Used Car Owner Blues - or How I Learned to Live Out of Warrantee

(Posted 1/12/2003) - Here's proof that a pensioner's life isn't all about clipping coupons and smelling roses. The '86 Sprint I inherited when my mom wisely went upscale with a snazzy 2002 Focus ZX3, finally acted its age. The symptom: No go between idle and about 2000 RPM. This kind of a flat-spot puts you at the side of the road if your car has an automatic transmission; but luckily the Sprint is equiped with a manual transmission. When the car went south, I was actually driving south to Casey, IL. By slipping the clutch and pumping the gas peddle (to inject gas via the accelerator pump), I was able to get the engine up above 2000 RPM, at which point it pulled strong and was quite roadworthy. So, as long as I didn't stop there really wasn't any problem with driveability. You see the problem don't you? Way too many stop signs, traffic lights, and intersections where you have to stop to turn left -- not to mention stop and go traffic.

It looked like a classic plugged jet or clogged air-bleed in the carburetor (yes, it's an old car and uses a carb). So, I bought a $40 carb rebuild kit, removed and dissassembled the beast, and did the standard clean up of jets and passages. I put it all back together, and *#@$!! it still stalled coming off idle!

I did some internet cruising to find out what was up with this crazy Hitachi carb. I discovered there's a Mixture Control Solenoid (MCS) inside the carburetor that is computer controlled (based on oxygen sensor, air pressure, coolant temp, RPM, and throttle position inputs). It is known to go bad with little warning in older cars. I ran a test to determine if this little stepper solenoid was working right -- it wasn't! Gaaaaah! Hitachi doesn't sell the MCS as a separate part -- so my only recourse was to buy a remanufactured Hitachi carburetor. Guess what, it cost $400 bucks!

I will now switch to stream of conciousness mode for a moment. OK, I got the new carb, installed it, and - oh no, it died after warm up! $#$#@!! -- oh wait, I left off the vacuum hose for the EGR modulator. Good, now the car runs like it should. For your reading pleasure, I've documented this episode with pictures, which show the remanufactured hitachi carburetor I finally ended up buying. Click on a picture for a full size view.

The old carb, which for 16+ years worked flawlessly, finally went bad (but will be born again since I had to turn it in for remanufacture, or pay an additional $75 core charge).

The disassembled carb shows the air horn removed, the MCS is visible -- but couldn't be replaced as a separate component.

The Sprint is still providing reliable transportation after almost 17 years of service. Did I tell you its a 50 horsepower, 3 cylinder, 1Liter (that's 60 cubic inches for you old timers) 4-door hatchback? When driven at 55 MPH (no head wind please), it gets over 50 MPG. Hmmmm. 50 HP, 55 MPH, 50 MPG -- there's a pattern there somewhere.