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Discussion Starter #1
I am new to these forums, as I just recently bought a 2004 Ford Focus Zx3 2.3L with 103,000 miles. I love it so far.

Having said that, I am having two issues that I would like to resolve --

First, when I attempt to fill my gas tank, the gas nozzle clicks several times along the way, as if the tank is full. When I finally get to about 3/4 of the tank, it clicks constantly, so that I can't fill it up all the way. The most I can get in the tank is about 8 gallons from empty. (in case it is related, the car is also getting quite poor mileage... about 20 miles per gallon).

Second, when I accelerate at low speeds, I hear a rattling noise coming from the front of the car (engine area). It doesn't happen at high speeds, or when I have my foot off the gas. I read elsewhere that it is probably a lose heat shield ... does that sound right? Is there an easy way to check?

I am pretty low on cash right now, so I'd rather fix things myself than involve mechanics. I don't have a lot of experience with cars, but I'm willing to learn.

I apologize in advance if this question is answered elsewhere on the forum. I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have. Thanks in advance!
 

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The filling up the gas tank thing could be a case of jamming the filler nozzle into the tank too far. I've had a similar situation happen to me a few times where the pump wouldn't let me put any more gas in and I discovered that I just had the thing in a bit too far. next time you fill it up try pulling the nozzle back just a touch and see if that helps.
 

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How are you figuring your mileage? The proper way is to fill the tank up, set the trip odometer, then when you fill up again, you look at the number of gallons used, and divide your trip odometer by that.

As far as the tank showing incorrectly, it seems as if your float is not set right. It might be because you're leaving the key on while you fill up the car so you can watch the fuel gauge. If you're doing that, then stop that practice. Turn the car off before filling with fuel. Now in case there's not a mechanical problem to the fuel level float, you can try resetting the ECU to see if that will solve the problem. I had that happen to me once, but it cleared up on it's own after a reset and a few days. Simply remove the negative battery terminal for 10 mins, replace it, and then start the engine. Allow the engine to idle without touching the accelerator for 6-7 minutes. What actually happens here is that the ECU is testing for the optimal air/fuel ratio. The test takes 5 minutes after the engine warms up. If you have a tach, you'll notice a slightly higher idle- around 1k rpm. When the test is done, the idle will drop. If you touch the accelerator during the test, the test will restart.

Now, the Focus fuel tank is 14 gallons. If you're driving it until the light comes on, then only putting in 8 gallons, a mechanical problem with the fuel level float is possible. Mine reads to F, but when the light comes on, I put in about 10 gallons- not the full 14. I have driven as much as 100 miles with the light on, and then put in 13 gallons. It seems that your fuel gauge is not reading a full tank as full, but you still have a full tank. You could try running it down further- if you know that you put in 8 gallons when the light is on, then you can safely drive another 100 miles after the light comes on even if you are getting 20 mpg.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the advice. I didn't consider that it might be the fuel gauge off, and not a problem with the fuel tank itself. I will try both of those suggestions out.

Any idea what might be causing the rattling noise coming from the front of the car when I'm accelerating?
 

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Any idea what might be causing the rattling noise coming from the front of the car when I'm accelerating?
Hard to say. It could be the rats trying to escape from under the hood. [dunno] Most of the time it's the heat shield around the exhaust manifold, but it would be best if you could describe it a bit further.

Is it high pitch? Low pitch? Sound like a hammer?

Is it a continuous rattle? Does the rattle seem to be affected by the engine?

Is it an intermittent rattle? Does it seem like it's worse over uneven pavement?

Does it go away if you shift into N while moving?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I would describe it as high pitch. It's definitely not low pitch and it does not sound like a hammer. But it is not as high pitch as tin rattling.

It is a continuous rattle when I am accelerating between 20 and 40 mph and the rpm is between 2000 and 3000 rpm.

It does not occur when I switch into neutral when moving, even if I put my foot on the pedal and let the engine rev. In drive, it stops happening when I take my foot off of the pedal.

I hear it more when I am going uphill.

Is there an easy way to check the heat shield?

Thanks again for your help.
 

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Is there an easy way to check the heat shield?
Yeah, grab it and see if it moves. There are several bolts holding it to the exhaust manifold.

Not hearing it at idle is a problem. As far as not hearing it while revving the engine, rattles do that sometimes. Engines vibrate differently when not under a load.

The heat shield on those engines is a high temp plastic that looks like metal IIRC, so it wouldn't make a high pitched noise.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Yeah, grab it and see if it moves. There are several bolts holding it to the exhaust manifold.

Not hearing it at idle is a problem. As far as not hearing it while revving the engine, rattles do that sometimes. Engines vibrate differently when not under a load.

The heat shield on those engines is a high temp plastic that looks like metal IIRC, so it wouldn't make a high pitched noise.
Heat shield definitely moves a little, and seems like it is probably the culprit (I may not have described the sound well earlier -- definitely the sort of sound the heat shield would make if it were rattling). Think it is worth removing it?
 
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