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2003 Turbo shaking and shuddering and losing power

 
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Old 31 Oct 2013, 09:31 pm
Whistler's Avatar
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Default 2003 Turbo shaking and shuddering and losing power

Yesterday we had the first cause of concern since buying our PT Cruiser a couple of years ago. Its a 2003 turbo, automatic transmission. Husband was driving and we got a few minutes out from our house when I heard a ping. I asked him what it was and he said the check engine light came on but the car was operating fine. Within a minute we were driving up a hill 60km zone (40mph) and the car started shuddering and shaking like the engine was cutting in and out and the speed dropped to about 40km (25mph). There was no safe place to pull over so husband continued driving with the hazard lights on until we crested the hill and had a shoulder to pull over on. I was amazed this great little car did its job and got us up the hill to somewhere safe to stop. I really thought it was going to conk out. I hopped out and checked the gas cap because in the past when the check engine light has come on and we checked the code it has something to do with the gas cap. It seemed loose. I removed it completely and then screwed it back in. The engine seemed OK so husband continued on but the engine almost immediately started cutting in and out again. This whole episode probably lasted only 3 minutes or so - it only seemed like longer. Then the car started running normally. We were almost at our destination by that time. Before going home I filled up the gas, it was about a quarter tank while this was going on. The check engine light stayed on the whole time even after refueling. Including the refilling and driving home, on the road about 20 minutes with no further problems. My husband drove it later and the check engine light had gone off and the car is running fine. Likewise today, car is operating normally.

My husband thinks someone might have peed in the gas tank or put popcorn in there and filling the tank might have corrected the dilution. How do men come up with this stuff? Being the day before Halloween? An odd thing yesterday morning we noticed someone attempted to steal the license plates off our truck. They didn't get them but maybe took out their frustration on the Cruiser's gas tank.

Are there more experienced Cruiser owners who know what might have happened or is my husband's guess in the ballpark?
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Old 01 Nov 2013, 02:35 am
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Default Re: 2003 Turbo shaking and shuddering and losing power

Whistler; the car probably went into limp mode [which is also related to peeeing in the tank] because of the loose gas cap. And it took a while for the sensors to send good messages to the computer to make it happy and correct itself. However, limp mode usually does not make the car skip.

If you really want to verify your husband's theory, just taste the gas. A salty flavor is a dead giveaway!
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Old 01 Nov 2013, 07:16 am
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Default Re: 2003 Turbo shaking and shuddering and losing power

Although pt06's idea might work, I wouldn't advise it.

Possibly, if the hill you were going up was steep enough and the fuel left in the tank was low enough, your engine was starving for fuel as the gas pick-up in the tank couldn't reach what was left in the tank. Just a thought.

You don't want to let the fuel tank get too low anyway as the fuel pump is lubricated and cooled by the gas itself. Running too low will overheat the pump.
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Old 01 Nov 2013, 10:55 am
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Default Re: 2003 Turbo shaking and shuddering and losing power

Get the fault codes, then you'll know....
How to retrieve fault codes.

If that just gives "done", then go to an auto parts store - most will plug in a code reader for free...

Could be several things - cam sensor is my hunch....
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Old 02 Nov 2013, 03:37 pm
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Default Re: 2003 Turbo shaking and shuddering and losing power

Hi, thanks for the responses! I think I'll pass on tasting the gas!

Here's the update. On Halloween the car was running just fine. Yesterday, Nov 1, while I was waiting for a light the check engine light came on again. Car was operating normally but I did notice the temperature gauge which is usually at the halfway point was running closer to Cold, about 1/4 up from the C.

We don't drive the car too much, usually within 15 minutes drive of our house, mostly out to the farm where I keep my horses and other local errands. Today when I headed out there I was on the same hill I suppose but 8 blocks over on a different street, a highway that is 50mph (80 km), and yes I'd say its fairly steep. It goes up for about 8 blocks, levels off for about 4 blocks, and then steep downhill. Or in reverse if coming home. As I headed up with over 3/4 full gas tank I got the hesitation, losing power - limping that was a good term - after a block. There is nowhere to pull over on this stretch of highway on the 16 blocks of the hills. Highway butts up to a raised sidewalk. I was close to a side street so I turned off and pulled over on the other street. Waited a few seconds and began driving again deciding to stick to the back streets now where there's at least a gravel shoulder to pull off on if I need to. Car did the same thing a couple more times, on a level section. I found if I took my foot off the accelerator, let it cruise a second or two, and then gave it gas it had corrected itself off this limping thing. I drove home from the farm and the car was fine except the temperature gauge barely lifted off the C.

I got the error code - P 0128 - and looked into it. Seems to have something to do with the radiator maybe the coolant. Phoned my husband to check if we have antifreeze at home or if I should stop and buy some, but he said we have some and he'll check the levels. So I guess we start there and then see if it makes a difference of if we need a new sensor or radiator cap.

Does anyone have any theories if the 0128 error code could have anything to do with this intermittent limping?

Thanks for the help!
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Old 06 Nov 2013, 12:38 am
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Default Re: 2003 Turbo shaking and shuddering and losing power

Whisler; p0128 = thermostat. Change it and bleed the system. Then make a few 10 minute runs letting the engine cool down in between runs. The level in the reservoir tank should drop during the cool down periods. Refill to proper level [about 1/3 full cold]. This displaces the air in the head with coolant. When the coolant level stabilizes when the engine is cold, your done!
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