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1997 Ford Taurus GL will not start

My Taurus has developed a problem where it refuses to start. When I try to start it, it just cranks over and over and over. I keep trying till the battery starts getting weak. I charge up the battery and then try it again with no luck. A neighbor suggested I get a piece of lumber and gently pound on the gas tank suggesting it might be a stuck fuel pump problem [whatever that means!]. Actually it worked once but after I drove the car all day doing errands the next morning was the same problem. That was three weeks ago. I’m hoping, before I tow it to a shop for repair, that you might have some ideas/repairs that I might be able to do myself before I end up having to shell out some serious cash. Thank you.

Does the car start with a little starter fluid sprayed into the air intake? If so, then you’ll know you have a fuel problem instead of an ignition problem. When was the fuel filter last replaced?

Thank you for your response Bluegill.

The starter fluid into the air intake was tried. It did nothing. About five months I replaced both the fuel filter and the air filter. Let me mention that exactly a year ago to the month this car had this same problem for about 4 weeks. Then it suddenly started and has been trouble free all year till recently.

Your mention of an ignition problem has never been mentioned to me. ??? I’m not sure what the means but I will definitely look into that and do some research. Thanks!


You say you pounded on the tank with a piece of lumber and it started

That suggests you need a fuel pump

Very common problem on older cars

Quick suggestion . . . hook up a fuel pressure gauge to the fuel rail

Try to start it . . . if it won’t start and the gauge reads 0, you’ll know you’ve got a fuel pressure problem

Have you checked that the inertial fuel shutoff switch (located in the right footwell) hasn’t been tripped?

Remove the gas cap. Have someone turn the ignition switch to the run position as you listen down the filler tube for the gas tank. Do you hear the fuel pump run for a second or two and then shut off? If not there’s a fuel pump problem. If you do hear the fuel pump run then there’s probably an ignition issue.


Thank you db4690 & Tester for your suggestions.

With regard to listening for the fuel pump, that was also done. And actually, if it’s quiet enough, I can hear the fuel pump inside the car as I turn the key to “ON” before I try to start it. But that begs the question, can a fuel pump turn on and not function?

And checking the inertial fuel shut-off switch is also something I did check; more than once. It’s in place.

Unfortunately do not not own tools like a fuel pressure gauge so I am not able to perform that test you suggested db4690.

And once again Tester you mentioned an ignition issue which is something I never knew about. I’m curious about that. I need to figure out how that works.


Do you have an extra spark plug sitting around?

If you do, remove one of the spark wires from a spark plug. Plug the extra spark plug into the spark plug wire and lay the spark plug on the engine so it touches metal on metal. Now have someone crank the engine over as you watch the tip of the spark plug. There should be bright blue spark at the tip of the spark plug while the engine’s cranking.

If there is no spark then there’s an ignition problem.



Here’s a quick and dirty “test” in regards to fuel pressure

Cycle the key on and off a few times, leaving the key in the on position

Depress the schrader valve inside the fuel pressure test port . . . with a very small flat bladed screwdriver

If there’s no fuel pressure, nothing will happen

If there is fuel pressure, there should be a mini geyser of fuel

Of course, that won’t tell you how much pressure . . .

I wanted to extend a thank you to both of you . . . “db4690” and “Tester” for your help and willingness to offer your suggestions. This is such a great web site.

The story ended this morning when I got that dreaded call from the auto repair shop advising me that the fuel pump had indeed failed and total cost for replacement about $550.00. Ouch! Well there goes “burgers & beers” for the month.

I asked myself, “Could I have done the work myself?” I would have paid $139.00 for a new fuel pump from a local auto parts store, no labor charges, and I own no tools and have no experience changing fuel pumps.

The answer, “Piece-O-Cake!” I just figured I’d let my Taurus enjoy “pumps & filters” this month. Besides, I gain to lose a couple pounds along with 5 plus Franklins! Only in America!

Thanks again “db4690” and “Tester”.

I’m sorry but I failed to acknowledge “Bluegill” in this discussion thread. My apologizes!

Thank you Bluegill as well.

I hope you don’t have two problems going on. You stated that the classic starter fluid trick didn’t work when you tried it. If this is just a fuel problem that trick should have been successful. If you have further trouble look for an ignition problem. Hopefully things will be okay though.


Thanks for the update

And please let us know when the Taurus is fixed

Well, here we go again . . . the story continues!

Thank you Cougar for your analysis. I have a sneaky suspicion your expert analysis was correct.

The repair shop called to tell me my car was done and ready to pick-up. This morning I showed up at the shop with $550.00 cash in hand. Paid the bill, got my itemized receipt for repairs and left.

Got into my car and guess who . . . it didn’t start. It had the exact same problem . . . it just turns and turns and turns. And I went ballistic!!!

