There’s a site called FML, they’d love to hear from you.
Round 2: My mechanic friend says he doesn’t feel like coming over today, and tells me to go try to crank the car. It cranks right up and runs fine. I think the worst is over. All I have left is to change the tire and go get it fixed. Well, start taking off the nuts on the tire and one of them just shears right off. Breaks the bolt in half. So now I have a working car without a tire. O boy, another crappy day.
Apparently I can put the spare on the remaining three bolts, and just take it to the shop on my way to work tomorrow. Thankfully I work right next door to a mechanic shop. I just hope it doesn’t cost too much, I just moved into a new place and I’m on a tight budget.
They’ll charge you two hours to drill that broken thing out of the wheel hub. So that’s what, $100? Buy a damn set of screw extractors for $10 and get it out yourself.
If you smelled something burning when you started the car later in the day after it had been unable to start (and unexpectedly just shut off) you might have an electrical problem. Do you want this happening to you when you’re driving the car on the interstate? Because it can. You shouldn’t just ignore the problem and hope it goes away.
I once owned a 2002 Cadillac that (except for all the tire stuff) had the exact same symptoms you described (burning smell, randomly shutting off, sometimes not even trying to start at all) and eventually it started shutting off randomly while it was in use. If money is tight and you can’t afford to have it inspected (I had to take mine to three different dealerships/repair shops to locate the specific problem) you better drive like your life depends on it.
The (non-) starting thing can be caused by something as cheap (~ €20 for a non-premium car over here) as a faulty temperature sensor.
My Opel Calibra had a problem where the engine would randomly shut down, without stuttering or anything, and wouldn’t start again until I had left it alone for an hour or two. Then it would just start as if nothing had ever happened.
I swapped the Lambda sensor, the coil’s ignition module, temperature sensors, fuel pump relais, even tried with another ECU. I spent €400, and Opel and an independent auto electrician couldn’t fix it.
It turned out that the issue was that a part inside the fuel tank was clogged. Basically, in the middle of the fuel tank, at the lowest part, is a depression, and in this depression is a kind of “can” that has some holes in it. The engine sucks its fuel from this small can, which always has to be full of fuel, that enters via those holes. This way, the fuel flow is not interrupted when you have little fuel left in the tank and enter a bend and all the fuel moves to one side of the tank. With the years, those holes had become clogged, and the can thingy didn’t get filled the way it was supposed to, so, when I was driving with only a few liters of fuel inside the tank, and the fuel moved around, the engine would suck the can dry, and after you waited long enough for it to fill again, the engine would start normally.
Reading again, the engine would still turn even without fuel. Next time it doesn’t start, take a hammer and hit the engine’s starter a few times, then try again.