A misfiring engine on a Ford Pinto.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I own a 1980 Ford Pinto (Oh boy!) that has a peculiar problem. I will be cruising down the highway when all of a sudden the engine will start to miss. The miss gets more and more severe until I have to pull off the road. Then the engine dies. I let it sit for 30 seconds, turn the key, then the engine starts as if nothing had ever happened. No miss. No nothing. The car has 145,000 miles, burns a little oil (what Pinto doesn't?), gets 25 miles per gallon, and other than this one little problem, it's been an excellent car. Any ideas?

RAY: Well, Dave, we used to work on Pintos all the time. And through many hours of psychotherapy, we had managed to put most of those unhappy memories behind us...until we got your letter, that is.

TOM: I'd say there are two likely possibilities, Dave. One is a faulty ignition switch, and the other is a bad ignition module.

RAY: If the ignition switch is not making good contact, it can cause the kind of intermittent missing you describe. In that case, when you shut the car off and turn it back on again, you're re-establishing good contact with the ignition switch. Then, the car runs fine again....for a while.

TOM: Here's how you test this theory. Next time it happens, try jiggling the key gently in the ignition switch. Push it forward, as if you were going to start the car, but don't push it quite that far! If you can move the key to a spot where the car runs fine, then replace the ignition switch.

RAY: If you can't get the car to run properly by jiggling the key, then I'd replace the ignition module. Once you do, I'm sure your Pinto will run just as "great" as it did before you had this problem (oh boy!). Good luck, Dave.

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