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Old 04-29-2007, 03:49 AM   #1
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Engine stalls on warm start (intermittent)

2002 SE Wagon 16v zetec, auto, aftermarket air filter. When the car sets for 15-20 minutes after reaching operating temperature she will not maintain idle and will stall. The engine will run as long as the accelerator is slightly depressed to maintain RPM and the car can be operated in this way at higher RPM. The engine has to cool down for 30-45 minutes before she will start and run normally. The check engine light does not stay on. This started @ 50k and has happened 4 times. Replaced the fuel filter and cleaned the air filter. The engine does not seem to be running hot and the situation has occured with the outside temperature between 60-80 degrees. The only other problem has been with the engine belt tensioner that was replaced under warranty. Thanks in advance for any help that you provide.


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Old 04-29-2007, 09:44 AM   #2
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Intermittent problems are horrible to diagnose, even harder online. There are only so many things that would cause the engine to shut down through the PCM. However I'd think that if it was doing that, then there would be a code thrown.

We had someone else with a problem just like this in here recently, but to my knowledge the person never figured out what it was- or if they did they didn't come back and tell us so the rest of us would know.

I'm personally thinking a crack in a coil, or a problem with the fuel pr/tp sensor- but from what you're saying, it doesn't do it every time you start the car right? If a coil is the problem, it should get progressively worse over time- especially with more summer heat, until you have to replace the coil.


Do you check your fluids often? Are you losing any fluids that you can't account (puddles) for?

What troubleshooting tools do you have? Like a timing light for example, so we can check spark.

The fuel sensor is something I don't know how to test. I wish I did, that's one thing I don't like about the returnless fuel system- no mechanical test of pressure to check the electronic- except doing some crazy stuff with the fuel lines that Ford mechanics probably have pieces laying around for. No luck for shadetrees though.
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Old 04-29-2007, 12:06 PM   #3
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Wouldn't a cracked coil prevent the engine from running at all? It will start and run as long as I provide a little extra fuel from the accelerator. As soon as I let off of the gas the engine dies. I have not had any trouble on warm starts if she only sets for a few minutes. Friday I got off work, drove for 20 minutes to the bank, went into the bank for 5-10 minutes came back out and the car started just fine. Drove across the lot to Safeway, spent about 15 minutes there, tired to start the engine and it would die without giving it some gas. As long as I gave it gas it would run. As soon as I let off the gas it died. I tried starting it several times but it did not start until the temperature gauge went from near center to the little white square on the left. Then it started and ran fine. I've never had a problem with cold starts. Doesn't use oil and the transmission fluid is good. I don't have any diagnostic tools. Is there something on the engine that affects the idle differently when the engine is warm verses cold? This has never happened while the engine was running (ie to suddenly stall). I read a little bit about the IAC but the problems seem different.
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Old 04-29-2007, 01:00 PM   #4
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I don't think it's an IAC or the TPS.

A cracked coil may not have a visible crack, but once it heats up the crack is enough to cause it to short- and maybe sometimes it doesn't even do it. Shorting a coil seriously affects it's life, so if the problem is becoming more common than it was, I expect you'll know soon.

Engines should be water tight, cleaning a motor is as simple as spraying it off while it's running. The only reason to spray it while it's running is so that if it stops running- you know exactly where you were just spraying, and you can stop and find the problem without searching for it.

I'd suggest trying this, and you you spray close to the coil and start having running problems- then you know there's something wrong with the coil. It could also be the wires that feed the coil as I've heard from some other threads that these can come loose over time. If that's the case, you can purchase a new plug (pigtail) and solder the connection in yourself- or try using some sort of non-conductive expoxy to hold the wire in place which may or may not work.

I don't know of any tests to help you with the fuel sensor if that's the problem. I know how to do a fuel pressure test in one of these cars- but you'd need things that aren't rented at the local parts store.

The problem could also be unrelated to the engine's condition. For example, if your fuel pump is going out, it might appear to be a problem like this- but for different reasons. How long does it take for your fuel pump to charge up the system?

To test, turn everything inside off so you can listen. Try to do this test after the car has been sitting for several hours. Once you turn the key to ON, the fuel pump will charge the system. If you just turned the key ON to turn everything like the radio off, then the system will already be charged and it will seem to be good when it might not be.

Anyway, that might not be an issue. Fuel pumps make lots of noise when they are going out, and also stay on for a long time. A fuel pump should stay running (buzzzz) for about 5 seconds. If your fuel pump stays on for 10 seconds or longer, or is very close to 10 seconds, then it's close to time for a new fuel pump/filter/sock.

