EDIT: Sorry this is so long, I was just trying to give as much info as I could with what I've noticed going on!
I've had a 2004 Taurus (I believe it's a Vulcan engine, the 8th character in the VIN
is U) for about two years. Bear with me please, I'm not a huge car person, but hopefully I'm accurately explaining what's going on. A few months ago, my battery seemed to go kaput, I bought a new one but that didn't seem to fix it. Took it to the shop, got it fixed, unfortunately can't remember what they said the issue was.
Fast forward to about two weeks ago, my car had trouble starting. The check engine light had been on for awhile, but I kinda figured it was just a maintenance thing (I just recently broke 100k miles). It cranked for awhile and didn't actually start until I pumped the gas a bit (it only seem(s/ed) like it does this if it's been sitting for awhile. After doing some research, I think I understand that pumping the gas doesn't really do anything in a fuel injected car? Just another note, sometimes in between attempts at starting, the clock seemed to reset.
I was overdue for an oil change, so I figured I'd start there before taking it to a mechanic and getting an absurd diagnostic charge for them to tell me I needed to get an oil change. I'm a poor college student, so I had to wait about a week til payday to get it changed and by then the battery had seemed to die. Had a friend jump me a few days before I took it to get the oil changed and it would start (although still cranking slow and for awhile before it actually started) for a couple of days. Finally payday came and got an oil change. While there, they told me that my serpentine belt was cracked and that the fuel and air filters should be replaced. This would have all cost about 160$ if I had them do it, which was more money than I could spend. They didn't seem to make anything urgent out of it, so I figured I'd wait until I could afford all of it or see what of that I could do on my own without a labor fee. Immediately after, the car was still having issues starting. The next day, the battery seemed to give out again.
Figuring the belt being loose or not gripping properly could cause the alternator to not charge the battery properly, I picked up a belt and replaced it (that was fun, I'm not the strongest person in the world haha). Still had wouldn't start, but I figured it was the battery still hadn't gotten charged. Asked a friend for a jump, and they said they could be there in a few hours after work. During this time I remembered I had the old battery I'd replaced relatively recently and was going to switch them out and see if I could get it going. Before I tried switching I went ahead and tried starting it again and it seemed to crank better than right after I'd replaced the belt. Got it started after awhile and drove around hoping the battery would charge. Went home and my car started up just fine until last night (I replaced the belt on Friday). By the way, yesterday, I cleaned up the corrosion on the positive battery terminal and when I went to drive again, the check engine light wasn't on anymore.
Last night it rained while I was at a friend's house and when I was leaving it did the slow long crank thing again. Hoped it was just something about the rain and figured I'd see what happened this morning. Tried it first thing this morning and it seemed even more like the battery was weak/dead. It cranked briefly and then stopped for a few seconds and then started cranking again.
Went back to look online and see if there was something I could figure out, found out about the EST and cycled through it looking for the battery voltage (I don't have immediate access to a multimeter). Just then it read around 9v. I know it's supposed to be around 12v when the car is off, so I was about to give up. Figured I'd just try a couple more ignorant, desperate things and pulled out the air filter (didn't look THAT bad, but what do I know?) and gave it a few good hits on the wall and put it back. Tried starting the car one more time and it cranked slowly, but seemed to pick up. Taking this as a good sign I tried again, and it sounded like it was starting, but immediately after the engine seemed to fire up, it died. Tried a few more times and it started and stayed on after the third try.
Drove around again, went home so I wouldn't be stranded if it didn't start when I tried to enter the test mode again to see what was going on with the voltage while the car was running. Drove around some more, the voltage hung out around 14v when the engine was on. I assume this means the alternator is working properly? Went home and waited half an hour or so and checked the voltage again, 12.4ish volts. Checked to make sure the dome light and trunk light were turning off properly, and they seem to be doing it right.
So, it seemed weird to me that it would actually start at 9v at all since that seems to be really low. I'm not sure if there's much room for error in the ETM
. So I'm not really sure what's going on since it seemed to crank at really low voltage and even STARTED, so maybe it's not a battery issue? Do these things sound like the something a clogged fuel filter would cause? Just in my reading here and other places online, I'm starting to think maybe the starter is acting up, but wouldn't that mean that it would have trouble starting EVERY time and not just after it's been sitting for awhile? I'm fully expecting that I'll get up and try to start it tomorrow and it'll all be happening again, so I was just wondering if anyone had any ideas as to what could be going on?
This turned out really long, so I'd just like to say thanks if you read through all of it and hopefully I've given you a good idea about what I've noticed going on with my car. If I've left anything out or you've got any questions, let me know and I'll try to answer as best I can. Again, thanks for reading and offering any ideas/advice you have!