Engine 89 LX 2.3L - Shut off after a second after startup. Then ran fine hours later.


Sep 25, 2012
89 LX 2.3L.
Today I went to start it up. It started within a second of turning it over. Ran for a second, then shut off completely. Just like turned the key off. No sputters. Just shut off. Tried to turn it over a few times after that. Never fired once. When I got out, it smelled "flooded". So I said "screw it" because I was late and took another car. It had sat maybe 2 weeks prior to this. Before that, it was driven once a week with no issues.

Came back a few hours later, and it started up and ran fine with no issues (except for below).

Additional info that may or may not be relevant:
For the past year or so, it would most of the time run fine from a cold start. I could drive it for maybe 15min. Let it sit for an hour, then drive it home. It would sputter bad between 2500 and 3000RPM. Mostly in 2nd and 3rd gear. Could smell very rich exhaust in the cab. Above and below that range it would run fine. It did that for a couple minutes and then ran fine. Only under load - Don't recall it happening when just revving it up.
In recent months, it started doing this from a cold start and lasted a bit longer.

Distributor or something else?
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Sep 8, 2002
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Believe it or not, the first thing I would do is inspect the battery cables. Over time our cables corrode internally and can cause problems. Make sure that you are getting good contact at both ends.

EDIT: I think I misread you - so, it sounds like you had a crank/no start condition, not a loss of power. I'll leave my battery cable post here because it is still a good idea for a 20+ year old car, but it doesn't sound like that is your issue.

Personally I would not throw money at it yet. Unfortunately, I think you are best to get it back into it's "no start" condition so that you can diagnose it. The fact that it turned off on you indicates that something was working and then stopped quickly. The distributor is a possibility, also consider the problematic TFI module. It is a big failure point on the 5.0L cars, and it wouldn't surprise me if the 2.3L had the same or similar problem.
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