Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

94 Escort starting issues

My son has a 94 Escort which is having some starting issues. On occasion when he’s been out and about it won’t start. He’s checked under the hood, then tries it again, and it usually starts right up.

However, today the issue has changed. It wouldn’t start until he put the car in N. From research, this sounds like a neutral sensor.

But to put a little twist in, sometimes it will start in P, but at times it will chug until he puts it in gear, where it runs fine. Could that be another symptom of the neutral sensor, or does it sound like two different issues.

I tried it when he got home and noticed the chugging on starting in P, and fine starting when in N.

No CEL or other warning lights. This happens with warm re-starts. It had new plugs and wires put in about a year ago.

The engine chugging has nothing to do with the park/neutral safety switch.

This switch only prevents the starter from operating if the transmission is in any gear. It’s a safety feature.

Once the engine starts, the park/neutral safety switch is taken out of the equation.

So there’s something else causing the engine to chug once the engine starts.


Thanks! He did bottom out on a rough street last weekend, I wonder if something got knocked.

When it doesn’t start, does it make that “rrr rrr rrr” sound but won’t catch and run? Or is there no sound at all when the key is turned from on to start?

It doesn’t do anything at all. That’s when the switch to neutral will work.

One more thing. It’s not consistent. started it twice yesterday, and both times normal.

What you are describing is a situation where the shifter cancels out the keys operation… You need a new switch…it could be located at the shifter but more likely its on the shift arm on the tranny. It does this on purpose most vehicles will not allow the starter to function while in forward or reverse gears…on purpose. Either the switch that monitors the shifter or trans lever position is going bad…or was knocked out of adjustment. It thinks you are in Reverse when you are actually in Park… Savvy ?


Concur, the no crank is probably a faulty neutral safety switch. Since it starts ok in neutral, why not just do that and forget about trying to fix it until something in the same area goes bad, then you can fix it all at once? It’s a 94 Escort after all. It’s like-new days are over. Likewise if it chugs a little at first. Why worry? As long as it runs ok once the engine warms up, that’s probably just a cold start problem. Let it idle in the driveway a while until it stops chugging is all that is necessary. Your best bet is to make sure the scheduled maintenance items are done on time. Next time it is due for an engine tune-up ask the shop to also take a look at the cold start function. And check for vacuum leaks.

I haven’t figured out what “chugging” means… sorry.

Sound like it has an engine miss upon start…which can also be caused by that neutral switch when its on the near border between no start and start position…it could intermittently cut ignition power and make it run like poop.

Swap the switch


Chugging … maybe it is like in the process of working on my Corolla I’ll purposely disable the ignition system and crank the engine several times. To diagnose some problem or another. That process injects unburned gasoline into the cylinders. Then when I re-connect the spark and start it, it is slower than normal to start and when it does start it makes a “chug chug” sound for 30 seconds or so, like it is coughing, and a bunch of smoke comes out the tailpipe. I presume this is b/c there is too much gas in the cylinders at first.

Thanks for all your help. I think we found the source of the chugging (fluctuating idle). Looks like a cracked vacuum hose.

As for the switch, we may live with it for a while. It’s not a consistent problem. Plus it seems the Escort ones are rather pricey. (Almost $200)

THAT…is called “Loading up”


Thanks. So is that a potential symptom of a vacuum leak?

No… a vacuum leak does the opposite… It allows too much unmetered air to enter the engine and Leans out the fuel mixture… Loading up …loads it up w too much fuel…as if the choke was on too long or too much…or when not needed.


Thanks. Guess we’ll have to figure out what’s going on. We haven’t been able to replicate the problem in about a week. Granted, it hasn’t been started much in that time, but still. When I say fluctuating idle, it’s pretty smooth. Kind of like if you were just to move the gas peddle up and down pretty evenly.

This should be fuel injected. The idle is controlled by the AIC …Air Idle Control. When they go bad or partially bad or are dirty as hell… You will see all sorts of idle quality issues. Id start there if its bothering you that much… Can also be a dirty throttle body…and general tune up stuff.


Good for you for getting your car back on the road and running correctly. Thanks for the update.