99 Sable Duratec crank, hard start - Taurus Car Club of America : Ford Taurus Forum
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post #1 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 01:34 AM Thread Starter
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99 Sable Duratec crank, hard start

I want to start by saying that I have been visiting this forum for years (I have a 98 Ford Explorer, and Google suggested these forums a few times while searching for issues with it). I really like how close this community is, and there is so much helpful information posted, I bet most people can fix what they need with a search.

Thank being said, I have searched. I have read dozens of threads about my current problem, and although I learned a lot about my son's car, I still have not found the problem. I have been at this for a few weeks, not everyday, but several days (I am a disabled Air Force Veteran with a spinal injury that limits me a lot).

My son wanted to buy his first car, not much money, we found this 99 Mercury 3.0L Duratec pretty inexpensive. Test drove great, so I trusted the engine and trans (knew there would be a little work, but that is a great time to teach my son). Well this car has really been a great teaching tool

I will try to make the history of this vehicle as complete as I can:

It stalled on the way home from buying it. I ended up pulling the fuel filter and finding that it had not been changed in a very long time, and that it had a lot of water in it. I got a new filter installed and it was really hard to start and keep running, but the drive home was short.

I noticed that the fans never turned on, so I checked the ECT sensor, jumped the connector and got the fans to run. I replaced the sensor, which fixed that problem. Who knows how long it ran without the ECT and fans, lucky the engine still runs. But it was likely running with a bad mixture because of the failed ECT.

We still had a hard time starting it, so we drained the fuel tank. All in all there was over a gallon of water in the tank. I called the guy I bought it from, and he said that he accidentally used an old gas can to put fuel in it. Whatever, moving on. I think we did a good job getting the tank empty and getting the water out (we emptied it, then put a few gallons in it, new filter, drove around a bit, then repeated. Twice) The third time I pulled the fuel filter to change it, I drained the filter into a clean glass jar, there was a tiny amount of water that settled into the bottom of the jar after a few minutes.

The car was still hard to start, and by that I mean that most people would say that it would crank, but not start. I really had to abuse the starter to get her fired up. She would spit and sputter. But once she started up and ran for a few minutes, it ran great. No hesitation, misfires, or stalling.

I went through this post that Behlinla posted here.

1. The battery was weak, so I changed it out with a new, correct size for the car.
2. The terminals are from a help section at a parts store, but I am pretty sure they are ok. I did make sure the wires were held down tight in the connectors.
3. Fuel pump runs every time I turn the key on (key on, engine off). I have tried doing key on engine off three to six times before attempting to start, no help. The fuel pressure testing has me a little confused. I put the gauge on the fuel rail valve, and when I turned the key the first time, the pressure only went to 10 psi. I bled the air/fuel out of the gauge/hose and flipped the key again, it got up to 30 psi. I read somewhere to flip the key a few times before taking the reading, but I have seen videos where people turn the key once and it jumps up to 40-50 psi.

Anyway, when cranking, the fuel pressure is about 42 psi. I have tested this several times, because I so want it to be the fuel pump (I guess). Once I get the car started, the fuel pressure drops to about 32 psi. I pulled the vacuum line off of the FPR and the pressure goes up to 42 psi again. I assume this means that the Fuel Pressure Regulator is good, but I still doubt it for some reason.

This is a good time to tell you that when we first looked at the car, it had a brand new fuel rail and FPR. I thought this was strange for a car that was selling cheap, especially now that I know that the fuel filter had not been changed in a long time. Even the air and oil filters needed to be changed. I mean who replaces a fuel rail, and doesn't bother to replace the fuel filter??

4. The PATS system seems to be working correctly. It has a PATS code set, but I was really thinking that was old. The car will eventually start.

5. I also think that the TRS is working. Although a few times I have had to push the shift lever up a little to get it to turn over, like it wasn't all the way against the stop for Park.

6. The starter is good.

7. I am pretty sure I am getting good spark, but I just looked at two cylinders. I don't like throwing parts/money at a car, but I did change the plugs with new Motorcraft plugs. The plugs wires look to be pretty new, and do not seem to be arcing, or causing misfires when it is warmed up.

8. I checked, and the spark plug wires are going from the coil to the correct cylinders.

9. The dry compression for 5 cylinders is between 190 and 200, cylinder 5 is at 140 dry. I did the compression test after the car had sat overnight, 12 hours, because I want to know what is going on when it is "cold and dry". I really don't think low compression on one cylinder will stop her from starting. I have not done a leak down test on cyl 5 yet. I plan to do that once I figure out the hard start. I was actually surprised that 5 of the cylinders had such good compression.

