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Might not be the same issue but symptoms seem similar - misfire on cold start, low radiator level. I was getting mainly P0305, occasionally P0300-P0306. Ended up being a blown head gasket on the front head. My post is in the 1st Gen section under, P0305, Blown Head Gasket? (A couple of my posts after the first ramble so skip those.) Its fixed and running well with over 700 miles now.

Three things that helped me narrow down cause. Discovered the spark plug for #5 wet but not oily wet. Wet like with water. Then used a inexpensive bore scope that I picked up on Amazon and looked in the cylinder through the spark plug hole and found water droplets. Then did a radiator test suggested by Bluepill and confirmed exhaust gas residuals in the radiator. For that test, rented the tester from Autozone and bought the test fluid for about $8. If you don’t have a bore scope, that might be the easiest, fastest, cheapest test to confirm a blown head gasket.

Good luck!
 

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Well, at 240K miles and all the problems mentioned, you said it yourself, you got your money's worth!

Probably not worth fixing the driveline or anything else until you get your engine resolved. You'll have a shudder-free car that runs like crap. And then you'll still have the leaking, peeling paint, and a no seat heater car that might start to smell musty.

Probably worth investigating if the engine can be saved with less than a head gasket and related work. I followed Bluepill's advice and it was spot on. If you haven't already, pull the plugs because they can tell a story. You mentioned you adjusted the valves. How long ago? Have you checked them for this current problem because incorrect valve clearance can result in misfires. The front valves are easy to get to so you can check those relatively easily and see if that might be the problem.

If you're careful and patient enough to adjust valves, you can probably handle a timing belt uninstall and reinstall to remove the head. I found the hardest part is taking off the crank pulley bolt. There's a lot of parts to remove. The belt itself is about careful alignment and after install, turning the engine by hand with the pulley bolt to make sure the timing marks on the crank and cams align. You can mark the position of belt and pulleys with nail polish but I would not rely only on that.

IMHO, if the engine is more work than a few hours and a couple hundred bucks, it's time to let it go. I've kept my cars for 230K, 240K, 260K miles (a couple were still running good) and its always hard to let them go. However, as soon as I get the replacement, the old car is just a good memory that's soon forgotten. You could put your time and DIY experience into the next car.

Sometimes you get to make the tough call. Let us know how it goes, what you decided. Good luck!
 
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