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]