1992 Ford Ranger won’t start

When filling with gas, I noticed the pipe from the fender into the gas tank was leaking. Mechanic removed gas tank, replaced filler pipe, fuel pump, gas gauge. I brought it home (about 3 miles). Next day, I drove it to my bank and parked. (about 1 mile). It would not start. The battery turned if over fine and sounded normal, but would not start. I called the mechanic, had it towed back to him. The mechanic checked everything possible, to include new fuel pump, spark plugs, injectors and whatever else he could think of. He could drive it to lunch and back, but next morning it would not start. He kept it about 3 weeks, then took it to a Ford dealer where (as a favor) the “Ford certified” mechanic has been working on the diagnosis and fix for about 2 weeks (as a favor to my mechanic). Still no diagnosis or fix. Will start and run fine at times, but will not start at other times. It has always been dependable and never stranded me. I drive it mostly to the landfill and Home Depot, about 25 miles per week. Engine and Transmission are fine. Any suggestions, PLEASE?
Thanks much, I enjoy your weekly column.

An engine needs 3 things to run, fuel, compression, and spark. The fuel is checked with a fuel pressure gauge, compression with a compression tester, and spark with a spark tester. Can you tell us if those three things were done, and if so, what the results were?

When it doesn’t start, how do you get it started?
Just keep trying
starting fluid
wait unknown amount of time

Your definition of “fine” is a lot different than mine. While the transmission might be fine, obviously the engine is not.

Replace the starter solenoid under the hood… Should be on one of the fenders closest to battery. Ford starter solenoids, when they begin to fail will not provide ignition power when you are engaging the starter and it happens intermittently at first. You will have ignition power with the key on…but not while cranking…

It took me quite a while to find this problem, but that is what has solved this issue on many Ford’s that I have had to diagnose and repair.

IDK if your '92 Ranger is the same as my '93 Explorer but a few months ago I could not start it… it would crank and there was spark but it would not start. I rapped on the inertial fuel shutoff switch (I should have checked continuity before doing this) and then it would start. After a few days of running ok, I decided I did not want a possible intermittent switch hanging over my head so I took the switch out and put a bypass jumper in its place. No reoccurence of this problem. This switch is located on the firewall under the carpet below the glove compartment. Good luck.

Are they still using that ancient circuit that was meant to bypass the ballast resistor to get full voltage to the coil during cranking?

If it worked fine before the fuel-filler pipe replacement, checking for a healthy visual spark at a spark plug during cranking is where to start. I presume that’s already been done. My next step would be spraying some starter fluid into the air intake. If it would start and run briefly then, problem is almost certainly lack of fuel. Checking fuel-rail pressure and that the injectors are being pulsed would be next.

If you feel lucky, when it won’t start loosen the gas cap, wait a few minutes If it starts then, a vacuum or pressure is developing in the gas tank for some reason. There are various valves in the fuel tank area and gas cap to prevent that from happening, but maybe the new ones are faulty or not connected correctly.

If that’s not the problem, then it is probably unrelated to the fuel tank work and the non-starting occuring immediately afterward is a coincidence. Fords tend to have weird EGR problems which can cause poor performance, stalling, and non-starts. It tends to be the device that controls the amount of vacuum to apply to the EGR, but sometimes it is the EGR valve itself. Ask you mechanic about that idea. It’s probably not too big a job to eliminate the EGR temporarily to see that solves the problem. If so, replace the broken EGR parts, and you are on your way again. I doubt this will turn out to be anything overly serious. But it is odd even a Ford-trained mechanic can’t figure it out. My guess is that mechanic isn’t treating the problem as serious work assignment, and is just stringing his mechanic-friend along, not spending much time on the problem actually.

What engine? It could make a difference.

You might want to verify if the dealer is actually having this looked at . Or if this mechanic is doing work on the side at the dealer. I can’t see the dealer letting work be done without an actual work order signed by the owner of the vehicle.

Since the fuel system was worked on and the trouble started up after that I suggest you clean out all the fuel lines and replace the fuel filter. Hopefully that will do the trick. If that doesn’t work have a can of starter fluid in the truck so when the trouble happens again so you can spray a small amount of fluid into the intake to see if that helps get the engine to run at least for a short burst. If the trouble isn’t with the fuel delivery then I would have to suspect the ignition system next.

Mr. PvtPublic when I say the engine and transmission are fine, I mean that when it starts (intermittently) it runs perfectly normally, no stalling, normal power, does not use excessive oil, etc. Didn’t know I was going to define all my word, but thank you for pointing out this very important definition to me.