10. I cleaned the EGR port on the plenum. It was completely stopped up with carbon. I had to scrape it out with a screw driver. I also removed and cleaned the throttle body, IAC, plenum and EGR valve. (The plenum was filthy) I replaced the gasket on the throttle body since I had it off, and put new gaskets on the EGR since they were missing. Also, the vacuum line going to the EGR valve was cut, I fixed that.

11. The oil pan gasket is leaky. I doubt that surprises anyone here. I do fully intend to fix that, but again I want to fix the hard start first. I am not all that excited about puling the exhaust pipes and cats down, or rather telling my son how to do it.

That being said, I read a post where someone here said a leaky oil pan gasket caused a no start on his car (sorry I lost the thread, I wanted to link to it). He cleaned out the Crank Position Sensor connector, which was full of oil, and that fixed his problem. I am going to check that sensor in the morning, I am sure it can use a cleaning, but I was thinking that since the car will start and it runs great once warmed up, that the crank sensor was probably not the problem??

The other thing that this leaky pan gasket does is get oil on the alternator. Could a weak oily alternator cause my problem? The lowest I have seen the new battery is 10.5 volts because of all of the cranking and no driving.

I also need to say that I replaced the water pump, because it was leaking. I am sure it leaked on the connectors for a few sensors and also could have gotten the alternator wet. I think it was the easiest Ford water pump I have ever changed (I have owned a few full sized Broncos).

12. The check engine light isn't on, but I think it is burned out. I hooked up my laptop with Forscan (another great find here on TCCA). I found that the ECT code was set as confirmed fault, but I assume that was from when the ECT was bad when I bought the car. I do not know how many cycles will clear it. There is a possibility that the new ECT is faulty from the store, it runs the fans and I get ECT sensor readings that look believable. Or maybe the wiring from the ECT to the PCM is bad?? I am getting a zero volts reading on ForScan, but a friend told me that since the temp is changing, that maybe that is an option in the software that the PCM doesn't support reading?

13. The car will fire off with a small spray of starting fluid into the throttle body. I don't like using ether, but a friend told me to try it as a troubleshooting step. I say fire off, because it will not start up and run without a lot of cranking.

14. Now we come to the IAC. I do not like this thing. It seems like people change them if they have hard starts, without verifying that they are bad. Of course I have been trying to find a way to test it out of the car to no avail. If I give it 12vdc, should it open? Is it normally closed when 12 vdc is not applied? The one on this car and the one on my 98 Explorer are identical. I pulled the one from my Explorer and put it on the Sable, which didn't solve the hard start, and the one from the Sable works fine on my Explorer. The Sable is giving it voltage, I ran a test on ForScan that cycles the IAC, and it clicks. I do not see any movement on either of the IACs. They look to be normally open, but I imagine that when air is being pulled through the intake that the little rubber stopper in the IAC will be forced closed. I also tried starting with just a little pressure on the gas pedal, so even if the IAC was bad, I am letting the engine breathe by opening the throttle a little. ALSO, once the car warms up, if the IAC was bad, I would expect it to stall at idle. Now, if the Sable and my Explorer both have intake leaks, then a failed IAC may not present itself, but I do not think that is the case. I really do not want to spend $60 on a part that I don't think is broken. However, if I am wrong please tell me and I will go buy a Motorcraft IAC for both vehicles.

To start the car, I have to crank it quite a bit. I still do the key on, key off three times just because I still don't trust the fuel system. I crank a bit until it sounds like it is starting, then let off. It doesn't stay running, if it even really was running, it may have just been firing a few cylinders. If I do this over and over several times, I can sometimes get the car to start. Many times I have to keep cranking once it sounds like it is firing, this is why I say that I am abusing the starter. Once it sounds like it is firing for a second or two, I turn the key back to the run position. Most of the time I have to tap the gas pedal to try to rev slightly, while trying to keep it at about 2000 rpm. I do not feel good about this, but I am trying to troubleshoot and I need the car running to do some tests. I never just rev the engine way up. It spits and sputters for maybe 30 seconds before it will idle on its own.

Once it is idling on its own, if I try to give it too much gas, it wants to stall out. Sometimes it will cough a bit out of the intake. Is that a backfire through the intake? It really isn't loud like a backfire, more like a cough...

Anyway, it is hard to start. Once it does start, it will stall if you give it too much gas. Most of the time I have to go ahead and give it gas by tapping the pedal over and over until it will idle on its own without stalling out. It is really running rough for a few minutes.

