2002 Mercury Villager - Stalls

Engine started stalling at the end of city driving and quit running just as I got into the driveway. I was able to start it again and it idled smoothly for a brief time and then started sputtering and died again. It has plenty of fuel, the alternator has been checked recently and was ok. I am wondering if the fuel filter might be clogged or if there might be moisture in the tank.

Both are possible but I caution you about just accepting that answer and replacing those parts. Why do I say that? Becuase stalling could be caused by a long list of things. Finding the actual cause before swapping parts will save you time, money and frustration.

How many miles on this thing? Is the check engine light on? What engine is in your Villager?

180 K miles. check engine light is not on. 3.3. liter V6. this my daughter’s van and she told me the symptoms last night. I just got to her house this afternoon and checked vacuum hoses, air filter, fuel lines, etc. I couldn’t find the PCV. When I started the engine, it ran fine and I was able to rev the engine and let it idle for several minutes. Still no check engine light. It never did stall. I wonder if she just had some debris in the fuel. Any thoughts?

Thank you.

If the fuel pump has never been changed, it could easily be on is way out. Usually results in a cranks-ok-but-no-start rather than dying in the street. A fist thump on the fuel tank often will get it started.

The van does have a replaceable fuel filter and if its never been done it could not hurt to change it although I doubt that is the problem. Clogged filter usually shows as weak power trying to get up to highway speeds but it runs OK in the neighborhood.

Without hooking up a pressure gauge and driving around to see if it makes good pressure at all speeds and loads, it is just a guess. The problem could be something completely different. Can’t say what it might be without hooking up a scanner and trying to duplicate the problem.

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Possibly an idle air control valve issue. Perhaps dirty and sticking. Would be easy to remove and clean it before replacing it. 30 minutes well spent.

Not the best video, but it gives you an idea where the IAC lives.

Thank you. I will probably try your suggestion.

I cleaned the IAC valve and thought it helped but it didn’t. I also replaced the PCV valve just because I had a new one. Today I cleaned the throttle body and now the engine idols very fast, but it corrects itself and almost dies then idles fast again and corrects itself again over and over. I am wondering if I should go ahead and replace the IAC valve. I tested the IAC earlier and the pintle seemed to move when I turn on and off the ignition but I am not sure how far the part should move nor whether it was moving each time I turned on the ignition.

Any suggestions?

Thanks again for your help.


Oh, I also wonder if I unplug the IAC valve and the engine behaves the same way as it is now, is that an indication the IAC is bad?

Thank you.


I’m thinking you have two options that are practical

  • take the Villager to a shop that has the scan tool which will enable a proper diagnosis
  • replace the IAC on a flyer and see what happens

If you are fairly certain there are no vacuum leaks causing this, and the throttle valve isn’t gunked up and sticking inside the throttle body, pretty good chance replacing the IAC will do the trick.

I decided to take the van to a car repai

I decided to take the van to a repair shop. The technician found codes for the crank sensor, knock sensor and found a coolant leak in the intake manifold. After replacing the crank sensor the problem was still there and he tried replacing the distributor and that solved the idle surging from high to low RPM. He said that the crank sensor and the distributor communicate with each other and so he may not have needed to replace the crank sensor, but the labor for the crank sensor was one hour so he left the new sensor in the engine. He will be replacing the intake gasket and the knock sensor (if it still shows a cod) today.

thank you again for your suggestions.


Sounds like your shop is on top of the situation. Access to the proper scan tool is critical to getting to the bottom of problems like this on modern cars, as you’ve discovered. Glad you got the worse of the problems nixed. Best of luck.