Reader Question: My friend has a 1992 Mazda Pickup with 4-cylinder engine automatic transmission.
It will start up and run well for a few minutes (5 minutes or so) and then will die and not re-start until you let it set, then it will restart and repeat this.
These problems can be a real pain to tract down. First thing, you need to determine is what is missing when the engine will not start, fuel or spark? I am assuming this is a fuel-injected engine, and if so, it will have an electric fuel pump inside the fuel tank.
Listen for the 2-second whine from the fuel pump as it primes itself when you turn the ignition key to the ON position. If you do not hear that short electric whine coming from the fuel tank chances are you have a bad fuel pump or have lost power to the fuel pump via a bad relay or ignition switch or computer, etc., etc., etc.
If you hear the whine noise from the tank, chances are the fuel pump is working. The pump could be working but not be pumping the proper fuel pressure, but that is a little harder to test for. Next is to test for spark at the spark plugs.
Pull one of the spark plug wires off the spark plug and pull back the rubber boot just enough to expose the metal inside the boot. Using a pair of rubber insulated pliers or resting the plug wire on a steel metal surface of the engine, crank the engine over and watch for a spark coming out of the plug wire arcing on the engine.
Use caution when doing this. You CAN shock yourself if you are not properly grounded, it will hurt!
If you do not have spark you should work backwards and check for spark at the distributor. Check the distributor cap and ignition rotor for wear or signs of arcing.
This engine probably has an ignition module inside the distributor like a Ford, and I would suspect the ignition module to be the culprit for lack of spark if all other items check out ok.