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2003 Ford Escape - turns over, runs briefly, dies

So, just got this car and everything was fine until I had to be somewhere…car started up, ran briefly, died…grrrr.First noticed the check engine light, so I did, it was still there, fresh oil, etc. Then noticed the ‘Check Gas Cap’ light on, so I did, messed with it. Tried to start the car, same problem, light still on. Messed with the gas cap some more, car started up and stayed on! Yay! But now I’m worried! Bought a new gas cap, but that seems to be a pretty lame reason for the car to die. Any other thoughts or should I just not have bought this car?

It could be any number of things but the first step is getting it scanned for codes on the offchance there may be a code present signifying lack of power to a relay, pump, module, or whatever.

There is no Check Gas Cap light and that’s not the problem anyway. Most chain type auto parts stores will scan the vehicle for free. Get this done and go from there.

Well, actually, there IS a light that says ‘Check Gas Cap’ (maybe not in those exact words, but it’s there). My husband ran the codes on it and nothing comes up. Of course, it wasn’t having the problem anymore by the time he got there.

Question then. When trying to restart the vehicle did you try depressing the accelerator pedal during the attempt?

Point being here is that if there’s an Idle Air Valve hiccup an engine may not restart if the pedal is left alone. This can also be a now and then thing and may not set any codes at all.

It actually can be the gas cap. Your check gas cap light (which you already know you do have) is the result of a PO440 code and means you have an EVAP control system problem. You might just not be turning the gas gap enough to close it (you should make it click a couple of times), or the original cap might have been leaking. That would have caused the problem you experienced and the light to come on.
If you continue to have problems, there are other parts of this system that might go wrong. You need someone familiar with this relatively new system to determine which part might be the culprit.
I think you may have solved the problem with just the gas cap. It’s true that this would seem to be a lame reason for a car to stop running, but these systems were engineered and implemented in a relatively short period of time to comply with regulations to limit VOC releases during refilling. And if the light stays off, you did fix the problem.

Thanks for the responses. To OK4450- no, I found that by giving it a bit of gas while starting did keep it on for a bit longer, but the second I let off the pedal, pffffft it shuts off.
Kizwiki- Thanks. I feel a tiny bit better now, but I’m taking it to a mechanic for a little checkup just in case. Seems I just have ‘car cooties’ and stupid little things happen quite a lot. If this keeps up, I am buying a mule and a cart.

If the engine continues to run with the accelerator pedal depressed a bit then this generally points to an Idle Air Valve problem. This is not a rare problem with any vehicle.

To a lesser extent it could also point to an intake vacuum leak. This could be easily verified by the use of a vacuum gauge.

The plot thickens! Thanks ‘ok’. I seem to be a magnet for these issues - or should I say my husband is, because he’s the one who deemed this car as good. He fixed the vacuum leak on the motorhome, also a Ford engine, so I will assume that he can figure this one out to.