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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I could use some advice. My Sable normally runs great -- a 2001 Duratec with 85,000 miles.

Without any prior warning, the car wouldn't start after sitting about 10 hours at work. It was about 28F, late on a Friday, the first freezing day of the year. Strong crank, but no fire, not even a stumbling fire. I called the wife to rescue me and I kept cranking every few minutes. When she arrived, out of desperation, I tried a jump and it started, and ran fine. Weird, I thought, but I ran out and exchanged the 1-year old battery. Two days later, dead again (good crank; no fire). After half an hour of attempts, it suddenly started, no jump. I Googled a lot, including here, and decided it must be the fuel pump relay. Replaced that. Today again, crank + no start. 4th crank, it started and ran fine. No check-engine light ever. So far, it's only done this on cold starts.

I'm thinking that it must be a failure in fuel pump or spark delivery, but how do I know which? I'm reluctant to take it to a mechanic when this isn't occurring, because I think they won't know what to do. I'll end up paying for a new fuel pump and later learn it was ignition coils or some such.

I saw a few posts here reporting similar problems, but the OP didn't report the ultimate resolution. I promise to report back whatever I learn, but meanwhile would appreciate any troubleshooting advice. Will a code reader help at all when the CEL isn't lit?

Thanks in advance.
 

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You can turn the key to "on" and listen for the fuel pump prime, a low humming noise for about 2 seconds. If no noise, either the pump or pump circuitry has failed. The pump can still run and you have a fuel pressure problem though. To go any further, you'll need an EFI gauge and an HEI spark checker of some sort.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the advice. Sounds like I'll have to wait for the next no-start day. Can you think of anything to check while I wait for it to happen again?
 

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I am having a very similar problem on my 2000 Taurus SE. It won't start right now, but it sounds like my fuel pump is priming.

The first well-below freezing day of the year it wouldn't start in the morning. Cranked it for 45 seconds without even a sputter of ignition. I poured in a can of heet and got a ride to work. Got home, no start for 30 secs cranking. Tried again 45 mins later, same. Tried again 45 minutes later, it started! So my first thought was that I really did have a frozen fuel line and the heet took a while to melt it. Nope. 4 days later I drove to lunch, parked for 30 minutes while I ate, it wouldn't start when I came out. I called for a ride. But I tried starting it again 1 minute after the first try and it fired up immediately. Since then, it's happened 3 more times. But today is the first time after 4 hours of attempts that it still won't fire up.

But wait, there's more. I also do not think it's coincidence that my AC, wipers, and ignition all did something similar to this over the years. Is there some component in common that I need replaced?

In 2005 it would stall when it was very hot out. At first it would start right back up. I'd say it did this about 1 every 10 hours of driving in temps over 90f. Then it got more common, and sometimes it wouldn't turn over after stalling. At first 5-10 attempts in a row it and it would turn over. (Remember, back then when I got it to turn over, it would always start. Today is a new problem where it turns over but apparently has no fuel.) It progressively got more frequent, stalling more frequently and on less hot days, and the number of tries turning the key off and on before it would turn over went up to hundreds. I kept taking it to the dealer and paying a 200 diag fee or $400 PCM upgrade and they'd always report no problem found. I did that about 4 times and finally got a second car for summer driving and only drive the taurus in the winter now.

Then the wipers did something similar in 2006-7, but not apparently temp correlated, where low or hi would drop out. At first when low would go out I'd just switch to high which would work, and when high didn't work I'd switch to low. It got worse and worse and neither would work except once in a blue moon. I finally installed a bypass line from ground to a switch in the dash, to the wiper motor. I just flip it on high from there and have gotten really good at flipping them off when they're at the bottom of the stroke.

AC, same story in 2009-10. But I only drive it a little in the summer because of the problem that started in 2005. The AC stopped working 3 times out of about 10 in 2009, and once in 2010 it worked. I'm pretty sure it won't come back on again. (compressor comes on, but warm air.)

None of these problems have ever thrown an engine code. They all start off intermittent and get progressively worse. There's got to be something in common. I'm a medical tech, so I'm good at tracking symptoms and facts about a problem, but I'm lost with modern car electrical problems other than basics like wiring up the wiper motor. It feels like the kind of problem I see at work when there's a coworker who can't put 2x2 together. It seems like a good logical auto tech could easily go "ah ha!" on this. (Assuming all the problems are related, which seems likely.)