Then, after 3-5 minutes, it runs great. If I let it warm up, maybe drive it to the store a few miles away, I can turn it off, let it sit, and when I come back to start it, it fires right up with no problem.

If I drive it for about 30 minutes, then turn it off, I can let it sit for hours and it will still fire right up.

I really am sorry if I wrote too much here, but I wanted to let you all know everything I have tested and tried. I also did my best not to make too many walls of text. For those that made it through this post, thank you for taking the time to read it.

A friend of mine who lives out of town wants me to do a drive test tomorrow while recording on ForScan. He wants to rule out exhaust restriction. I am sure that the cats in this car are pretty dirty. Before I bought it the ECT was bad, it ran hot (leaky water pump and no fans), the EGR port was completely stopped up, and the fuel filter was the 2nd dirtiest I have ever seen. When I poured it out I think there was a tablespoon of really fine black granules on the ground.

What do you all think? What else can I test? What would make it so hard to start after sitting overnight, but still run like a champ when it warms up?

If I am wrong about the IAC or anything else please let me know. If I skipped something I need to try please let me know.

I do not know if this will mean anything, but here are two screen caps of ForScan. Of course they are once the car warmed up...[IMG][/IMG]

[IMG][/IMG]
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post #2 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 08:39 AM
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What is the fuel pressure doing when it stalls or almost stall while you are pressing the gas pedal? If it dropping or staying the same?


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post #3 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 09:51 AM
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I had a similar hard start problem on my 2000 DOHC Taurus, about a year ago. After it started and warmed up, it would start and run flawlessly the rest of the day. Installing a new Motorcraft IAC and gasket solved the hard start problem, due to the engine being starved for air at start-up.

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post #4 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 11:31 AM
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Disconnect and check the fpr vacuum hose for dampness and/or strong fuel odor. Leave hose off for a couple mins. while idling to check for fuel exiting the fpr. If so, diaphragm is ruptured. Your car has a return type fuel system. A ruptured diaphragm will let fuel return to the fuel tank overnight and also allow fuel to be sucked through the vacuum line into the uim. Any vacuum or lean codes?
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post #5 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 02:00 PM Thread Starter
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the_intimidator_02 - The fuel pressure rises when the car is trying to stall out (this is once I get it to start but it is running rough). Once again, when I first hooked up the fuel pressure gauge, the needle barley rose, less than 10 psi. Then I tried to start it and the fuel pressure shot up to 42 psi. It had been sitting all night. Now does this mean the fuel pressure fell to less than 10 psi overnight? Or is the fuel pressure gauge just not reading the pressure right away? I will have to test the gauge on my explorer.

Also, I left the fuel pressure gauge on the car after I turned it off. The fuel pressure slowly leaks down. At 10 minutes it had lost 2 psi, 15 minutes 4 psi, 45 minutes 8 psi. I then disconnected the fuel pressure gauge and saw that the gasket inside the Ford adapter for the gauge was falling apart. Lesson: don't always trust your test equipment blindly.

sheila - I have checked the FPR for dampness, and found none. I keep checking it because I really think this is a fuel delivery problem. I know that the FPR is functioning, because when I unplug it while it is idling, the fuel pressure goes up to 42 psi again. The fuel pressure is at 32 psi while idling and the FPR vacuum line is hooked up. I can smell a hint of gas if I stick my nose right up to the vacuum line, but it is not wet. I also ran the car with the vacuum line off and the fpr didn't leak at all as far as I could see. Is there a check valve on the return line? Or is the check valve part of the fuel pump?

topgunovrtx - I have read a lot about people changing the IAC when they have hard starts. It seems like it is a less than 50% success rate. I am glad it fixed your car, but I also read that if I crack the throttle plate open a little, and it still has trouble starting, then it is getting air and the IAC is not the problem.

I would REALLY like to know how to test it when it is out of the car and in my hand. I put the IAC from the Sable on my Explorer, and the Explorer started fine. I unplugged the connector from it and my Explorer stalled out.

While typing that last sentence I realized that I had not tried unplugging the IAC on the Sable while it was idling to see if the car would stall out like my Explorer did, so I went outside to try that.....

The Sable did not stall out when I unplugged the IAC connector I am pretty sure that means the car is getting unmetered air, enough to keep the car idling. The idle did slow down and the car seemed to be struggling just slightly to stay running.

I stuck my ear way down close to the engine and I think I hear a vacuum leak. I looked all over while it was running and could not find the leak, all of the vacuum lines seems to be fine.

So now I have to look at the plenum again, and the UIM and LIM along with their gaskets. Can anyone think of another place that the engine could be pulling in enough air to keep it running with the IAC unplugged/closed?

topgunovrtx, I think you are the hero here. If you hadn't made me think about the IAC again I wouldn't have found this leak of air.

