Random no start

lillie97June 11, 2005

I hope someone can offer a suggestion as to what might be wrong with my car. I just got it back from my mechanic who can't figure out exactly what's wrong.

I'll start at the beginning. About a month ago I made a stop on my way home from work. My car was turned off about five minutes. When I got back to the car, it started but quickly sputtered out and then would only turn over, but not start. I called my mechanic the next morning for a tow and when he called me later he said that when the tow truck driver got to my car he was able to start it right up. My mechanic checked out the car but could find nothing wrong with it.

Two nights ago I had a repeat. I ran into the mall for approximately 30 minutes and when I got to my car it wouldn't start. Remebering what had happened before, I waited about 45 minutes and tried again and it started. The only thing I noticed was a loud squeal/screech when I pressed on the accelerator which lasted for only 2-3 minutes and then the car ran fine.

So, I took my car in to my mechanic today and they did a thorough going-over and again found nothing wrong.

My mechanic thinks it could be either a bad fuel pump or a problem with some kind of "coil" (I can't remember exactly what he said). But he couldn't say for sure.

Since he's not positive and I can't afford to fork out money for a repair that's only a guess, I don't know what to do. I don't want to be left stranded again.

Can anyone suggest what might be wrong with the car? It's a 1998 Ford Contour with 69,000 miles on it.


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Anything would be no more than a guess. When my Ford truck did that, it was the idle air control system sticking. But that's costly, and I would definitely not replace it just on a hunch.

Consider checking with a Ford dealer to see if there are any service bulletins out on this problem. Often a problem like this is something that shows up frequently on a certain model, and the manufacturer will issue a bulletin telling dealers how to fix it.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 5:04PM
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Aaaahhhh, the old heat build up problem...
Is this problem seasonal ?

The loud squeal was excessive alternator resistance - trying to charge too much too soon at too low of a RPM...VW has a system to prevent this...

Do a complete battery/charging system service...This car may be ready for its second battery replacement - depending on the load test...

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 10:45PM
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Might be a crank position sensor fault. Have the mechanic scan for codes the next time this problem happens. It should register as a pending code.

If it IS an idle air control valve problem, very slightly pressing the gas pedal while attempting to start it should allow it to start.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 12:08AM
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The ignition module may be heat soaking and failing. I've seen these work ok when cool, then fail sporadically as the module heats up.

Any of the sensors related to ignition timing may give trouble, e.g., Cam posisition sensor, Crank position sensor.

One post above suggest reading the trouble codes, if any. That's a good idea.

The squeeling sound immediately on startup was an accessory sheave slipping on the belt. This may have been the alternator, or power sterring pump. If the front wheels were turned against their stops and pressure was continued on the steering wheel to turn in that direction, the power steering pump may slip on the belt. This is a no-no for a driver to do.

If the alternator was slipping, the belt is too loose or worn. You may have a serpentine belt with small v-ridges on the inside. The v-ridges act much like the older style single V-Belt. The sides of the v-ridges grip the sides of mating grooves on the sheave. When these belt ridges wear down, contact begins to transfer to the bottom of the groves and traction is reduced, hence, a tendancy to slip. When this occurs, its belt replacement time.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 2:12AM
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i have a 92 reagal doing the same thing..was a sensor that reads rpms...if it sees no rpms when the motor is turning it will not send gas....it only did this when the engine was hot...let cool for 30 min and it would start..ask your mec. if your car one of these..and if so throw water on it to cool it next time it happens and see if it starts

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 10:32PM
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We had a similar symptom on a Audi (aka oversize VW). We downloaded the error codes, and had a mechanic look them up in the service manaul. The error code said it was the "Ignition". Further reading suggested that there's a "Hall effect" sensor in the distributor - for all modern vehicles. This solid state device frequently becomes temperature sensitive when it gets old. It will quit working when the car is running. On some vehicles (VW/Audi, anyway) the engine keeps running, using a backup system of some sort, but then won't start if you stop it. I guess it's OK to drive yourself to an unsafe place, and then get stranded. On other cars, when the Hall Effect sensor quits, the engine stops. On our VW, I bought a rebuilt distributor for $125 (the sensor was not available separately) and spent ten minutes installing it.

I've had the intermittent start problem also on a Chevrolet Chevette (1979) and it was also a Hall Effect sensor problem. In that case, the sensor was also not available separately; the rebuilt distributor was $600.

But, before spending big bucks, definitely download the computer diagnostics. By Federal Law, this is something you can do on your own without any test equipment. Every car does it differently. In the case of the VW/Audi, you short together two wires (different location per vehicle), then turn on the ignition, without starting the car. After 4-10 seconds, remove the short circuit. Then watch the "check engine" light. It starts blinking, you count the blinks.

I don't know the procedure for your Ford, but there must be one. If it's an electronic problem, this is the surest way to check into it. Ask the Ford dealer how to "get the diagnostic codes" for it. Again, by law, they are required to provide this information. When GM first put computers in cars in the 1970s, they attempted to "force" you into using the dealership for maintenance, and the Feds declared that to be illegal, which is why now it is possible, for all cars, to get the diagnostic codes without needing a piece of test equipment.

In the case of our VW, I had to wait for the "no start" condition to appear, then run the diagnostics, because the system would not remember error codes after ignition shut-off.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 1:11PM
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***But, before spending big bucks, definitely download the computer diagnostics. By Federal Law, this is something you can do on your own without any test equipment.***

I'm afraid you're either misinformed or mistaken. Most OBDII vehicles ('96 and newer) will not display codes without a code reader or scan tool. The law only requires the automakers to release information to the aftermarket, so that aftermarket diagnostic equipment can be made available.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 3:52PM
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WestcoastBroke was referring only to the older OBD I system, not the II...

I replaced the Dodge Hall effect sensor - it was very affordable..

No way would I ever pay $600 for a new Chevette distributer - this is totally unreasonable - GM should be ashamed of themselves !!
I would not even pay $600 for the complete entire Chevette, even new !!
I cannot really believe they would do something so callus, so insensitive !

It is not right that the "law" has to become involved with this aftermarket business - and the auto-makers wonder why the people do not buy their newer cars...

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 1:33PM
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By the way..the ignition module in this car is integrated into the engine control computer.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 2:28PM
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Earthworm, just to get your behind burning more - the $600 was not for a *new* Chevette distributor - it was rebuilt. Price for a new one was well over a thousand bucks. But, bear in mind it was 1985, so the Chevette was only six years old.

I have been alarmed at how often electronics fail in ALL domestic vehicles, and how much domestic dealers charge for those parts, and that's why I won't buy domestic. Not until I hear different words from mechanics and dealers.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 1:51AM
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What a load of crap. About the only electronic parts I've ever replaced in any domestic vehicles are:

1)A TFI-IV ignition module--for reasons that everyone who really has a clue knows about, no surprise there.

2)The car stereo because I wanted a CD player.

That's IT, otherwise.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 4:05PM
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