Is there any hope for my "new" Dodge Dart?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently purchased a 1973 Dodge Dart (don't laugh). The car has 61,000 original miles on a 318, V-8 engine. The original interior is nearly flawless, and the paint still shines. I paid only $700 for the car. Now here's the bad part. If the car sits for more than a couple of hours, I have to warm it up for 15 or 20 minutes before I can drive it. Otherwise, it just keeps stalling out. I had a new starter and a rebuilt alternator put in, and also had the engine tuned. It's really frustrating to have to warm up the car for 15 minutes before running to the corner store for a loaf of bread. Is there anything I can do to make this sleepy car wake up quicker?

TOM: Well, David, now you know why this car has only 61,000 miles on it in 19 years. It spent most of that time sitting in the driveway warming up!

RAY: Actually, those were the dark years for Chrysler...'73, '74, '75. And come to think of it, '76, '77, '78, and '79, too.

TOM: The problem was that Chrysler was trying to meet the government's stricter emissions standards. And rather than start from scratch and design a cleaner engine, they did what all the other manufacturers did; they tried to fiddle around with their old engines until they passed. Unfortunately, the only way they could get them to meet the emissions requirements was to make the fuel mixture extremely lean.

RAY: And if everything in the engine is working absolutely perfectly, that engine runs pretty well on a lean mixture. But if one little thing is wrong, the engine runs poorly. And it will be much worse when the engine is cold, because warm engines are much more forgiving of a lean mixture than cold engines.

TOM: David, there are lots of possible causes for this problem. Here's a list of things you can ask your mechanic to check out: A weak accelerator pump, a blocked manifold heat control passage, incorrect timing, a broken vacuum advance, a missing hose between the exhaust manifold and the blend door in the air cleaner snorkle, a broken thermal vacuum switch that operates that blend door, or a lazy choke that's not closing all the way.

RAY: Any of these things, or any combination of them, could be responsible for lousy engine performance.

TOM: So here's the good news, Dave. As soon as you check out each one of these items, and fix every one that needs to be repaired, this car will run great! least almost as well as it did in 1974.

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