1995 Ford Contour mystery starting issues

1995 Ford Contour. It has a new battery. We’ve taken it to our FAVORITE and highly reliable mechanic (we have seven cars total). We get the car over to his lot and it starts. EVERY TIME. We bring it back and it won’t start. The mechanic hooks it up to all the computers and it checks out as nothing being wrong. They can’t figure it out. Has anyone out in CarTalk land ever had an issue like this with a Ford Contour? We’ve been told this model has had issues with a wiring harness. Could that be it? The mechanics looked at that first and it doesn’t look supicious to them.

Have you left the car with the mechanic for a couple days? He could try to start it first thing the morning when the air temp is colder. Maybe that is why it isn’t starting for you. Is he doing anything different than how you start it. Maybe go over to his place when the car is there, and try to start it yourself. It might be he has it tilted one way or the other for some reason when he starts it. Or you have it tilted when the car is at home. Do you have a steep or highly tilted driveway?

I have a funny story along these lines, maybe cheer you up. I purchased an early 90’s Toyota Corolla car w/a manual-xmssion new back then, and had driven it for 3-4 years, absolutely no problem with starting or driving. Started and ran like a top.

One day I was washing this car in the driveway, and needed to pull it up the driveway a bit so my spouse could get her own car into the garage. It wouldn’t start. It didn’t even crank. It didn’t even click. Confused, I went running for the Toyota service manual. I read and read on what could cause a car to fail to crank. Starter motor, starter relay, battery, corroded connections … hmmm… checked all the connections, checked the battery, looked at the starter relay, everyth;ng looked ok . Finally, about ready to give up and take the car to the mechanic, I read something in the manual about a “clutch safety switch”.

Oh, oh! For some reason this time I didn’t press on the clutch pedal before trying to start the engine. I never thought about it before, but I guess it was just second nature to depress the clutch pedal. This time, when I wanted to quickly start and move the car just a short distance, my shoes were all wet from the car washing, so I tired to keep the interior from getting wet and didn’t press the clutch pedal.

The car started right up when I corrected this “operator” mistake. lol

What does it do when it doesn’t start?

George/ RemcoW…have left the car with the mechanic for a week. He tried starting all times of day …all temperatures. And he knows the car very very well. The starting issues that we experience were after relatively long drives - 20 miles + as well as short trips to the grocery store. The car wants to turn over (i.e. by the sound of it), but it just won’t go. On some instances there it has taken several attempts, but it did start on third or fourth try. If it weren’t for the fact that it has a brand new battery, you’d almost think it was that.

It may be the fuel mixture is too rich on warm starts. The car is supposed to know the coolant temperature, and adjust the mixture to lean if the engine coolant is warm. If it is getting confused, and thinking the coolant temp is cold, then it will enrich the mixture, and the car would have a hard time starting. This wouldn’t affect a cold start. The cold start would still work fine. Could be a faulty coolant temp sensor. Is the check-engine light on? Does the temperature guage on the dashboard seem to work as before?

I really appreciate your trying to help. It hasn’t started from a cold stop either. He has tried changing a coil that he thought might be the problem. That didn’t help. All gauges are working as before. No check engine light. This will be the second time we will have it towed to the Mechanic…(tomorrow) and if they can’t figure it out this time, we’ll probably just have him send it to the junk yard. And it is a shame because this car bodywise is impeccable. Not the smallest scratch on it. But you can’t fix what you can’t find what is wrong.


The fuel pump is the first thing that comes to mind for me. Later fords seem to exhibit this problem more. Typical, 2 or 3 stops then no start, 30 minutes later all is good. Preferred method, have the dealer on standby, stop by every time you pass, turn off the engine, and see if it starts, if not get the diagnosis done asap.

I think most mechanics would agree that figuring out why a car won’t start at all is usually one of their easiest jobs. It is much easier than figuring out why a car idles rough, or “what is causing that squeeling noise?” for example. Or “what is it that is leaking coolant?” But the car has to be in its “no start” mode at the shop of course.

If your car won’t start at the shop, and your mechanic simply is unable to diagnose why, maybe it is time to consider getting another opinion before sending it to the crusher.

My 99 contour does the same thing at totally random times. I discovered if I put it in neutral it will start

@Biggmuney This thread is 7 months old!

I just checked and OP has not been active since October.

It was good advice, but probably too late.