You need a new mechanic to fix your carburetor problem -- one with some gray hair.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

Guys, can you help a damsel in distress? I've had this 1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic running just fine for 95,000 miles with only minor repairs. I have a great mechanic who's scratching his head about the problem my car now has. I have to pump the accelerator five or six times before it starts. And if I let it sit for two days or more, I have to pump it 15-20 times to get it started. I've had the carburetor rebuilt, but I still have the same problem. Can you suggest a fix, or will I be pumping for the rest of my life? -- Sharon

TOM: Well, first of all, Sharon, make sure you alternate between your right and left leg when you pump. You don't want your right leg to look like Jackie Joyner Kersey's while your left looks like Olive Oyl's.

RAY: Pumping the accelerator when the engine is cold should do two things. It's supposed to set (i.e., engage) the choke, and introduce raw gasoline into the cylinders via the accelerator pump. One or both of those things obviously isn't happening in your car.

TOM: And it should be pretty easy for a mechanic to figure it out. The choke is a piece of cake to check when the engine is cold. Your mechanic can just look at it and tell if it's working.

RAY: If the choke is working properly, then my guess is there's not enough fuel coming out of the accelerator pump. The accelerator pump itself may be weak, or, more likely, there's not enough gasoline in the float bowl (the chamber that stores gasoline inside the carburetor) to supply the accelerator pump.

TOM: Why? That's what your mechanic is going to have to figure out. The float level could be low, which would mean that the carburetor is not storing enough gasoline for its next restart. Or the bowl could be slowly leaking, which would explain very nicely why it's even worse if you wait a few days.

RAY: The most important thing, Sharon, is that you find a different mechanic to fix this -- one with some gray hair.

TOM: Gray roots are fine, too. We don't want to discriminate against mature mechanics with a fashion sense.

RAY: Seriously, older guys remember how carburetors work. And while this is an easy problem to diagnose if you know your way around carburetors, it can be very baffling if you're a young guy who cut his teeth on fuel injection.

TOM: So this is a perfect situation in which to practice age discrimination, Sharon. An old guy is simply much more likely to know carburetors, and you should choose your mechanic accordingly in this particular case.

RAY: We assign stuff in our shop this way all time. Our goal is simply to put the most knowledgeable guy on the job. So anything that's horse-drawn and comes in with wooden wheels automatically goes to my brother.

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