As you know newer vehicles do not have a ignition points, distributor, and a distributor cap to name a few components from the old school ignition systems.
Its a high tech system with individual coils, and triggering replacing the ignition points of way back in the day. The triggering usually runs from the crankshaft in one fashion or another.
Walter is no different, having 2 spark plugs per cylinder, ignition coils on top of the spark plugs, at first blush its a bullet proof system with a crank triggering from the flywheel.
Such a system gives the initial impression of lasting forever, with the exception of the spark plugs which were replaced last year.
Here is the deal:
We noticed that the idle had become marginally rougher, V8's are smooth at idle in drive, now the idle is a few increments rougher. There are no signs of anything amiss. This develops when there are a myriad of things going on, with higher priorities that an incrementally rougher idle on a car. Plus if something is really off some light is going to turn on in the dash or so we thought.
Last Friday a member of the family is using the car, we get a call that its turning over and not starting...we should mention that we have absolutely no patience for any vehicle that does not start. Fortunately the car is in a parking lot, by the time we get there with our just in case kit of a booster pack, and spare key not to disturb people. Walter fires up instantly, the check engine light stays on momentarily and then turns off.
What could it be? Perhaps its just a glitch...yes a case of wishful thinking when there are a ton of other priorities. Sunday morning the car does the same thing, except this time there is really no time to deal with a non starting car that is full of stuff.
Fortunately we have a few vehicles available, we get into another vehicle to catch up to Walter and empty it out in case it persists in not starting. In the meantime we get a call that the car started. It then stalls at an intersection in the middle lane to absolutely not start again.
Sunday morning busy intersection, cars backed up behind it, who needs this on a Sunday morning with a bunch of other stuff to do and little time. Serendipity steps in on our return from the rescue mission "Oh Walter is just up front...why are the flashers on?"
If you dont have a CAA membership get one, these folks are very helpful, in less than 30 minutes the flatbed is there to pick up Walter after transferring the contents to another vehicle. Obvious by then commandeering a 3 lane intersection.
While waiting for CAA a call to our friendly mechanic..."its the crank sensor" a common occurrence on those cars. Obvious that now all the dots connect. The sensor is garbling the signal which leads to the rough idle, its intermittent, no start, stall, then start again.
The best part is that the car started Monday morning at our friendly mechanic. Once the car was plugged to the DAS the crank sensor appears as a fault code.
You have to wonder who got a promotion by saving a few pennies on a crank sensor with poor durability. The spreadsheet jockey that saved the pennies, surely did not consider how annoying, and potentially dangerous an intermittent crank sensor can become.
A crank sensor is about $200. the circumstances around it are priceless, and time wasted irreplaceable.