Mrs. Dog and I were headed into Athens today to do a little running around. Errands (we’re making red beans and rice tomorrow, so we had to go buy some boudin, and I wanted to run buy a carburetor rebuild kit for the Dart, etc) and we came to the 1st traffic light on 441, whereupon the Dart idled down to a halt and wouldn’t start again. It has done this more than once on cold, wet days, and today was the coldest and the wettest….
I pushed it to the side of the road, stood on the accelerator and kept cranking it until it started. This is the same symptom that I earlier took to mean “bad fuel sending unit” because it happened at just under a quarter of a tank, and it mimics the behavior of a car that has run out of gas. However, today I knew I had a nearly full tank.
After cranking it for a very long time with the pedal on the floor, it finally buh-buh-buh-buhrumbled back to life. Mrs. Dog said “Let’s take it home,” and I said “Nah, it does this every now and then, and then it runs ok after that.”
And it does, but she was skeptical.
I realized it was getting late, so we went straight to the NAPA store, and I told the guy there (a transplant from Long Island, by the way, which is where I guess all the best mechanics come from) that I needed a rebuild kit, and he said “What’s the number on the carb?”
I said “2 barrel Carter factory for a V-8 318, and that’s all I know.”
This (as readers Fixer, Gordon, Darren and Mike -but not me- know) is not enough information. He asked me if the car was there, and I told him it was, and we went outside. Now remember that this is minutes before closing time, and we pulled the air-filter can off so that he could look at the carburetor, whereupon he said “Oh, shit, pal. Your choke is stuck closed.” And so it was.
Talk about your forehead-slapping moments. How many things does this explain…? Let me count the ways: 1. The rough idle, conking out at stoplights in the morning? check. 2. Running rich? check. 3. Bad fuel economy? check. 4. Flooding out? check. 5. Strong gasoline smell/gas on the outside of the carb? check (This means that the carb and the fuel sending unit are both probably fine. That’s a savings of almost $150 AND all of my Sunday.)
So, it needs a new choke thermostat. I was told this would be very hard to find and very expensive, so the nice guy at NAPA just disconnected the choke, used a zip tie to hold the choke plate in the open position, told me to give it a little extra gas before starting it in the morning, and he told me to start hunting for the thermostat. It ran better as soon as I cranked it. I mean, the car already ran pretty well, but now it’s running like a freaking CHAMP. (And, to Mrs. Dog’s delight, we discovered that it’s got a HECK of a lot more pep. Not that we tested this too thoroughly with the streets full of rain and traffic, but we did do a nice zero-to-sixty on the way home.)
He also told me to check and see if I needed to replace the choke pull-off. At this point, I thought, “How do I tell him I don’t know what that is?” I just didn’t. I ordered a Chilton’s manual off of eBay today. Nine bucks, ppd! Two mechanics both recommended the Haynes manuals (and one friend recommended against- sorry, Ben, I had to go with the mechanics) but I couldn’t find a Haynes book for the V-8 Dart, only the V-6. I imagine I will discover the secrets of the choke pull-off in the Chiltons book, if I don’t find out in the comments here.
Additionally, I found a choke thermostat for my car on eBay, as well. The auction ends in two days, and I will most assuredly buy it, UNLESS you guys think I should buy a manual choke kit instead and install that. Opinions?