I hope I can find this easily, I am a little afraid of what I will find. It would have been better if the IAC was bad lol. At least the fix would have been easier.

edit : I am a little confused as to why the pcm didn't set a code for running lean with all of that unmetered air. And why the car runs well warmed up with this problem...

Last edited by Ezratobit; 04-11-2015 at 02:04 PM.
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post #6 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 02:15 PM
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The car doesn't necessarily stall when you unplug the IAC.

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post #7 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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Dang, I was hoping that it was supposed to stall when you unplug the IAC. My Explorer did when it was not warmed up. I have not tried warming it up.

I just went out and tried a few more things with the Sable's IAC. Again when I unplugged the IAC the car stalled. I kept trying different ways to find the "leak". Eventually once it ran for a few minutes it would stall when I unplugged the IAC. I thought that maybe the "leak" sealed itself when the engine got warmed up.

I mentioned in my first post that the previous owner changed the fuel rail. I think in order to do that, he had to remove the upper intake manifold, because a few of the fuel rail mounts are in between the UIM and LIM. I was thinking that he either did not change the gaskets on the UIM, or did something else to cause a small leak. My Sable has aluminum UIM and LIM, I have seen some with plastic (maybe not the same year).

Anyway, if the car NOT stalling when I unplug the IAC is not proof that there is a leak, or unmetered air, where do I go from here? Once it warms up, it will stall when the IAC is unplugged. The IAC from the Sable works on my Explorer (4.0L SOHC V6), and the Explorer will stall when I unplug the IAC, which is the IAC from the Sable.

I do not know of another way to test the dang IAC without just buying another one, and I am pretty sure I can not return when it does the same exact thing that both of my IACs are doing right now. Again both IACs, when installed on my Explorer, seem to work in that the Explorer will idle fine with both, and the Explorer will stall out if I unplug both.

If that doesn't verify that both IACs are functioning, HOW do I test an IAC short of buying a new one? How would I know if the new IAC was working?

I mean I thought I had ruled out a bad IAC because the car will idle fine once it warms up. Then today I find out that the car will stall out when the IAC is unplugged. I have found a few places online that say those two things mean the IAC is good. If it idles, then the IAC is opening. If it stalls out when you unplug it then the IAC is closing. If the IAC from the Sable is bad, doesn't that mean that the IAC from my Explorer is bad as well? The Explorer runs like a top and idles fine.

Anyway please help out. saying the car doesn't "necessarily" stall when you unplug the IAC REALLY has me confused.
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post #8 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 03:01 PM
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If you look at a new IAC, just out of the box, the pintle valve does not completely close. Hence, the engine may struggle, but still continue to run, even with the IAC unplugged. I don't think your problem is a function of unmeterred air; instead, I think it is a function of the IAC's stepper motor not opening the pintle valve enough. Your engine is starving for air at start-up and idle. It's a fine dance that takes place between the IAC and the PCM. I don't think you are going to be able to bench test it to your satisfaction. Through the process of elimination, you will narrow it down and the weight of the evidence will likely point to a faulty IAC. At some point, you will have to step out and act on faith. Many on this site have bought, cleaned, and oiled JY Motorcraft IACs.

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If it is starving for air at startup and idle, then it is only happening when the engine is dead cold. A little time running and it is fine.

There is a BWD IAC in stock at my local O'reilly.I can order a Duralas or Hitachi at Autozone. Advance Auto has a BWD in stock. Napa has no stock. I do not think I will be able to get a Motorcraft without going to the Ford dealer or buying one from Ebay. From what I have read here, I should only buy a Motorcraft IAC, the others cause problems??

Still, why does the IAC from the Explorer work on the Sable and the Sable's works on my Explorer? Are they both bad, but my Explorer doesn't care? The Explorer idles fine and stalls when either of them are unplugged.

Crap, I guess I could be overthinking it. I just like to know something is broken before I go order a new one.
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post #10 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 03:57 PM
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My Taurus only experienced a hard start the first thing in the morning. After that, it would start and idle perfectly.

My experience has been to only go with a Motorcraft IAC. The others will allow the engine to start right away, but will idle too fast (2,000 rpm). That's not good for the engine and then you sit there for 2 minutes waiting for it to idle down. I bought my Motorcraft IAC from RockAuto.com, using a 5% discount coupon.

IACs only last so long and some vehicles are more sensitive to how they operate than others. My Honda's IAC is much less sensitive than my Taurus'.

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