. It was there daughters daily around town driver. The mileage is 114,000

I bought it and drove it 40 miles home with no troubles (and none expected). The next day I left for my 24 mile commute to work. After 8 miles or so, it started cutting out. I thought maybe my fuel gauge was wrong, and that maybe I was running out of gas. I pulled over, and by the time I came to a stop, the engine had died and would not restart. About 2 hours later it would start up. I headed back home, but it only ran for about a mile. I towed it the rest of the way. The local import mechanic didn't have time to work on the car but suggested 2 things. 1) A breather system update (rerouting of part of the breather system), and 2) A bad alternator....yeah, a bad alternator could cause it to cut out (he said).

About 6 hours later, I went home and updated the breather system. It started right up (probably would have anyway). I drove it the rest of the week with no problem. My wife then took it out of town shopping. After about 60 miles of highway and in town driving, it quit on her. I got there a few hours later. It would start and run just long enough to get it on the trailer. I tried isolating the alternator, but that did nothing.

By the next day, it would start and run fine. I took it to another shop for diagnosis. They had it for a couple of weeks. They scanned it and drove it a lot, and could not find any problem. Finally they called and said just drive it......call if it breaks down again.

It ran for 2 more days and then shut down one morning after about 3 miles of driving. This time I had some tools with me. I checked for spark.....It had spark. I pulled off the fuel line from the filter.....fuel would come out. I have no idea if it was enough pressure. I then towed it home.

A couple people suggested that the fuel cap may not be venting properly. I bought a new one and went home. First, I verified that it would still not start....it wouldn't. Second, I loosened the old fuel cap. It started right up. I tightened the old fuel cap back up and went for a drive. A couple of miles down the road it quit. I pulled the old cap off and put the new one on. It wouldn't start....ugh. I loosened it. It would not start.

Since this time, I have not been willing to leave the house with it. It will start up in the driveway and run just fine. I have idled it in the driveway for at least 20 minutes with no troubles.

The problem has happened after a couple miles, and after several miles. It has happened on a full fuel tank, and on a partial tank.

PLEASE help. I want to drive it or sell it, but either way, it needs to run. Could it be a weak fuel pump or ??????? I have been careful to not just throw money at guesses. I don't mind spending money on it, I just want good direction of which way to spend it. I hope to find something conclusive, so I am confident driving it.

Thanks very much for your time,

Michael Spears

#2 trooperjeep


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Posted 18 November 2003 - 10:25 PM

Sounds like an electrical problem to me.
When the engine heats up (metal expands when hot) something shuts off.

I would try to get the trouble codes out of the computer first.

On my 92 Loyale it's like this (I hope yours is similar) ...you can check the codes yourself if you unhook the test-mode connector, located under the dash near the fuse box. It's two "T" shaped plugs with 2 pins each inside. Unplugging this will get the LED (light) on the ECM (computer under the steering wheel) to flash it's codes.

Here's some links to an on-line repair manual...



There was another guy in this group who had a similar problem. Do a search on the thread named "EA82T Engine computer problem(up-date)"

Also check out:


Or the main


#3 GeneralDisorder


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Posted 19 November 2003 - 12:08 AM

Well - for one thing, whoever told you the fuel cap may not be venting properly is smoking their shirt or something. All cars since the late 70's at least (not sure of exact year), have evaporative emmisions systems, and do not have vented fuel tank caps. The vent is a rubber line that runs to the engine compartment, and into a charcoal canister where the vapor is stored until it can be burnt by the engine when started.

I agree on checking the engine codes. And that it sounds electrical. But less like a short, and more like a bad sensor or something. At any rate, my best guess would be a heat related electrical problem of some sort. Some sensor is cutting out it sounds like. Look for loose connections or corrosion too. Battery cables tight?


#4 bushbasher


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Posted 19 November 2003 - 12:26 AM

could be something as simple as a bad ground.

#5 Turbone


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Posted 19 November 2003 - 12:51 AM

It could be the electronic module in the distributor. It happened with my 84 turbo wagon, and a few other cars that I know of. Someone in the marketplace might have a spare, or you can look in a local PAP. I think theres a couple in Oly.



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Posted 19 November 2003 - 01:01 AM

I am gonna go out on a limb here. I am gonna vote for a fuel pump. I had the exact same problems when mine started going bad in my Mustang. It became progressively worse. Fuel pump heats up and then doesn't work. It was random at first. Once it died, You would have to wait a while then it would start right back up and once it got heated up ( a few miles/minutes) it would die again. Never hurts to change the fuel filters as well. Good luck, let us know how you make out, Boz

#7 Scrub2k


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Posted 19 November 2003 - 03:34 AM

Im Gonna Hafta agree with Phatbrat and vote for the Fuel Pump my honda did the same exact thing and then i replaced the fuel pump and it hasent done anything like that again.

#8 Turbone


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Posted 19 November 2003 - 04:49 AM

Another point I just thought about, and which happened to me also, seeing how they replaced the head gaskets, some electrical connections might have been moved/disconnected. Check all the major elec connectors in the engine bay.

#9 camosuba


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Posted 19 November 2003 - 06:33 AM

The fuel filter is how old ? maybe its full of gunk and progresivly blocks up as you go then the crap falls away when stopped, then it runs for a while and does it again ?

