How can Dan fix an ornery Mitsubishi diesel... in Taji, Iraq?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm in Taji, Iraq, driving a Mitsubishi diesel pickup with a turbo, intercooled engine. It's very hard to start in the morning. You have to pump the gas at least 10 times, and then, once it starts, you have to hold the pedal all the way down until it stops shaking. There are no external markings to indicate that the truck is a diesel. Not even the gas cap is marked. Do you suppose that the previous driver put gasoline in it by accident? Or is there some other problem? Please help. Contractor support here is minimal, and the shaking is hard on an old guy like me first thing in the morning. -- Dan

RAY: If I were in Iraq, a little engine shake would be the last thing I'd be worried about, Dan. Those "backfires" are what would scare the heck out of me!

TOM: From your description, it sounds like not all of your cylinders are firing right away, like it's running on two or three cylinders. You can keep the engine from stalling by planting your foot on the gas pedal. But it's not until the engine warms up that the other cylinders jump in and make the truck drivable.

RAY: The first thing I'd suspect, in that case, would be your fuel filter or fuel injectors.

TOM: The fuel filter could be clogged for all kinds of reasons. Perhaps no one's changed it since Saddam threw out all the Jiffy al-Lubes. Or maybe some "unfriendlies" have been filling the tank with camel whiz? Who knows?

RAY: If the fuel filter is clean, or the problem continues after you change it, then it could be partially plugged injectors. When an engine's cold, it's very unforgiving of stuff like that.

TOM: But once an engine warms up, a bad spray pattern from an injector is less of a big deal.

RAY: Of course, if the truck continues to run rough even after it's warm and idles roughly, then you could have something more serious: a worn-out engine with lousy compression. In which case, you'll have to appeal for some better contractor support, Dan, in the form of a new engine. Good luck.

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