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Old 05-23-2008, 01:26 PM   #1
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Erratic Idle, Engine Stall - please help!!!

Okay, this might get long but I'm really, really hoping that I can get some insight or advice into what the heck is going on with my car.

About a year ago (this could be an important fact, the start of last summer) - my car started showing these crazy symptoms of erratic idling and random engine stalling.

It would start when I would start the engine. The car would generally (but not always) die immediately. I'd restart it and give it just a little bit of gas and it would remain started. However, in either instance- within a very short period of time (seconds), the car would begin to idle very erratically. The RPMs will just shoot up and it was almost as if I had just pressed the gas pedal. Then, the RPMs would drop down really low and the car would nearly die (the battery light would flicker) before the RPMs would shoot back up and repeat the cycle. It would just be a vvrOOOOOOOOmmmmvvvrrOOOOOMMMM (hahaha) cycle. Inevitable, at one of the low points, the battery light would flicker and the car would really just stall.

The trick to keeping the car started was to quickly get it into gear (drive or reverse) and drive. So bad for my transmission, I know. While driving, the car was fine. It didn't stumble or lose power at all. This problem persisted for about a month or two at which point it went from bad to worse. Suddenly, my car began to do this crazy erratic idle ANYTIME I was in idle - including sitting on the freeway during rush hour. In fact, it would even lose power while slowing down on the freeway (so I'd pop it into neutral and restart it).

Important note: No lights were illuminated at this point.

So, I brought her into a local shop (not a Ford repair shop) and the guy hooked it up to his machine and did some diagnostic work and was completely unable to locate the problem. He said that it was not throwing any codes and that he was pretty much at a loss. He did, however, "clean her up really well".

I noticed an immediate change though. My problem completely went away for about 2-3 weeks. Then, it came back but not to the degree that it was before. It didn't stall randomly but it did still do that crazy erratic shit at idle. However, I was able to keep it started in order to move to gear without paining my transmission in the manner that I previously was. I noticed that my crazy idle also was occurring when I was at a stop (stop light, stop sign, traffic, etc) but it wasn't stalling. I also noticed that if I turned my AC off, it would smooth out a bit (but not completely). So, I started thinking vacuum. I did a few things (cleaned and replaced a few small parts like the MAF and a couple other things that I can't remember off the top of my head). Still, the problem persisted. I wish I had a video clip to share - if anyone thinks that would be helpful then I'll go ahead and do it.

At this point, I've been at it for several months and fall rolls around. I'm in MN so it's also about this time that we stop using our AC much. My problem almost completely went away. And by "almost", I mean that my crazy idle problem was gone but my car was still hard to start. I start it and it almost always dies almost immediately. I just have to give it a teeeeeny bit of gas though and it stays started fine. And to clarify, I start the car - the RPMs shoot up and then I tap the gas. I do not have my foot on the gas when I actually turn the key.

So, we made it through winter pretty uneventful. I did have to replace my battery and I had some issues with my cooling system (a hose broke and I had to replace the thermostat housing as it was all broken and deteriorated where it presses up to the block) but that's not much to be stressed out about.

Now, comes the warm weather. I haven't decided if it's just the hot weather or if it's also the use of the AC. I say this because my heat also uses the AC on certain settings and I never have a problem when I use that in the winter (which is all of the time). But again, if I adjust the settings on the AC when I'm having erratic idling, it definitely is impacting the idle.

So, here we are. I'm concerned that it's going to get really bad again and I simply can't have my car randomly dying as I'm cruising down the interstate in Minneapolis with a couple kids in the back.

So, from reading and researching - I'm starting to wonder if I don't have some sort of a leak in the vacuum system at the intake manifold? Admittedly, I really don't know much about this. I understand how it works but I'm not sure just exactly where there could be a leak that could cause a problem such as this. Also, unfortunately - this is in a total PITA place to access to do some investigative work. I'm going to try to get it on some jack stands over the weekend to take a closer look but I'm not quite sure exactly what I'm looking for.

