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Auto Q&A with Tom Torbjornsen: Car sputters, then dies

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Dear Tom,
I am getting on in years and still have to work on my own car. I own a ’94 Tempo and I want to know if it has a computer box. If so, where is it? The car idles for about a minute or less and then it starts to sputter and then dies. To try and solve this problem I have replaced the cap and rotor, module on distributor, coil, plugs, fuel filter under hood on passenger’s side, fuel injector and fuel regulator. I just need a push in the fuel pump or computer direction to replace them. So where is the computer box?
John from Ft. Erie, Ontario

The computer is located in the area of the left hand side of the instrument panel behind the dash. And while you’re at it, replace the fuel pump, transmission, brakes, steering and suspension parts, and master cylinder. As a matter of fact, I see no reason not to replace the engine. See how absurd this is, John? You say you have to work on your own car probably because of limited finances, and yet you have spent a mint on parts without solving your problem. The next time the car doesn’t start you need to see what the engine is lacking, spark or fuel. If it's spark that’s lacking, then you’re looking at the ignition system. If the vehicle lacks fuel then your looking at the fuel pump system. Spend some good money after bad and have a thorough diagnostic done by a competent diagnostician before replacing any more parts.

By the way, I did a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) search in my ALLDATA database for any problems pertaining to powertrain issues on your car and came up with nothing. Hire a good tech to trace the problem down before replacing any more parts! I wish you success!

Tom Torbjornsen is an automotive expert of 37 years. An automotive journalist in good standing with the IMPA (International Motor Press Association) and MPG (Motor Press Guild), Torbjornsen is the Repair and Maintenance Editor for AOL Autos, At Home Portals and many other websites. Please send your car questions to his website at




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