I don't like blaming the fuel sensor because I can't tell you how to test it, but a Ford mechanic could test it because you basically have to fit a valve in line with the fuel line to be able to use a mechanical tester. YAY progress
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Old 04-29-2007, 08:49 PM   #5
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Thanks. The problem has occurred more often lately. The fuel pump is hard to hear and only vibrates for a few seconds so I guess that the pressure is good and the system sealed. I've read that there is a pressure gauge connect somewhere near the end of the fuel line. I'll try misting the engine after it cools and while it is running some evening this week. I noticed that there is a cable just to the right of the accelerator cable at the throttle body. There is not any tension on it when the engine is cold. I have not checked it with the engine warm.
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Old 04-29-2007, 11:51 PM   #6
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The second cable is probably cruise control. IDK for sure because your engine is different than mine and I haven't studied the underhood placement of things on the Zetec.

The fuel pressure gauge is also a fuel temperature gauge because Ford's new returnless system regulates voltage to the fuel pump instead of diverting extra fuel through a return line. There is still a return line, but that is primarily for the evap emissions system.

Someone here recently described problems that they had with the fuel pressure sensor, and those seem similar to yours. I do not know how to test it, and I wouldn't take it anywhere else except the dealer.

Your problem is weird if I have it right. You can drive all day, no problems, then when you go to try to turn it on again- it doesn't want to stay running. After it cools off, then it runs fine again.

Everything heat related that I can think of would also happen while you were driving as well as after you shut it off. I'll put my thinking cap on, but I wouldn't take it to the dealer to have the fuel sensor checked just yet.
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Old 04-30-2007, 10:31 PM   #7
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Since it is my daily driver, I usually only drive for 20-30 minutes at a time. Starts fine, purrs like a kitten, good acceleration, good mileage, good drive. If I need to stop for something and she sits for the right amount of time it sounds like the engine is starved for fuel. It gives a little cough and dies. It starts when I give it gas and crank it. The engine dies as soon as I let off the gas. After she cools down most of the way she starts up fine without added gas.

I did try spraying the cool engine with water while it was running and it had no effect. It ran fine.

How is the fuel regulated at idle between a warm engine and a cold engine?
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Old 04-30-2007, 10:42 PM   #8
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I had something kind of similar along with occasional idling at 3000-4000rpm. It was the tps. U could get a used one cheap and see if it fixes it.
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Old 04-30-2007, 11:54 PM   #9
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How is the fuel regulated at idle between a warm engine and a cold engine?
It's not, air is. That's what the idle air control valve (IAC) does. Injector pulses are kept to a minimum at idle, and back end control from the oxygen sensor keeps the fuel air mix correct.

Have you tried going to Autozone or some other parts store and asking them to read any codes from the computer? Some codes don't show up as CEL's, and since your problem is not a full time problem- then it might not trigger a CEL (check engine light).

I'm really starting to lean to a sticking IAC, but that wouldn't cause it to die when you started warm with your foot on the accelerator, and it sorta ran, then died after a bit. It wouldn't do that. It just wouldn't idle right for a very short time until it warmed up. When you put your foot on the gas the throttle plate lets in air bypassing the IAC so it wouldn't matter if it was stuck- also those usually stick wide open causing high idle.

TPS problems (throttle position sensor) generally cause problems while running, not after the engine is shut off, then shut back on. The engine would start fine, then when you pulled up to a stoplight, you'd have problems keeping it running, and then problems coaxing it to accelerate.

See if the parts store guys can come up with any codes. These will be displayed as numbers, just write them down and bring them back here. We have a list of common engine trouble codes and meanings. Maybe that will help in diagnosis so we can get a prognosis.
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Old 05-01-2007, 12:06 AM   #10
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How is the fuel regulated at idle between a warm engine and a cold engine?
Fuel in these engines is regulated by a fuel pressure and fuel temperature sensor that regulates fuel pump voltage to keep fuel pressure steady.

This is the thing I keep complaining about my inability to test. It's something that only mechanics with expensive diagnostic equipment can test- and I would only take it to a dealer or a very trusted shop.

We've ruled out the hairline cracked coil, and also leaky spark plug wires, because if you sprayed it with water when the engine was running. That would've shown any spark leaking from the wires. The engine woud've started missing. The same goes for vacuum leaks.

I'm losing it here
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