One of the mechanics was standing outside and heard my car trying to start and came over to help. The shop owner saw the commotion and came out too!

Long story short, they pushed it back into the shop to try to figure why it wasn’t starting. And it was probably best that I left and let them figure it out. Unbelievable!

And of course it begs the question, “Was my fuel pump really the problem the whole time?” I will never know the answer to that $550 question; one of many questions I have now that need answers.

Now I’m just waiting for the dreaded call . . . $$$$$$$$. Unbelievable!

Thanks for listening.


Sorry to hear that. Intermittent problems like this are a pain for the owner and the repair shop. I suspect there is an ignition problem that is causing the no start condition. There may be a commonly known problem associated with that possibly. The one good thing is at least, the problem happened at the shop so hopefully they can find out what is causing the trouble. Checking the power to the ignition is always the first thing that should be done and maybe they will find a problem there. If the fuel pump has never been replaced then it very well may have been on the way out. At least you now shouldn’t have that to worry about it for a long time.

Are you sub 32 degrees f? Ya know I had a car that would not start recently, and massive quantities of starter fluid sprayed in just before the throttle plate did not even give it a little kick. I hooked up some jumper cables threw some heet in the tank tried it ever 5 min or so, after 30 minutes finally managed a rough start, died, then died, after 45 minutes finally got running, and been fine ever since. Now heet is on my maintenance list. No codes.

Yes, it is frustrating when the shop claims the problem is fixed, but it isn’t. Please realize though that there are a dozen possibilities (or more) why it might not start. And it may not be one problem, but 2 or 3. With it being intermittent, that complicates the problem even more. If the shop is competent, and you give them time and the benefit of a doubt, eventually they’ll test things one by one and get to the bottom of it. There is no magic trick , something they know how to do but are withholding in your case say, to fix this kind of problem. It’s not rocket science, but it can take quite a bit of time to solve this kind of problem.

The story finally ends . . .

“Cougar”, your assessment - “I suspect there is an ignition problem that is causing the no start condition . . .” - was correct and “GeorgeSanJose”, your projection was also correct - “it can take quite a bit of time to solve this kind of problem”.

After a day and a half of diagnosing, the culprit turned out to be a device called a Constant Control Relay Module. I asked the shop owner if I could take a look at it. I’ll still scratching my head.

Totally cost was $199 for this device in addition to the $550 for the fuel pump replacement.

My Taurus starts like a new car again.

That said . . . I must share this with you “GeorgeSanJose”; after going ballistic the first time around with the shop and I’m sure the shop owner was feeling very embarrassed over the whole incident I was expecting my second visit to be a little strained. I certainly had time to rehearse my lines.

But when I drove my car out of the shop parking lot, I was feeling a little angry with myself and embarrassed because you were so right when you said - “If the shop is competent, and you give them time and the benefit of a doubt, eventually they’ll test things one by one and get to the bottom of it.” Well they did just that.

And . . . let me tell you what this shop owner also did:

  1. He dropped the 7 hours of labor charges for the diagnosing,
  2. He sold me the module at cost,
  3. He did an oil change for free (And gave me a lecture about doing that on a regular basis . . . for free I might add! Duh!),
  4. He added a 2 year warranty on parts and labor for both the fuel pump and the module,

and 5). . . after noticing my front tires were a little worn, he not only rotated the tires, he replaced the front worn tires with a couple of used tires he had laying around the shop. . . for free!

Of course I had to ask him why. His response,“When you bring your car here, our job is making sure your car is working and safe to drive.”

Ouch! That hurt . . . bigtime!!! Boy . . . did I feel like a “jxxxxxx”!

Thank you “Cougar”, “Barkydog” and “GeorgeSanJose” for listening.

This is such a great website. I think I’ll go out and start my Taurus as a toast to all you guys!
No! Actually . . . I think I’ll start it up for each one of you guys! Yeah!

The End.


If it makes you feel any better, if you banged on the tank and it started, the fuel pump needed attention. Unless, it may have been a coincidence. I used to carry a 5# hammer just for those occassions. Sounds like you got one heck of a deal.

Wow. What a great ending to a frustrating problem. You found a shop that went way more than the extra mile for you and has most likely made a dedicted customer for any future issues. Getting upset when things don’t go right is a very normal thing for everyone. It is how you control it that can make the difference in things. I’ll bet you have a different reaction the next time something like this happens to you. If this happened to me I might do something like buy pizza for the shop to show my appreciation for the work they did. Things get more personal when you show kindness like that. “Thank you doctor Phil, and now back to CarTalk”.

Thanks for the feedback on this and you’re welcome for the help. If you have any more issues let us know. But I guess you now have a place you can depend on getting things fixed. Drive on.