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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all, I have a 2008 Ford Focus SES that is having some problems starting. The vehicle started to intermittently struggle to start with the problem slowly worsening until the vehicle just will not start currently.

The best I can describe it is a stutter when starting that has slowly gotten worse. Originally the car would seem to stutter when turning the key, often struggling to start but then catching and starting once the key was released. Currently the problem has gotten to the point that when the key is turned to ignition the car will crank once or twice and then cease to crank, if the key is held in the turned position you can hear a quiet sound (sounds like a pump) but no more cranking will occur. If the key is released and turned again the car will again crank once or twice but fail to start.

while this problem has gotten to the point that the car will no longer start at all, when it was able to start the car ran perfectly fine once ignition occurs. There were no mechanical issues until this began happening. So based on the fact that it will run fine if you can get it to start, I believe that the car has spark, compression, and fuel.

Any ideas as to what I should check first?

Thanks in advance!
 

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I've muddled through various no start conditions with these engines and it could be several things or combination thereof. But I would start with your battery and alternator. Since it ran fine after actually starting, my first guess is battery. I have had batteries last anywhere between 6 months to 5 years. Make sure you have a good battery with good, clean connections - I don't know if it is cold where you are but the the slightest bit of looseness will be exacerbated in the cold. These are the first things to rule out.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yes it has been cold around here recently, and I do think the cold temps are exacerbating the problem. I recently had my old battery go out, so the current battery is brand new. I did find that the positive battery terminal was loose and would not tighten all the way, so I purchased a new one and installed it. Once the loose terminal was solved the car did start once (not well) and ran fine, but once I killed the engine turning the key then wouldn’t make any sounds happen. I have had that caused by my ignition lock mechanism having too loose of a tolerance. So I opened the steering clamshell up and sure enough my diy solution for that problem had worn out. Once the diy solution was replaced turning the key once again caused sounds (same symptoms as original) but I have not been able to get it to start again.
 

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So if I understand, your car began to weakly turn over when you turn the key to the ignition and at some point it would not start (but it still weakly turns over). But when it did start, it ran fine.

From what you wrote it looks like you have not fully assessed the battery and charging system yet. Even though the battery is new, sometimes a new battery can be bad. Also a failing alternator can drain a battery and sometimes can even ruin a battery.
Be sure the battery reads 12.5 volts – lower than that and you may need a charge. Can you get your car going with jumper cables? Have you tested the cold cranking amps? If you don’t have a battery analyzer, all the parts stores can test it for free.
The next time you have the car running you should test the alternator. Should be 13-14 volts when the car is running. Also turn on your lights and accessories and check if at least 12.9-13.x volts is maintained. Again, all the parts stores can test your alternator. Note: alternators can be tricky because they can sometimes test fine but intermittently fail when they are just starting to go bad so I test them more than once if it checks out okay.
Does the battery drain after sitting a day or two?
Any fraying or corrosion on your battery cables?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
You are correct that I have not fully assessed the battery/charging system. The reason that I have neglected checking the battery voltage is that this problem began showing symptoms prior to me replacing the battery and has worsened since replacing the battery. When I purchased and installed the new battery the car was already turning over weakly and requiring multiple attempts to start, I had assumed that measuring the battery output wasn’t necessary due to the symptoms not changing at all when the battery was installed. I can measure the voltage and confirm tomorrow though, however, I have would be inclined to think it is more likely that the alternator or something else is the cause (perhaps starter motor wearing out?). I will definitely check the alternator voltage if I can manage to get it to started again. However, I have not noticed any other symptoms during operation that I would expect if the alternator wasn’t outlining properly; when the car is running all of the electrical components seem to be fully powered.

~Thanks
 

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The 08-10 have issues with the linkage in the ignition switch. Its bolts around the column and has a mini driveshaft that goes to the ignition switch from the key cylinder. It gets to the point you'll have to lift up on the key to get it to crank. Once its worn past there it will just not start.

You can pull the covers off the column. Remove the ignition switch from the left side and place key in the ignition. Leave the switch plugged in and turn it with a screwdriver. It should fire right up. Then you confirmed it's the issue and you need to replace the assembly.
 

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Also keep monitoring your battery as you troubleshoot because turning your key a bunch of times without getting the engine going can drain your battery.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I measured the battery output and it was within normal ranges, however I will probably need to charge it soon if I have to keep troubleshooting. I am unable to check the alternator though due to the car not starting.

I also wanted to clarify that the car does not just continue to weakly crank when turning the key. If you turn the key and hold it in the ignition position, the engine will make 2-3 combustion sounds, and will fail to start, if you continue to hold the key turned I can hear that something is still spinning (but with no more typical cranking sounds) and when you release the key the spinning sound will continue for a second and then you can hear that something catches and stops the mechanical motion. Earlier on in this problem the engine would sometimes sputter to life when turning the key, or sometimes would crank and start after the key was released. However, now it just cranks 2-3 times and fails every time as I described above.
 

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From a fuel, spark compression standpoint, good that you got it running once by replacing/tightening a terminal and it ran good. Assuming no codes, if battery checks out as good (including for minimum volts and cold cranking amps under load) and all connections to starter, alternator and grounds are good, next I would probably test the starter. It is a minor pain but the starter can be removed and taken to a parts store and tested. ...Although that test on the ignition switch mentioned by Rodknock is worth a try before you remove the starter... I’m not too high on the starter because in my few experiences with bad starters, they made strange noises only a few times before they just started clicking or went completely dead -but I would still test it. No magic bullets but need to eliminate the usual suspects to avoid false positives before doing other time consuming troubleshooting (and new parts throwing).
 

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Also check starter relay before removing starter. Also make sure the starter is not drenched in oil too. Random thoughts...
 

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Sorry, was reading my phone before and I totally missed that last symptom you mentioned about the "spinning" noise. If the spinning is coming from the starter, the starter has likely failed or is failing. My manual also indicates possibility of worn or broken teeth on the starter or flywheel ring gear or loose starter motor or cracked case. Let us know what you find.
 

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