What would cause a car to run fine for a few miles, then start bucking, kicking and die?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1986 Nissan Pulsar NX with a five-speed transmission. It's in really
great shape and usually runs well. Recently, though, it has developed an
annoying habit of dying a slow (30- to 45-second) death, complete with shivers
and shakes. But up to that point it seems to run perfectly. I took it to the
nearby Nissan dealer, but it was no help. I don't get it. What would cause the
car to run just fine for a few miles, and then start bucking, kicking and die? -
- Theo

RAY: A sudden lack of gasoline would cause just this kind of behavior, Theo. And
that could be caused by a bad fuel pump.

TOM: The Pulsar is mechanically identical to the Nissan Sentra. And Sentras are
famous for failing fuel pumps.

RAY: And you don't say how many miles are on this car, but since it's a 1986, I
think we can safely assume that you've got at least half-a-bajillion.

TOM: Ah, technical terminology!

RAY: So, assuming that your dealer already checked the fuel filter, the next
thing to do is ask your mechanic to check the fuel-pump pressure. If it's below
spec, put a new fuel pump in there, and that should solve the problem.

TOM: If the fuel pump is OK, the next thing to look at would be the secondary
gas filter located inside the carburetor. In this car, that filter sometimes
gets plugged up and causes fuel interruption, mostly at high speed. You have to
take the carburetor apart to change that one. Good luck, Theo.

* * *

What's one secret of financial success? Driving a used car! Read How to Buy a
Used Car: Things Detroit and Tokyo Don't Want You to Know. You can order it by
sending $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No.10 envelope to Used Car,
PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One