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Discussion Starter #1
I've got a 2001 ZX3. I bought it used with 55K miles on it. It now has 167K.

About a month ago, I saw a Check Engine light one morning. It was running fine, and I didn't have time to look into it, but eventually (a few days later) the light went out. A week later, the car started one morning but ran rough, like a cylinder was misfiring. This was especially apparent at low speeds. Once on the highway, it was fine. The Check Engine light came back.

At first, I started with something simple - the spark plugs. I had never replaced them since I owned the car. I put in new plugs, properly gapped, and new plug wires. It was during this process that I discovered a leaky valve cover gasket. New plugs did not improve the situation. I took the car to my mechanic for a new gasket, and telling him about the misfiring, we decided it was fuel system related. He suggested starting simple (and cheap) with a new fuel filter. I figured it needed one anyway.

No improvement. At this point the car's been running like a dog for a few weeks. I decided computer diagnostics were the next step. My mechanic wasn't able to get me in soon enough, so I took it to another that I've dealt with.

This mechanic reported that the misfire was happening on random cylinders, not just one. He also reported some alternator codes, but was not convinced they were to be believed. He cleared the codes and reset the computer. He claimed the car ran as new after this.

I went to pick up the car yesterday, and it wouldn't start. It cranked a few times, VERY slowly, and basically behaved as if the battery were going dead. He jumped it and it ran well enough to get it home, but with the same symptoms as before.

When I spoke to him, he revealed that when he was test driving it, the instrument cluster went haywire on him at one point.

He's convinced it's NOT the alternator, but rather a possible computer problem. He also suggested a problem with the wiring, saying that there are up to 50 ground points in the system and any one of them could be bad.

I've suspected a bad alternator for some time, owing to the horrible noise my AM radio makes, especially when braking or using the turn signals. (In my past experiences with other vehicles, an excessively noisy AM radio means the alternator is dumping RF junk into the system, usually a sign that it's dying.) But then, this car has had that symptom for a couple years.

I'm not sure how old the battery is, but I've never replaced it.

Apologies for the lengthy post, especially for a first timer.

Any thoughts?
 

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DTC P0606
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You should get a new mechanic familiar with the Focus. You are describing the classic symptoms of a failing alternator (the non-serviceable voltage regulator within usually dies): haywire instrument cluster, misfire, poor running, trouble starting, do you headlights dim erratically at idle? The alternator's probably not charging your (somewhat old) battery hence the trouble starting.

Check the rear alternator electrical connector (wires get brittle and break), large gauge alternator wire to the battery (for chafes), battery terminals (for secure and clean connections), engine compartment grounds (for corrosion) as the first steps. Then test the alt output. Failed alts can give low output or voltage spikes. If the alt does check OK, have the battery load tested.

IMO, I'd replace the battery as a matter of course. It may be on it's last legs due to it's age.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks!

I will check the age of the battery. I wouldn't be surprised if it's every bit of four years old.

The car was in such great shape when I bought it that I sometimes forget it was a used car, so things that should never last this long can get overlooked.

As I said, I've long had suspicions about the alternator, so there's certainly no harm in replacing. It's almost certainly the original, so it's safe to say it doesn't owe me a dime.

Is there a quick way to locate all the engine compartment grounds? Some sort of documentation?
 

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DTC P0606
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A word of caution about alt replacements; Have your own rebuilt by a reputable firm. Reman alts seem to be very hit and miss in terms of quality and it's not unheard of having to go through several until latching onto a "good" one when they are bought from the chain stores or on line.

Engine grounds locations (facing the car):
Battery negative terminal - trace it to earth in the right inner fender
Rear engine ground - engine lifting strap (looks like a letter "O") at the left rear engine corner by the intake manifold
Inner fender left (passenger) side by the headlight
IIRC, I think there's another one in the left inner fender further up from the wiring harness. It'll be obvious.

Test all the connectors/wires going to the battery posts; tug on them and ensure they are secure. Remove the battery terminals, clean with a wire brush and re-tighten onto posts; don't just clean the outside.

Depending on your climate/car operating conditions, a four year old battery isn't too bad. My original Ford one lasted ten years. Try trickle charging it from a charger to see if it'll hold a charge. This would provide further evidence that your alt is at fault. If you have a multimeter, you could measure the system voltage at the battery with the car running. It should be 14+V if the alt is healthy.

Alts are expensive and a pain to replace; eliminate other possible problem sources in the charging system before swapping out. Does your "battery light" trouble light on the dash illuminate?
 