I'm going to go try starting it again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My car is running fine, but I haven't fixed anything. Here are my current theories gathered from a ton of web searches.

  1. Fuel Pump
  2. Fuel pressure anti-bleed-back valve
  3. Water or other crap in gas (like a marble)
  4. PCM relay
  5. Idle Air Control
  6. Crank position sensor
I had the codes read today -- no codes present. Added some Heet to the tank. Ran it to 6000 RPM in 2nd gear a couple times (fun!) to rule out weak fuel pump. Seems as strong as ever.

etown -- you've clearly got electric gremlins. That's the sort of history that makes me sell a car. I'm already thinking about that but (till now) always really liked my Sable.
 

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I have the same issue with my F150.
Seems to happen more often on cold days or drastic temp drops.

Last time it happened I checked fuel pump fuses and reseated all fuses. Thought it might be the anti-theft, but the light went out when I put the key in the on position and i could hear the fuel pump prime.

For kicks, i got out locked and unlocked the door with the FOB and then did it with the key(as I had heard that can reset the anti-theft). Started up fine.

Now I tell the wife and kid when they start it to listen for the fuel pump, to help diagnose it.

I agree that this is something you hate to take to a shop because they will make a guess like we are and you could end up change a couple of things unessessarily. Maybe time to unload it in the spring.
 

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First thing you should try is to just change the fuel filter. Cheap, easy and good to do in any case. At 92k miles my fuel filter looked original, and was clogged as hell. I'm pretty sure that's what killed my fuel pump, which was starting intermittently as well...
 

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I am having the same kind of problem with my mother in laws Taurus. It seems that when she does a quick errand and comes back to start it wont. I had the battery tested a couple of weeks ago and that tested borderline so I replaced it under warranty. Started fine since then. Yesterday it was the same thing again, just crank and almost sound like it wanted to start but not start. So she got a ride and went back with her son and put jumper cables on and it starts??? This is the weird part I don't get. Either the car will start right up when I get to it or if jumper cables are put on it it will start. I have listened to the fuel pump run every time today while I have it to check out. I don't want her to take it to a shop as well for fear of parts dumping and cost that are not necessary. Anyone else have some input?

Chris
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, a disappointing update... So far the problem has not recurred for me. Right or wrong, I am not convinced it's the fuel filter or pump, because the car pulls strong right up to 6000 RPM. It's all or nothing -- makes me think electrical. And the fuel filter has only 20k or so on it: not new, but not horrifying. There's never been a rough idle, or weak performance once started.

My plan: wait until problem is reproducible at will; keep AAA card handy. I don't even really have AAA, I'm just daring and cheap.
 

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Fuel pump won't run when fuel is low

I've had three experiences so far where car runs fine, starts fine until the fuel is near empty. Then it doesn't run when you turn the ignition on like it usually does (can hear the pump start).

Twice happened in the Costco station while waiting in line. I was able to start the engine twice while making way through the queue, then when it was my turn to drive to a pump, the engine would start, run roughhly and die.

I listened for the fuel pump sound but heard nothing. The latest incident happened after I replaced the fuel pump relay so that ruled out the relay as the problem.

After being pushed out of the gas station line, I waited about 45 mins, then started the car normally. I think there may be some kind of level switch in the tank that is part of the pump electrical circuit, or the pump overheats and shuts off when the fuel is too low.

Any ideas?

2001 Taurus SEL, 70K miles, Vulcan engine.
 

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Never run an EFI vehicle below 1/4 tank. If this has happened a bunch of times, you're probably going to have to replace the pump. When they run dry they overheat, and the electric motor wears out.
 

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^ WJC, tell that to my youngest son! I dont think ive ever been in his car when the lo-fuel light was not illuminated. Buy em books and they eat the covers, lol!
 