#10 Meeky Moose

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 07:59 AM

fuel pump, fuel filter, deffinitely not the alternator...

electronic module in the distributor a good possibility..

if the alternator was the culprit you'd have a dead battery...

i'd start with the cheap fixes, fuel filter first.. then the electronic module in the distributor, then the fuel pump.. its bound to be one of those

#11 Highway 101

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 10:38 PM

Thanks all for the ideas. I haven't had much time to spend on diagnosis yet. My battery was dead for a couple months, then out for a couple days. Does anyone know if this would have affected any of the the codes in the computer?

Rob, what is a "PAP"?

I did come across something today that may have been the problem all along. If it was the problem I am going to feel real STUPID!!!!! All of the tune up parts and filters were replaced within a few hundred miles before I bought the car..........so, I never bothered checking any of them. Today I pulled the distributor cap off and found moisture! Looking back, it makes sense. I would bet that my cousin hosed out the engine compartment just prior to selling. If so, this may explain why he never had this problem that I had just one day after buying it. Does this make sense? I have had water in the distributor of cars before. They either ran bad, or did not run. I don't think I have ever had it run great then intermittently die and not re-start. Anyway, I blew out the distributor with air, and ran it in the driveway for about an hour with no problems. I don't know if I have the courage to take it for a spin yet.

Any more comments are appreciated, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Again, thanks much,


#12 the_bard


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Posted 19 November 2003 - 10:47 PM

PAP = Pick A Part, junkyard, U-Pull-It... place where you go to pull parts out of cars that have gone to heaven.

I've had a few problems with wet disty's, too... last one, '86 Pontiac Bonneville went through a two foot deep puddle at about 55 mph. The driver took it to the parking lot, shut it off, then started it up four hours later. Ran it for about five minutes, then shut it off. Five hours afterwards, it wouldn't start. He had it towed to a shop... had lots of water in the disty (we had pull the cap off, cleaned it up, but I didn't have the guts to disassemble the disty itself... the engine hadn't seen a tune-up or mechanic in years). Sucked a lot of water through the carb, too, from what the mech said.

#13 Log1call


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Posted 31 October 2004 - 11:55 PM

I'm a mechanic and in my experiance the most common cause will be a distributor. The fuel pump could cause it but that is fairly easy to test, can you hear the fuel pump noise when you turn the key on?
When it cuts out try turning off the key then turning it back on and listening for the pump noise, if you hear the noise then it's propably not the pump. I'd try a second hand distributor.

#14 Turbone


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Posted 01 November 2004 - 12:28 AM

Welcome to the board. I dont know why you brought up a post thats almost a year old tho? What are you searching for?
Theres quite a few full time mechs on the board and we have alot of Tech School students also.
Unfortunatly, the original poster never came back to tell us if the car got fixed and what the problem was. Even tho I did state that it could be a disty going bad, I now think it could have been the coil. Its been a current problem here lately.

#15 Highway 101

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Posted 01 November 2004 - 12:57 AM

Hi guys,

It's me.......the original poster. Sorry I never responded with the conclusion to my Subaru problem. It turned into quite an ordeal with eventually a very simple solution. After finding moisture in the distributor, I dried out the distributor and changed the cap and rotor. I suspected my problem had been solved. I drove it regularly for at least a week with no repeat of the problem. I was now convinced that the problem was solved.

I ended up selling the car.......and the very next day, the car died on the new owner. Same problem. We gave the money back and brought the car home. I was pretty disgusted (sp?). I ended up slashing the price and selling the car in it's intermittently working state to my neighbor. He tried a good second hand distributor......no change. One of the times that it died on him....while he was waiting for it to restart, he pulled out the owners manual and began reading. One of the first things that caught his eye was that it said not to ever use fuel with alcohol in it. He didn't know what kind of gas had been put in it, and I didn't remember either. He started running premium (or at least mid grade) fuel in it and the problem never returned. His daughter has been driving the car for almost a year now.....always using "good" gas and has never had the car die on her.

Since then I have had others say...."Oh yeah.....you have to run good gas in a Subaru".

Thanks for all who posted,


#16 Turbone


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Posted 01 November 2004 - 01:08 AM

Wow, what are the chances of this happening again? :cool:
Its good to know the car is finally running without problems.
It seems that this issue isnt that common, tho I know theres a few folks out there that have had some type of fuel problems. I wonder if its due to your location and availability of gas?

#17 cap86


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Posted 21 November 2004 - 01:53 PM

I think my car has the same or a similar problem. (86GL/carb 4wd) the car dosen't die completly, but rather bucks & cuts out (rapid in/out) quickly and repeatedly and effectively kills any forward momentum. it started as just a relatively rare occurance at highway speeds but seemed to recover if you coast to a stop or put in the clutch and then it would either repeat the problem or go away over several months it got more frequent and now it's at the point that it happens whenever the engine gets under a load like going up a hill or moving along in the upper RPM range. It seems completly electrical in nature because when it happens the entire car cuts out/ dash lights come on 4wd light etc blink on & off with the cutout. does not seem like a fuel starvation (filter/pressure/pump) problem which would only affect the motor, not electrical system. I've seen the discussions here about jumpy tachs etc and have tried the recommended fixes... i.e. I tried another distributor, no better. then I replaced the ignition coil, no better. unplugged the alternator, no better. I was wondering if there is some kind of fuel system module that cuts power to the entire system or something like if there is an accident it would cutoff the fuel pump & electronics. could it be something like that going bad? It just seems like some kind of electronic control module going bad. I haven't replaced the fuel filters or pump yet because it just dosen't seem fuel (liquid) related. Any ideas?

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