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I would start with your battery, if it was in the car when you bought it and you put over 100k miles on the car it is definitely ready to replace. It could be a large part, if not the only problem, that you have. A bad battery can load down your electrical system, take a charge one time, yet not another. If it is bad long enough it can kill the alternator. Follow the suggestions that you have already been given here, check voltage at the battery before and after you start the car. If you can have someone start it for you, see how low the voltage goes when you start up. The battery's whole purpose is to start you engine, once that's done the alternator does the rest.
 

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this might sound stupid, but check the timing belt. i drove my 2000 focus LX around with a bad timing belt for almost a year and didn't know that was the problem (i thought it was the spark plugs and gaskets too) then one day it stopped on me, it was a a bad timing belt and screwed all my valves eventually.
 

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X2 - Start Cheap B4 "Buying Trouble" you may not have....
 

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Greetings all, I'm new to the forum. I have very simalar symptoms to curtzHD. The motor is miss firing when accelarting. I have changed all plugs, filters and leads, still the same. I have noticed that when accelerating in idle I can hear the motor "sucking air".

My Focus is a 2005 1.6 sedan. 152400km with full service history.

Thanks in advance.
 

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I have noticed that when accelerating in idle I can hear the motor "sucking air".
That sounds like a vacuum leak, but you if you read- his problem was a bad alternator. In the future, please start your own thread when you have a problem with your car- even if it's similar to someone else's problem it might not have the same cause.

Thanks and welcome to FF!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Well, I put a new battery in. At least now the car starts. Found a mechanic to put an alternator in without charging me an arm and a leg for the privilege. Called a Ford dealer's service center today just to get their two cents. They wanted me to bring it in again for more diagnostics. Sorry, but I'm out of Vaseline.
 

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sounds like you might have had a bad diode in the alternator, which puts AC current into your system. if that was going on for a while that could have really messed with your electrical system
 

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And for Bretski - Yours sounds more like a bad coil, - BUT we need more info. in your OWN thread as mentioned....
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Brought it to the mechanic to have the alternator replaced. Funny thing is, while driving it there (the first time driving it since putting in a new battery) the Check Engine light was out, and by the time I got there it was actually running halfway decent.
 

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Shucks, Test after doing any repairs - you MAY have solved your problem.....
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Well, forget what I said about the mechanic not charging me an arm and a leg. Turns out his receptionist misquoted the price of the job. It ended up being $175 more than expected. His response after I suggested his receptionist maybe needed further training.....he knocked $50 bucks off the bill. Oooh, big hearted!

Maybe next time, take it out of her paycheck instead of the customer's!

Drove the car home and it still runs lousy at low speeds. And the AM radio is as noisy as ever.

I think the phrase rhymes with "clucking bell."


[goofydrunk]
 

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Shit Fire - Let's start simple, since you're throwing megabucks at it WITHOUT solving anything....

Coils are notorious here on line for issues with Zetec engines, you have to remove it and look for cracking at the base - if you see any, replace it!

AND - I'm not sure about the Zetec, but the 2.3 Duratec has an RF noise suppression capacitor on the left top of the head (facing engine from in front), and when THEY fail you get both noise in the radio AND "driveability" issues....

Couple things to check B4 throwing more cash at the problem....

Luck!

P.S. - the capacitor attaches to the alternator, look for one....
 

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I agree. Stop throwing money at it and do some diagnostics.

First off, put your odometer onto diagnostic mode. Hold down the trip reset with the car off, then while holding it down, turn on your car. Scroll through the options with the trip reset button until you find the batt number. It should be in the 14+ range. If not, your mechanic may have used a reman that wasn't a good one.

If that isn't the issue, pull the plugs back out and make sure there is no oil on them. You mentioned previous valve cover gasket issues, and if someone went hulk on the bolts and over torqued them it will start leaking again.

If that isn't the issue, look at the coil. It should be four bolts, torx T5 IIRC, and one pain in the butt clip. Visually inspect the coil for any cracks or anything out of the ordinary. Do the same for the wires going in.

Post back what you found BEFORE dumping more money.
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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks, guys. Good stuff to check. As soon as Hurricane Irene is done having her wicked way with us, and provided the neighbor's tree doesn't fall on it(!), I'll get under the hood and see if we can get to the bottom of this.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Well, things finally settled down enough for me to check things. I upped the hood and took a look at the ignition coil. No visible cracks, but the thing was pretty covered in grease, as was most of the motor, probably as a result of the leaky valve cover gasket.

I grabbed a can of engine degreaser and gave the motor a good clean. Left it until this morning.

This morning, I started the car and drove it to work.

NOT ONE MISS!

Interesting.
 
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