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Car thread: Girlfriend's Focus is having issues

wasted pixelswasted pixels Registered User regular
edited September 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
My girlfriend's 2001 Ford Focus (DOHC, Zetec engine, 110,000k on the engine) is having an ongoing series of problems, and I'm hoping someone can help me diagnose the issue (or at least back me up if I say, "it's time to take it in for repairs"). Here's the rundown.

The Check Engine light came on a while ago. From there, some relatively minor symptoms began to develop -- a slightly rough idle, and it started taking a bit longer than normal to warm up. I asked her when she had it in for a tune-up last, and it turns out the answer was "never", so I figured one was probably in order. Replaced the air filter, replaced the (original, came-with-the-car) spark plugs, checked the spark cables (fine), inspected the hoses (fine). I made a note to myself that the EGR looked to be in pretty rough shape (rusty), but otherwise, everything seemed to be in working order. Disconnected the battery to reset the CEL, fired it up, everything seemed fine.

It was less than a day before the rough idle began to return, so we swung by a parts store and got the codes. A generic EGR error turned up (not surprising), but there was also a misfire recorded on the 4th cylinder (surprising, I'd never noticed one). A bit of research indicated that there's an extremely common sensor failure that plagues virtually all Focuses this age. I decided to try the EGR bypass, and on close inspection, I noticed that the top of the EGR valve was nearly rusted through in a few spots, and severely cracked. Sure enough, a gentle little tug on the hose at the top tore the nozzle clear off the EGR. I felt pretty confident I'd found the culprit, so I finished off the ghetto bypass, and took a lap around campus to make sure the car was running fine. Sure enough, smooth as butter.

For a couple of days.

Since disconnecting the EGR, that misfire on the 4th cylinder has gone from "probably a fluke" to "fucking horrible", to the point that I had to abort a trip out to pick up a new EGR and sensor because the car was running so badly. It's fine at speed, but has an asthma attack while accelerating.

One last oddity that my girlfriend has noted; when the misfire happens, the radio goes to static for the duration of the misfire.

So that's pretty well everything up to this point. Could bypassing the EGR in any way be contributing to the misfire? Or is the misfire probably an unlucky coincidence? Is it worth replacing the EGR/sensor and seeing if that helps the situation, or is it time to limp the poor car over to the mechanic's?

wasted pixels on
BTW, I got a message from Obs that equated installing OS X on a PC with car theft, murder and rape. Is he normally like that?

Posts

  • badpoetbadpoet Registered User regular
    edited September 2008
    One of the spark plug wires could be bad. Even if you visually inspect them, that doesn't mean they're not bad. The wires are supposed to be insulated from causing static, and that insulation is usually where it connects up with the plug.

  • TexiKenTexiKen Was it Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said, Registered User regular
    edited September 2008
    Sounds like an ignition coil.

    On my Maxima, the #6 cylinder coil failed and created that rattling at low speeds, to the point you feel your foot on the brake just rumbling away.

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  • DeathwingDeathwing Registered User regular
    edited September 2008
    Having had the same general type of problem(s) a few years ago with a 00' S40, I would also lean towards some kind of wiring/other electrical problem, especially with the static on the radio thing - I remember having that happen to me also when I was having issues with the spark plugs....and again when a screw managed to cause a short in one of the wiring harnesses, which did all sorts of fun things like eventually blowing a couple fuses and making the immobilizer go insane.

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  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited September 2008
    Since disconnecting the EGR, that misfire on the 4th cylinder has gone from "probably a fluke" to "fucking horrible", to the point that I had to abort a trip out to pick up a new EGR and sensor because the car was running so badly. It's fine at speed, but has an asthma attack while accelerating.

    When was the last time you had a look at/changed the timing belt?

    Unless I'm really remembering things wrong, you're running an interference engine, meaning if that belt snaps you're boned to the tune of $NewEngine.

    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
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  • b0bd0db0bd0d Registered User regular
    edited September 2008
    Replace the wires. I know that they look fine, but its the stuff that you can't see that is the problem. I had a misfire on a crownvic and I swore up and down the wires were fine. Changed/looked at everything else and then finally changed the wires. It was the wires. If you wanna test em, get a ohm meter and check the resistance of the wires. It should be high with the longer wires obviously having more resistance. You shouldnt have any huge differences. Like one at 40K and the other one at 100K, unless it's twice as long.

  • wasted pixelswasted pixels Registered User regular
    edited September 2008
    So, problem seems to be solved, it turned out to be a stupid, fluke thing -- I was given the wrong spark plugs. Before dragging it off for repairs, I decided to double-check the gapping, and on a hunch (based on Deathwing's mention of how screwy a car with spark plug problems can act), I figured it couldn't hurt to dig up the old plugs and make sure everything matched. On close inspection, the new plugs were visibly shorter than the originals, which immediately sounded alarm bells. I ran over to a (different!) parts shop, grabbed a new set, and the misfires cleared up in no time. It looks like I need to go bitch someone out royally tomorrow, but at least the Focus lives to break down another day.

    Thanks to everyone for the input (and a special nod to PeregrineFalcon for reminding me that she's probably way past due for new belts, too. And fluid flushes. And...), I'm just sorry I couldn't put much of it to good use.

    BTW, I got a message from Obs that equated installing OS X on a PC with car theft, murder and rape. Is he normally like that?
  • fuelishfuelish Registered User
    edited September 2008
    From what I found, the belt interval on a Zetec is 120,000miles. The same site claimed the motor to be non interference(that means when the belt breaks, the valves and pistons don't attack each other and you get to replace a belt rather than rebuild the engine)

    While it looks like your problem is solved, 110K on stock wires is a bunch. If your problems start again, yo might want to crank the car up in as near total dark as you can get, pop the hood and look for any arcing off the wires. (this is also very coolif you have a hot turbo, which implies a lean condition)

    Another day in the bike shop Pretty much what it sounds like. The secret lifestyle, laid open.
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