One other piece of information that may or may not be helpful is this other problem that I am recently having with my car.

Battery Light

Quote:
So, the other night (Friday) I was driving home when suddenly my battery light came on. I panicked for a moment but my car continued to drive perfectly fine. I got home and shut it down and tried to restart - no problem there.

I've been driving it on and off since it happened and it seems to be running totally fine.

The serpentine belt wasn't in the best shape so I went ahead and changed that. No luck.

Today, we took a multimeter to it and got a reading of 12.5ish volts without the car started and 14.25ish volts with the car running. No sudden changes when the radio or AC were turned on so there doesn't seem to be a drain there.

I'm confused - based on my readings, it seems like my battery and charging system are functioning fine.

Why the heck else would the battery light be on?
When I took the multimeter to my car, we were just sitting there and it was not doing any sort of erratic idling. I noticed last night that when my car DOES do that erratic idle, the interior lights in my car get very dim. I don't know if that means it's a related problem or if it's just another symptom. Obviously, it needs more power when it's doing that crazy idle so that could be why the lights get dim (they immediately get brighter when the RPMs drop).

But, I can't help but wonder.

So that's that. Because this problem has been ongoing over a long period of time, I may have missed something so feel free to ask for clarification or for additional information if you think it might help you get a better idea of what's going on.

I appreciate any help that anyone might be able to provide! I'll try just about anything!!!

Thanks!

Tanya

Oh - 2001 Ford Focus
Zetec engine
just under 150K-ish miles.


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Old 05-23-2008, 03:13 PM   #2
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Throttle Position Sensor?
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Old 05-23-2008, 03:33 PM   #3
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Throttle position sensor, fuel filter, air filter, fuel pump, catalytic converter. These are some things that come to mind that I would check, as I have seen all these do what you described.
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Old 05-23-2008, 10:32 PM   #4
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I'll look into that sensor and catalytic converter but do you think it's curious that it wouldn't throw a code for that?

I replaced the fuel filter & air filter already.

Thanks!!!
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Old 05-23-2008, 10:37 PM   #5
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Ya know take a look at simple things first. Look at the fuel pump fuse. Check to see if it is blown. Taking it completely out will make the car act just like this.

And make sure there are no vacuum leaks and that the PCV hose is not collapsed in on itself. I believe this is a common problem on Zetecs.
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Old 05-23-2008, 10:54 PM   #6
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Yeah, I was just reading a thread about that and when I ran out to check - it does appear to be collapsed upon itself. Right under the throttle a couple of inches there is a hose coming out of the intake manifold. At the curve, it's pretty much collapsed upon itself - like if you put one finger on the end of a straw and sucked really hard.

Holy shit - could that one little thing be causing me all of this hassle?!!??!
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Old 05-23-2008, 10:57 PM   #7
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Yes it is most likely your problem. Its cheap. Replace it and see.
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Old 08-13-2013, 07:41 PM   #8
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dont mean to bring up an ancient thread but the problems you had Is what im experiencing now and was wondering if you ever resolved the problem
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Old 10-29-2013, 08:25 PM   #9
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I'd like the same.
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Old 04-03-2014, 04:22 PM   #10
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I have a 2001 LX with the SOHC. Is this the engine we are talking about or the Zetec? I have the exact same problem and have had no luck with fixing it. I noticed the vacuum leak in the elbow under the throttle body and replaced it, upon doing so the top hose collapsed and without me noticing I replaced the PCV. Then I noticed the collapsed hose and replaced that and still nothing. I have checked airflow from the air box to the muffler and everything is good. I've replaced the MAP sensor, oxygen sensor, spark plugs and wires, crank positioning sensor, cleaned the distributor and messed with the EGR. Next is to take off and clean the IAC and if that shows no improvement I'm taking the car across scales. I will never own another Ford again.
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