This happened after the spouse returned from grocery shopping with a mixed highway + local driving: the car struggled to start, and after it started, it stalled immediately. There was some notable vibration from the engine bay before it stalled. For the first 2 tries, it left a strong gasoline odor. After a 3rd start, I pumped gas for a min or so and the car got into the normal working state. Once in this state, everything worked fine and I drove the car on the road without issue. It even stopped at STOP signs and traffic lights without stalling or abnormal vibration.
[Update 1]: After turning on/off a few times, the symptom is now repeatable: if right foot rests on brake, the car cranks strong but it won’t start; if/when cranking the car and at the same time pumping gas (ie right foot not on brake pedal), the car can start -- is the foot not on brake a sign that something went bad? Once started and pumped gas for a few seconds, the car drives just fine – it doesn’t stall in subsequent stops at STOP signs or at red lights.
[Update 2]: When the hard-to-start-then-stall occurred, there was no CEL or any warning light on the instrument panel initially. After many on/off tries, now the engine light and VTM-4 light are on.
Vehicle repair history: it’s a 2004 EX-L, 4WD with 203K miles:
- Starter and alternator are still original
- spark plugs were replaced with NGK at 152K miles in 2017
- EGR valve was replaced in 2017 at 155K miles
- timing belt and water pump n all belts are replaced at 157K miles in 2017
- diff fluid changed in 2019 at 172K
- 2 O2 sensors (the ‘04 EXL only has 2 O2 sensors) were replaced in 2018 at 164K miles
- valve adjustment done & PCV replaced in 2021 at 189K mile
- The battery was replaced in Nov, 2022 and is practically new
I searched and the past working fixes include: valve adjustment; fixing timing belt jump one tooth. Neither seems the cause of the problem I am experience.
Where do I look next?