Joined: Aug 2007
Location: Melbourne, Florida
If fuel sprays everywhere when you pull the hose off of the fuel filter, the fuel pump is fine.
My dad's '86 Sentra had a bad distributor and it did what you described above. It started to run rough at first until it finally quit altogether. When he tried to start it, the engine would barely catch after several cranks but wouldn't start. We took off spark plug #1 and it would intermittently spark while cranking; it would spark at two- to four-second intervals, or after every four or five cranks. When the plug did fire, the spark was nice and strong. My dad replaced the distributor and, presto! It works.
I believe your friend's suggestion is worth investigating. Your car's distributor has the crank angle sensor built in. If either the distributor or the sensor are bad, the entire distibutor unit must be replaced. Advance Auto Parts charges between $130 and $200 for a replacement. I checked RockAuto.com (which is usually cheaper, depending on the part) but their prices are roughly the same.
Here are some less-likely causes for the problem: dirty or bad MAF sensor, bad MAF or engine ground, bad ECU.
EDIT: By the way, the ECU uses the crank angle sensor to trigger the fuel injectors and turn the fuel pump on/off while the key is turned to accessories. A problem with the sensor may produce fuel-related symptoms.
Last edited by TheBrownRobert; Mar 1st, 2010 at 12:17 PM.