Reader Question: 1987 Mercury Cougar Went to Sleep . . .

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Here’s the latest reader question, along  with my reply!

Gary asks: I was doing 59 MPH , Cruise on, AC on and my 1987 Mercury Cougar just died. Pulled over and did the natural thing and tried restarting. Crank Crank Crank and stopped. One more time; this time the starter, well, you know started slowing. I’m done. Called AMAC. Twenty minutes later, tow on the way. Gave it a try after relief in the nearby woods and it fired up. Tow truck arrived and was very understanding but asked if I wanted to tow anyway to avoid it happening again on way home. Told him I like to take chances and decided to take it home. I am so fried with car repairs this year especially after the carburetor fiasco with my Mark V.Made it home absolutely no problem. I am thinking fuel pump. What are your thoughts. V6 Very clean car with 116,000 miles. I may have this gentleman mess with the Mark V next year. I’ll let you know. Thanks and a very Merry Christmas, Eric!

My reply: It’s hard to diagnose from the keyboard, but a fuel pump (and/or fuel filter) problem is certainly likely, especially if the pump/filter are original to the car. Also, given the circumstances. Electric fuel pumps tend to work fine – until they don’t. Then the car’s engine just dies – or won’t start.

The main thing here is to have the car properly diagnosed by a competent mechanic. You want to avoid the parts puller – who will charge you for each part he pulls and replaces, even if they didn’t need to be pulled and replaced.

Also: If this happens again, be kinder to your starter (and battery). If the car doesn’t start after a couple of tries, leave it be. Running the starter hard will shorten its life – as well as the life of the battery.

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  1. Could be an ignition module. 80s cars had ignition modules that when they were dying would stop working when hot. When they cool they start working again. When they get warm enough they’ll cut out.

  2. Yes: Same thing happened to me on my 89 Mustang GT. Along I70 in Kansas. Cruising along, then it just cut out. Crank, crank, crank. Waited, ate my bag lunch (there wasn’t anything else to do) then vroom! (Think Michael J. Fox character in Back to the Future!) So, I limped into the next town who diagnosed as a clogged fuel line/bad fuel pump. He put in a new filter and I limped to Denver, where I got the pump replaced.


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