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It was running fine, until one day I leave work to go on my lunch break, and the car won't even turn over. So I pop the hood and discover the cable connecting the battery to the engine is severed at the base.

I get it all back in place, and sure enough the car starts fine, but guess what - the engine is "sputtering", like it's on the cusp of idling, and the "check engine" light is on. I decide to drive it to the mechanic, and on the way I realize the car is accelerating so slow from 0-30 that it's literally a hazard to drive. Once I get it past 30 it handles fine. By the time I get to the mechanic, I realize the car wreaks of carbon monoxide, and I'm almost literally sick. It turns out the mechanic is closed, so I end up just driving back to work, and notice the car is kind of wavering in power, as if it's getting gas - then not getting gas - then getting gas again, over and over, it's almost like being on the ocean, lurching.

Does that sound like a fuel filter issue? It just strikes me as weird that this engine problem would "suddenly occur" at the same time the battery was disconnected.
 

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Wow the symptoms you are describing are the exact ones my 93 festiva is having. My buddy welded the motor mount on it and didnt disconnect the battery when he did it and now mine bogs and smells like gasoline too. Hopefully someone here has an answer because I guarentee we have the same problem going on
 

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Sounds like a plugged catalytic converter. The fumes are likely do to exhaust leaks, and you won't smell carbon monoxide, which makes it so deadly. To verify, disconnect the cat from the upstream exhaust and look for carbon build up. Also, look for a sooty black build up on the exhaust pipes, you probably have a leak there.
 

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I agree spounds like a plugged up catalytic converter. you can check the quick and easy ay by just hacking it off and driving it. if its better, weld a new cat on or a piece of pipe.
 
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