Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

2000 Ford Explorer rough start issue

I’m having a persistent issue with my 2000 Ford Explorer starting, and it seemed to start with the starter engine itself. For a long time, the issue manifested as a sputtering upon starting, then running normally. Then, on what I thought was a related issue, the starter failed, and I replaced it, after which the vehicle started and ran perfectly well for a decent length of time.

Recently, it’s started to malfunction at start: it takes a long time with the starter for the engine to engage, and the starter is very hot to the touch long after the vehicle has stopped. I thought it had something to do with me installing it improperly at first, but I’ve serviced it a few more times since and can’t get the issue to go away.

I’m at a bit of a loss now, because I took it to the shop a while back and they could find nothing wrong with the starter or how it was wired (I did that wiring myself), and couldn’t even get the problem to repeat itself while it was there. Aside from the starter, two things that could be related to the problem are the fact that the car’s a bit overdue for an oil change, and it seems like it could be leaking a bit of oil. Anyway here’s what I want to know:

  1. Is it normal for a starter to remain hot after the car has stopped?
  2. Can low oil or failing oil seals cause difficulty at startup?
  3. Are there any other malfunctions that I’m not seeing that can cause occasional rough startups?

Any input would be extremely helpful. Thanks!

  1. Yes if it has had to run a long time to start the car; or if the engine has heated up to normal temp and that large mass of hot metal has warmed up everything that is bolted to it.
  2. No.
  3. If it doesn’t start up right away, there may be a lack of fuel or fuel pressure at the engine. The diagnosis (even cure) is to turn the key to Run (not all the way to Start) and listen for the fuel pump. It should run for a few seconds and then stop. If it doesn’t run, that’s a problem. If it does run, turn the key to Off, then back to Run and let the fuel pump run a couple more seconds until it turns off. Each time you “key dance” you are bring fuel up to the engine and pressurizing it. When you finally turn the key all the way to Start does the engine start right up?

Good luck and let us know if this works, or not.

Thank you very much for that input! That definitely had an effect, but it may be a bit too soon for me to tell if the problem’s gone. Just so I know, does a failure to pressurize normally mean anything is wrong with the fuel pump or fuses, and is it necessary to repeat the “key dance” every once in a while to avoid the issue?

Anyway, that definitely made a significant improvement, thanks!

I’m not clear what the problem is. What exactly happens when you try to start the engine? Does it crank ok, that rrr rrr rrr sound, but fails to catch and run? Or doesn’t it crank at all? If the latter, does it make any noise at all, like a click?

I’ve never measured the temperature of my starter motor after running the engine for a while, but I imagine it could be pretty hot, simply b/c it is bolted to a hot engine. If you think I t might be engaging when it shouldn’t, measure the voltage at the two terminals. One is a big thick wire, it should measure at about the battery voltage at all times. The other is a thin wire, and should measure about the battery voltage when the key is in “start” and close to 0 volts otherwise, engine running or not. If the thin wire is considerably higher than zero volts when the engine is running and the key is in “on” (not “start”), that would indicate a problem. That’s what I’d check first for an unusually hot starter motor.

Oil leaks unlikely related. Starting problems of the fails to crank variety are typically caused by weak batteries, alternator faulty, corroded battery connections, faulty starter motor, faulty neutral or clutch safety switches. Of the “takes a long time of cranking before it starts” variety, that is usually a fuel pressure problem, often caused by a faulty fuel pump.

The pump is probably OK and if every time you turn the key to Run/On you hear the pump run, its relay and the ignition switch are OK, too.

There’s an anti-drainback valve near the pump, and that may be allowing fuel to leak back into the tank. The key dance overcomes that. The problem may be worse in cold weather and/or with low fuel level in the tank. But if everyone who drives the car knows the key dance, it may be a problem you can live with.

Thanks very much, that would actually explain a large deal of it’s behavior. The vehicle often has difficulty starting in the cold, and occasionally refuses to start altogether when parked at an incline on a low fuel level.

Do you happen to know if the check valve is an easy repair? Several mechanics seem a bit confused by the issue when I explained it too them and quoted me at everything between 100 and 400 dollars (I can’t see myself putting 400 more into a +200000 mile vehicle before seeing if I can hack it myself). If it’s a simple enough fix, how do I locate the part on the vehicle?

Many thanks, you’re helping me to learn a lot about this old Ford model. I actually find it to be a nice build aside from the wear and tear on this old one I’ve got.

I think it’s often built into the fuel pump/motor assembly. Maybe an auto electric shop would know if your particular kind can have the check valve (anti-drainback valve) replaced. They may also be able to test your pump and motor.