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2001 Ford Focus Occasionally Stalling; Engine Light On, Steering Wheel & Gas Pedal Lock Up?

I purchased a 2001 Ford Focus 7/17 from a Ford dealer. I paid $995 for an inspection, of which the Ford dealer said no issues were found. The car broke down 14 days after purchase.

While my daughter was driving, at a left turn, the engine light came on, the car stalled, and the steering wheel and gas pedal locked up. A friend did a computer scan and said the code came back that 2 sensors, the crank shaft and cam shaft sensors, needed replaced. So we had them replaced.

About 4 days later, while driving home from school, on a right turn, the car broke down again on my daughter. She said the symptoms were the same, engine light came on, car stalled, the steering wheel and gas pedal locked up. So we had it towed to a local Ford service department. They said the ignition coils needed replaced and the valve cover gasket would eventually need replaced (per the mechanic, this wasn’t directly related to the issue but a small leakage was found). So we let the Ford mechanic replace the coils and the valve gasket cover. They ran several tests and put 20 additional miles on the car without failures or issues, scans came up clean.

So while driving to school this morning, on a u-turn, my daughter experienced the issue again…car stalled, engine light came on, steering wheel and gas pedal locked up. After sitting a few minutes, the car started up so she drove it home and hitched a ride from dad to get to school.

Ok, so we’re stumped. We just got it back from the mechanic on 8/10…any ideas on what is causing this issue so we can get an idea of what to repair?

I think you may be getting the symptom confused from the actual problem. When the engine stalls, doesn’t the engine light come on normally anyway? A stalled engine puts the car in the same mode as if you turned the key to “On” or “Run”, but before you started the engine, so in my car at least the Check Engine light come on. That’s so you can tell the Check Engline display is working, not that there is anything wrong.

Does the check engine light come on (or stay on) while the engine is running? That would mean the ECU detected a problem. Please clarify.

Also, the steering wheel might become hard to turn when the engine stalls. That’s simply because the engine isn’t running so the power steering isn’t working. It isn’t the reason why the engine isn’t running probably. Gas pedal? Not sure if the engine running/not running would affect that, but it might.

The car isn’t supposed to stall out of course. Stalling can be caused by a bunch of different things. Often it is some kind air/fuel mixture problem, or a problem with the ignition or timing system. A stuck open EGR could cause it. Worn out spark plugs, spark plug wires could cause it. A vacuum leak could cause it. Besides the trouble codes, those are probably the places I start looking if this were my car.

Thanks! I clarified with my daughter, yest the lights are just coming on when it stalls not while it’s running (I haven’t been able to duplicate her issues, neither has the Ford service department—however the independent mechanic was able to when test driving).

There aren’t any codes coming out when the car is scanned. It’s coming up clean both at a Ford service department and by an independent mechanic. We can’t seem to nail down the specific issue. I’m just looking for suggestions from others as things we could look into since at the moment it seems the Ford service department just wants us to replace parts without even knowing what the problem is. It just seems like a sinking money hole if we can’t try something more specific.

A friend emailed me earlier and says he thinks it might be the ignition cylinder. He said he owned a 2001 Ford Focus and had the same thing happen and had to replace it. He also said his fuel pump had to be replaced before the ignition cylinder went bad because of a Ford recall.

Maybe that’s our next step is looking into the ignition cylinder and then moving onto the fuel pump if that doesn’t work.

Is it possible for you to switch cars with your daughter for a week or two? When it happens, maybe you’ll notice something your daughter doesn’t as you have more experience with driving.

Is this a stick shift? If so, has your daughter have much experience driving stick shift? It may be she’s just having some trouble with learning to work the clutch.

I wouldn’t have guessed the ignition lock myself, but it’s a possibility. It could be the fuel pump. Mechanics have easy ways to test a stuck fuel pump, but it has to be stuck at the time they test it.

I think you have to careful not to be pro-active rather than reactive on addressing this problem. Simply replacing everything that might be the cause is being reactive. Pro-active is going about finding the cause in a systematic fashion.

Me, I’m not a professional mechanic. I’m just a shade-tree “fix it in my driveway” mechanic, so I’d approach this problem like any other car problem I have. I’d read the manufacturer’s shop manual for the make/model/year of the car, get some ideas from that for possible causes of this symptom, and go through them one by one following the shop manual test procedures. That always has worked for me.

Since you probably aren’t interested in this way of doing things yourself, you don’t have the time and tools etc, and you are working on a budget, what I think you need is a good independent mechanic who has experience fixing Fords. The best way to find one is to ask friends, relatives, fellow church goers, work mates, etc, anyone you have a personal relationship with, for a recommendation for who to use as a mechanic. Then go to that mechanic, ask what his Ford experience is, and if ok, tell him you came to use his services becausae “Joe Smith” or whoever it was referred him to you.

That yields a good start. You have some leverage. The mechanic knows that if he does a good job for you, you’ll tell Joe Smith, and Joe Smith will be more likely to be a return client. And visa versa.

Good luck. This doesn’t sound like too difficult of a problem for a good Ford-experienced mechanic to solve.

I have a 2000 ford focus and once it heats up, it will stall when I come to a stop. I have put three containers of that fuel tune up liquid in my fuel tank over the last 6 weeks and that seems to help for a while but it also has a second symptom. Sometimes when I go to take off from a stop it will slow and shut down. The temp gauge also is not on the low side as it once was and sits right in the middle.

I purchased a Haynes manual and it’s a foreign language to me.

As George said, the “engine light” coming on, the loss of he brake boost, and the loss of the power steering assist, are all reactions to the engine stalling. Fix the stalling the the other “problems” will disappear.

It would be a help to know exactly what codes were found at the second event as well as exactly what was checked. If it’s on your copy of the shop order, post the information here,

Based on the symptoms, the age of the vehicle, what’s been replaced already, and my gut instinct of what a tech would usually focus on for a problem like this, I’m going to posit a wild guess that your fuel pump is failing. Most techs won’t check the fuel pump for your symptoms and htey don;t always throw a code.

Another possibility that came to mind, but I’d expect it to store a code, is an EVAP system malfunction that prevents the gas tank from breathing in as the gas is used up, creating a vacuum in the tank that prevents it from pumping freely. I consider this a very low probablility because these systems are so well monitored for vacuum, but I only offer it as a possibility.

Post back with what they find this time.

@Mutt start your own post, please.

Somebody else would have said it if I didn’t.
You are hijacking a 6 month old thread.