He has a magic bottle...
May 5, 2012 10:51 PM   Subscribe

What the heck is wrong with my neighbor's car?

I live in a fairly large apartment complex. My balcony faces the parking lot. Every time one of my neighbors goes out to start his car, it fails to start right up. It makes the vr-vr-vr noise, but doesn't turn over. Every time this happens, he gets a bottle of something out of his trunk, pops the hood, fiddles a little bit (opens something? I can't see that side of his car), pours a little bit of the magic bottle stuff in and tries to start it again. He usually has to pour stuff in and try to start it several times before it finally turns over. It's a bottle about the size of a bottle of cooking oil, and the contents are pale yellow. Each time he pours it in, he doesn't use very much. Last time, the bottle started at less than half full, he pored it in four times and there was still about 2 inches of stuff left in the bottle. When the car finally does start, there is always a cloud of white smoke that comes out of the exhaust pipe and when he drives away there is a (noticable from outside the car) metally grinding noise.

A few weeks ago, it seemed like he had gotten it fixed, but lately he's back to the same routine. It's an older looking Honda LX. I'd just ask him, but I never see this guy in normal life and I don't want want to be some crazy lady yelling at a stranger from her balcony. The curiousity is killing me! What is wrong? And what's the magic bottle? Any ideas?
posted by Weeping_angel to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
The mister guesses he's manually priming his carburetor by pouring fuel directly into due to problems with his fuel filter.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:17 PM on May 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

The white smoke could indicate some condensation in the exhaust line -- or a blown head gasket. In the latter case, you won't have to worry about his car much longer, because it's going to stop dead in the road somewhere soon.

The grinding noise is most likely the transmission itself and not the engine, but if a piston is starting to lock up ... yeah, soon is soon. So there's that.
posted by dhartung at 11:28 PM on May 5, 2012

Starter Fluid?
posted by ob1quixote at 1:19 AM on May 6, 2012

In Australia they sell this kind of engine primer in aerosol form under the name Start Ya Bastard.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:00 AM on May 6, 2012 [8 favorites]

It would help to know where on the engine he pours the stuff into. Oil fill port? Radiator overfill tank?

It's been ages since Hondas had carburetors, and he's have to remove the air cleaner to get to the mouth of a carburetor. From the description of the fluid, it sounds like he's pouring coolant, but I have no idea why adding coolant would get a car started. Though, the white exhaust sure sounds like he's leaking coolant at the combustion chambers.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:36 AM on May 6, 2012

I have to say, I run across things I'm wildly curious on a regular basis, and my general protocol is just to bluntly ask in a super-friendly and harmlessly curious way. In general people really don't mind and it is a fun way to meet new people.
posted by arnicae at 7:33 AM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

IT's likely some kind of start ya bastard primer or just extra fuel into the intake. There's likely a really minor starting issue with it that he should just stop being a cheap arse and fix. Starting issues with good running afterwards are rarely expensive. It could be an internal fuel feed issue in a carb or failure of a cold start valve if injected. It's hard to say.

What;s easy to say is that is is certainly worth the effort to fix it if he has more than two pennies to rub together.

due to problems with his fuel filter

It is extremely unlikely this is a fuel filter issue. The symptoms are opposite to that - generally the car will fire but then stall. Blocked fuel filters are able to provide small volumes (ie enough for starting) but constrict the flow too much to apply any power.

It makes the vr-vr-vr noise, but doesn't turn over.

Anybody knowledgable with cars will find this confusing. 'Turning over' is what the starter motor does. The vr-vr-vr noise is turning over. The car is then, however, or firing or running.
posted by Brockles at 7:38 AM on May 6, 2012

The bottle probably contains gas (unmarked gas is a pale yellow colour). Changing a cold start injector can be a several hundred dollar problem which if you're broke could be tough to come up with; at least compared to the cost of opening the hood every time you cold start your car. Especially if you plan to dispose of the car spending $200 could be perceived as a waste of money,
posted by Mitheral at 9:30 AM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older What advice would help this family?   |   HELP: google contacts seems to be psychotic! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.