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A (Car) Case Of Mistaken Identity

November 1, 2021

I don’t trust my mechanic!

I thought you did your own work on your cars?

I do. That’s the problem

I had a friend whose father was a concert orchestra conductor. She said it was impossible for him to go to a concert because he spent the entire time critiquing the conductor. I feel that way with my car.

Does your car sometimes make an unusual noise? Sure. Everyone’s does. What do YOU do? You probably think, “That was weird” and go on about your day. Want to know what I do? I start going over all the things that could be causing it.

Recently, over the past few weeks my car has started to make a growling noise under the hood. Not all the time. Just when I get going above about 40 MPH. You know, any time I’m going fast. At first I thought it was an issue with the muffler or tailpipe.

Nope. Both of those checked out fine. My next thought was possibly a crack in the exhaust manifold. The exhaust manifold is the part that connects the engine to the exhaust system. It gets really hot and if it cracks your car is going to sound like a 1970s muscle car.

Of course, I also checked the oil and other fluids, just in case it was more serious. They were fine. No leaks. But, the growling was slowly getting worse.

And then on Friday it stopped. Literally. I was driving down the freeway at 80 MPH and the entire engine stopped. All the lights on the dash lit up. And the engine was absolutely dead.

My car is a standard transmission, so I could coast. I tried to “push start” the car but it was pretty dead. Fortunately, I was already in the exit lane and managed to coast to a stop off to the side of the road.

A phone call and my friend was on his way to come pick me up. . .my CAR friend. We discussed what could possibly be the issue. A failed fuel pump will make your stop running. But, the fuel pump wouldn’t have caused a growling noise.

I was thinking perhaps it was something inside the engine. Maybe a timing belt. If the belt was fraying, that might sound like a growl. And if the belt breaks that will make the car stop.

We came back later with my Suburban to tow the car to my house. Just on an off chance I tried to start it. It fired right up. Okay, more mystery. We drove to the auto parts store to get parts for a repair on my Suburban the next day.

When we came out of the parts store? Yep. Dead again. So, back inside. At this point, we’d seen enough. Or, I should say my buddy had.

I don’t think it’s the fuel pump. And definitely not the timing chain. I think the issue is that the ignition coil is having an issue.


How would that cause the growling?


No idea. It shouldn’t.

We bought a new ignition coil, but it was at the South Orem store. So, we took the Suburban and picked it up. We were going to install it in the parking lot.

Before we do that, let’s try starting it again.

Yep. Fired right up and I made a beeline for my house and my garage full of tools.

Saturday I replaced the ignition coil.

The ignition coil is that black rectangle between the engine and the (white) distributor cap

The new ignition coil came in a really fancy looking box. Not bad for $27

They certainly didn’t lose any money on packing materials

Old one on top, new on the bottom. Yeah, that crack shouldn’t be there.

This is where the ignition coil and the distributor cap go. They are sort of important to making the car go

Other than being slightly cleaner looking, not much difference in the before vs after

The old one was cracked. As it heated up it would fail.

Today I drove my car back and forth to work with no issues. . .oh, except it makes this growling noise when I go above 40 mph.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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