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This happened to me also on a cold night in a rain/snow storm after work, would crank but not fire. coworker helped me try to jump it, Engine would crank and crank as normal, just wouldn't fire. Came back next morning in the snow, tried jumping it with a jeep cherokee, each time it wouldnt start I would push pull wiggle or bang on something else. (history of my car: 2000 engine 3.0 OHV, fuel pump replaced 17 mo ago, fuel filter replaced 11 mo ago, changed the oil from this engine's first run of fully synthetic oil back to conventional a week ago after it developed a nasty valve tap, plugs changed 2 months ago, wires changed two months ago, ignition coil new 2 weeks ago, replaced thermostat 2 weeks ago--which finally gave me, better than the previously non existant, heat--) Finally I noticed the positive batter cable was fraying at the terminal connection. I wiggled and pinched that, it started right up; running as smooth and normal as ever. Drove it back home (20 minutes away), and it started all throughout that day. Go to start it the next morning, and the engine cranks and cranks but doest fire. I tried messing with the frayedness but it didn't help.. So I get the special order battery cable to replace the frayed one, go to put it on and the mega fuse cracks when Itry to remove the hex nut. finally get it off and the connections to the mega fuse looked like they could use some baking soda and tlc. I cleaned off the connections and replaced the megafuse (6.99 at Napa) jumped it with the jeep again and she started right up. Considering the megafuse is directly in the pathway of the current to all the fuses, you might look into the connections on both sides of this bad boy... make sure they're clean and tight, like the battery terminals. I hope this solves my problem... and, consequently, yours too...
 

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Its been almost two weeks since I replaced the positive battery cable and the mega fuse, still no sign of the previous problem. . take it for what its worth.. I do have the SRS (airbag) light come on and flash every once in a while. I'm not too worried about it though..
 

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wiggle your crankshaft position sensor.....its a by water pump area. Mine was loose and it fired right up. It throws no codes when it isn't working (at least it didnt for me)
 

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My 2000 Taurus 3.0 DOHC is also not starting everytime. New fuel filter and battery is ok. Cranks fine but wont light. Put fuel pressure tester on and it read 0 psi. Put ignition to "ON" but not start and saw the pressue move up a couple of PSI. Did it again and it built up more PSI. It started. I suspect the fuel pump but wanted to see if there is any other test we can do before dropping tank and spending $200.
 

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'97 Taurus GL 192,800+ miles. Just started having this same problem yesterday for the very first time. In my case, I drove the car in the morning without any problem (as always), then when I got back I had to repair the "H" hose (heater core bypass) because it was leaking at the molded "T" on the water pump side and I wanted to see if I could fix it with a $4 plastic "T" from AutoZone instead of paying $70 for a new replacement. Well, after re-installing the repaired (but somewhat shorter) hose, I started the car up and let it idle to check for leaks. Everything seemed perfectly fine, but then the car suddenly stopped on its own after about 5 minutes of idling. Nothing seemed amiss, but it wouldn't re-start. Cranked strong, but no start. I was shocked. I'm STILL shocked. What would the work on the "H" hose have to do with this no-start condition? No coolant leaked on anything. If it's not purely conincidental and I have a blocked fuel filter, or weak fuel pump, or bad gas, etc ... it could be that I put some undo pressure on the main wiring harness that runs near this hose assembly. First I had the hose ON TOP of the harness, but with the somewhat shorter new length this seemed to stress the harness below, so I ended up moving it BELOW the harness (which seemed better). Did I crack a wire in the harness or cause a connection at the PCM to pull away? Wouldn't seem likely, but to have another un-related part coincidentally fail when the car was running perfectly fine (even the same day) right up until I monkeyed with the hose and harness has me thinking the harness is the more likely culprit.
 

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Old post but fits the issue I am seeing, The original poster never reported back like he promised. So hoping someone else has found a fix to this issue.

Anyway my Daughter has been having this problem, first happen thanksgiving weekend when she was home (cold morning ~20°F) cranked strong, no fire, after trying a bit battery started getting low, hooked up battery charger 15A hit the key it fired right up.

Work fine for two weeks, cold again she started it went to meet with others to study couple hours later would not start cranked good, next day I show up with battery charger and meter I had her crank it over the voltage at the battery was 11.98V before turning on key and dropped to 6V - 7V when cranking no start. Connected the charger started right up. When to Auto store battery tested bad, new battery work for a week did it again, she got a jump and it started, been working fine the past week very cold then it did it again today much warmer 40°F got a jump and working rest of the day.

Starter was also replace during this time, testing at parts store said over current but I now question if they tested it correctly.

I hope to get it back home next week and let her use my car while I try and get it to fail so I can start testing for fuel, spark etc.

I have been reading lots and didn't find a smoking gun to check out maybe there are a number of things that could cause this. So far I plan to check/test...

Fuel Pump priming at key On
Fuel pressure
Spark
Fuel filter
Battery cable, inline fuse connections
Crankshaft sensor
Battery

Anyone actually find a fix for this issue?

Thanks
 
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