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2004 Mercury Sable

I am having a problem with a 2004 mercury sable

The car belongs to my sister. She informed me that the car will intermittently not start. The car will crank but thats it. If the car starts in runs and drives fine.
I am thinking this is a fuel pump problem.

I just changed the relay. She said this did not change anything. I was there one day when the car would not start. I used my elm327 bluetooth connector with my phone paired with “torque” android app, free version. (do you guys have a better app?) The fuel pressure read 276 kPA which I believe is around 40 psi.
However I do not know how often this information updates. It also felt like it would briefly fire every once and a while.

I went and started the car yesterday and drove it home. Now I have to diagnose and complete these repairs in less than zero temperatures.

2 years ago I was able to pass a hands on and written exam to become a fleet mechanic for USPS. Before that I have been just a backyard mechanic.
I am well versed on the 5 different GM drive trains at work. I never work on fords. I am not sure if they are much different from anything else.

I really appreciate any insight you guys might have on this issue.

My next step in my head is to wait until this happens again. Then I will test for spark at the plugs. I will also use my scan tool to try and monitor fuel pressure as well.

looking online it seems like there are many problems like this?

Is there any known problems with leaking fuel into the chambers?

No experience with this make, but it appears you are on the right track. Could be other things, but it’s very likely it is either a fuel system or spark problem. If the spark at the spark plug looked good, a mechanic would probably put a fuel pressure gauge on the fuel rail as the next step.

Is this always from a cold start or always from a hot re-start - or just any old time whether cold or hot?

Any of the basics that you learned in the fleet mechanic training apply - at least for initial troubleshooting. Unfortunately you do have to just wait for it happen to keep diagnosing. Personally, I would rather an actual fuel pressure gauge on the fuel rail rather than taking reports through the electronic gizmos. If you don’t have a gauge, a lot of the auto parts loaner tool programs do have them. You will need to look up the correct spec. If it’s supposed to be, say 55-65psi, then 40 isn’t good enough. (You might need to know if its a Vulcan (12 valve) or Duratec (24 valve) engine as the spec could be different).

I would also want to have a can of starting fluid around. If you blow some into the intake and it gets it to run a bit then you can be pretty sure that you need to stay on fuel. If the fuel pressure at the rail tests good when it won’t start, but starting fluid gets a cough out of it then you want to look toward power for the injectors.

And the other thing is spark if you don’t get anything from the starting fluid - so you’re on the right trail. Having a spark tester is the easiest thing.

I had a 97 Taurus with a Vulcan engine that did what you described once in a while. Holding down the gas peddle to the floor while cranking it wold start it up, maybe leaky injectors ?

The problem still exists.

Thanks for all your insight.

I cannot find the shrader valve to attach a regular fuel pressure gauge.

This happens no matter the weather.

I cant find the fuel pressure specs. I have been looking.

This is a 24 valve duratec.

Today I put a slow charge on the battery before leaving to work. When I got home (charged for 11 hours) the car started right up. I turned the car off and restarted it. after doing this three time car failed to start.

I put the charger back on and warmed up for about an hour. Came back out tried to start did not start right away. I cracked the throttle slightly and got it to run. I am letting it run right now.

If this was a work vehicle I would put new plugs, plug wires, and battery in it send it out and see what happened. Spending other people’s money is different I guess.

It sounds like it runs without misses (forgot to bring home my tools)

***looking online it seems like a lot of people have this problem. Some people are saying a new battery solved the problem.

Thanks so much again

If the car is cranking over fine then its really unlikely that a new battery will do a thing. Have you checked the voltage on it at all? including when it won’t start?

You mention cracking the throttle a little - the next time it won’t start, try that again. If it keeps working reliably then you might look for an intermittent issue with the idle air control valve. You could clean that and the throttle body while you’re at it an the MAF sensor. Of course, that one could have been a coincidence - part of the annoyance of intermittent problems.

Try the starting fluid trick and if it doesn’t do anything then I wouldn’t go crazy over checking fuel pressure. But I think the test port is near the oil fill cap.

Were you able to check for spark yet?

If you want to check fuel pressure, you’ll have to tee into the system . . . no big deal

FYI . . . I know for a fact that the fuel pressure reported on a scan tool is not exactly what’ you’ll see on your own mechanical gauge

Speaking from experience here

I just looked at my snap on fuel pressure reference chart

Your fuel pressure is supposed to be 39-55psi KOEO . . . so if that app is reporting accurate data, you’re in the ballpark

My first suggestion is simple
Tee that fuel pressure gauge into the system leave it hooked up overnight
Close the hood, so that your gauge doesn’t go missing . . .
The next morning, pop the hood so you can watch the gauge
If it doesn’t start, and the needle didn’t move, or the pressure was too low, you know you have a fuel pressure problem . . . not necessarily the pump, but it’s a possibility

When it doesn’t start, have you checked with a spark tester for a strong blue spark?

here’s another idea . . . when it doesn’t start, see if that app shows you an rpm reading while cranking. If it doesn’t, there may be a problem with the crank sensor circuit

Okay, here’s a brute force idea . . . if it doesn’t start, pound on the bottom of the tank (roughly where the pump is) with a rubber hammer. If it starts, you’ve just condemned the pump

I dont have a mechanical fuel pressure guage. The app always seems to be in the area. I am going to go ahead to buy one and install with a tee.

RPM guage is reading during cranking.

I did put a new battery in it. The current on was over 4 years old.

I will keep you guys informed. Thanks again.

by the way my sister just informed me that the car will intermittenly hesitate while driving down the road. It never has died.

Well now the car starts. I talked to my sister. If it does not fire up right away she has to open the throttle about almost the full way to get it to fire up. once the car starts it is good to go? The fuel pump can be heard. I am thinking to give it new plugs and wires as well as clean the throttle body.

I am not confident in this approach. Any other insight?

Jumping to the conclusion failure to start is after a stop or 2. I am going with fuel pump, for whatever reason fords of this era have the intermittent issue of the fuel pump failing after a stop or 2 or more. Then you wait an hour and life is good till the next time it happens. The best way to verify would be to check it in failure mode, other than that the ghosts are chasing you.

fyi, retail auto parts stores will often rent you a fuel pressure tester and other tools which are seldom needed by diy’ers so too expensive to purchase, but still needed once in a rare while. Besides fuel pressure testers, bearing pullers, crankshaft pulley pullers, u-joint tools, ball joint tools, slide hammers, clutch alignment tools, large sockets and breaker bars for removing axel nuts, O2 sensor wrenches, even scan tools they might rent. You just have to ask what they have is all. Some of these stores provide this tool rental service for free, you have to deposit some $$$ when you take it, then they credit the $$ back to you when you return the tool undamaged back to them.

Thanks again. I will be seeing the car again this weekend and see what I can find out.

The car has started up fine. However I noticed that if I push the throttle down the rpms go up with like a mis? rps max out at 4000 rpm

fuel pressure is good