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Cylinder misfire & check engine light

ergalthema ergalthema
New User | Posts: 8 | Joined: 07/09
Posted: 03/30/13
03:34 PM

2003 automatic Vibe with 218k miles. Starting a year or so ago, the car has been occasionally loosing power and the gear shifting feels strange at a particular speed/incline. On the Interstate at 65MPH, it feels fine. The city stop/go is a little weird when accelerating sometimes, but generally feels/sounds fine.

A few months ago, the engine light came on. The shop said it was a cylinder misfire code. Since then, it has went off/on a few times. Always the misfire code.

I feel like I know how to work the gas pedal so that the "weird gear shifting thing" doesn't happen. I put the shifting part in quotes, because I think it might be a symptom of a misfire.

I only drive the car on the weekends. My ex drives it during the week. It's strange to me that, more than once, the check engine light is on as soon as I first start the car on the weekend. She says the light doesn't come when she drove it. Usually the light goes off after I drive it for a while. Then it seems like I pick it up next weekend and the light is back on as soon as I start the car. There have actually been a couple times when she said the light came on while she was driving, but the last two times she said it was off when she last used it.

I don't like feeling that I don't trust her, but it's hard for me to believe that the light isn't coming on at some point while she's driving it. My guess is she doesn't know how to avoid the "weird gear shifting thing" the way I do, and if it happens "hard" enough it causes the misfire code.

I'm going to take the car to the shop again Monday morning, and try to get a thorough diagnosis. At 218k, and a slight oil leak, it's a tough decision to get a full tune up (which I'm guessing is hundreds of dollars).

I basically wanted to explain everything and see if anyone has any guesses or advice. Thank you.  

wayne712222 wayne712222
Guru | Posts: 1856 | Joined: 03/13
Posted: 03/30/13
07:06 PM

well there are a few things...   at 218K miles..  its time for its second tune up...

this is not impossible...for the average car owner with a few metric tools and a properly sized spark plug socket/ratchet set..

you will also want to invest in a scan tool...  the least expensive unit is a harbor freight 98614... usually 120 bucks..

you will want to identify the trouble codes.. and be able to clear them..

if you remove the Ignition coils ... inspect them for signs of high voltage leakage...

you will want to open the hood in the dark... with the engine running... look at the top of the coils.. do you see any small purple sparks from the coils... ????? that would indicate that you need new coils... coils are over 100 bucks each.. sorry..  and there are 4 of them..  yep... be glad you don't have a mid 90s jag.. with coils at 750 bucks a pop... and need six at a time..

check the boot for signs of high voltage leaks thru the side.. around the end where it pushes down over the spark plug insulator...

this does make random misfires...

be prepared...  you will also want a set of spark plugs... and 2 packages of special lubes..

one small package of spark plug boot lube..  its like a buck thirty..  you take the tip of the screw driver and wipe a small amount around the inside of the boot. but NOT on the metal contacts.. this prevents high voltage from leaking down and out between the boot and the spark plug insulator..

DO NOT USE THIS ON THREADED parts like the spark plug threads... you won't like the result.. only inside the boot but again NOT on the metal contacts..

this is spark plug anti seize...

it goes on the THREADS of the spark plug.. but not on the end.. it prevents the spark plugs from seizing to the threads in the aluminum head...

this is where i would start...

with a scan tool.. if you get Other than a P0300... and you do get something like a P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304...  i would mark the coils for location...

and i would SWAP their location ...   then drive the car.. see if the misfire follows the coil swap..   this usually requires a proper scan tool.. so you can check the codes... and clear them at will...

if this does not cure the issue...  then we look at cleaning the fuel injectors..

fuel injectors can clog...  it will limit their ability to deliver a full spray of fuel under moderate to heavy loads...

chances are your wife drives the car with an egg under the pedal... where you depress the throttle slightly more than she does..  this increases the fuel injector pulse width from the computer.. with restricted partially clogged fuel injectors.. you will not have enough fuel when you are heavy on the pedal and it can cause random misfires also...

you may want to pour HALF a can of this into your fuel tank.. with the tank half way.. or so...

its barryman #0116... there is a larger can of 0117C also..

please use a Transmission funnel as this stuff if it spills on your paint can ruin it.

its STRONG.. i don't recommend more than half a container once a month.. into half a tank... so it gets stirred around while you drive..

on variations of these.. i normally remove the injectors and have a test button to power the injector open in pulses..  and i have an adaptor to attach a spray can nozzle to spray this barryman or other carb cleaner straight thru the injector while its open..  this requires new injector Oring seals.. and some knowledge of what you are doing to prevent fuel leaks from improper reassembly..  

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