2003 Ford Focus Stalls after starting

I have a 2003 Ford Focus SE, manual transmission. It’s well driven, with almost 80,000 miles on it. My only problem has been that the car will occasionally refuse to idle after start, choosing to stall instead. This never happens in the morning on a cold start, but only after it has been driven around, and even then it is completely random when it occurs with no observable pattern because it will sometimes do it after driving ten miles, sometimes after driving 300 miles, or sometimes it won’t happen at all.

When it does happen the car starts fine, the engine runs, and then it dies immediately unless I place my foot on the accelerator. Being a manual, it usually dies when I’m shifting due to the drop in RPM. If I’m careful enough to get back on the road without killing myself due to it’s constant stalling, the car will usually continue to run fine, idling like normal at intersections after about ten or fifteen minutes.

I suspect it has something to do with some sensor that has nothing better to do than annoy me, but the mechanics I’ve talked to have no idea what it could be, and without a check engine light, they don’t even think a reason would pop up when they scan it.

It is possible that scanning will pick up a code even if there is no light on. Some places will scan it for free, try AAuto zone or Advanced Auto Parts.

It is certainly possible that it will not turn up something however.

If this were a Crown Victoria and it would stall when it was cold and improve somewhat when it was warm, I would say it is the idle air control (IAC) valve. It is worth a shot anyway. If your car has one, find it, take it off, and clean it with some throttle body cleaner.

Yeah. It sounds like an Idle Air Control motor problem to me.

You could try having the IAC motor removed from the throttle body, and clean it and the idle air bleed port on the throttle body. Then have it put back on to see if it solves the problem. If it doesn’t, then IAC motor is probably defective and requires replacement.


All cars sold in America have an 8 year, 80000 mile warranty on the catalytic converter and all the devices and sensors associated with the emissions control systems. Get to a Ford dealer ASAP and make them fix it.