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95 Ford Windstar problem starting

The windstar is 3.8, v-6. When trying to start in less than 30 degree
weather, the engine sputters and bucks. Eventually, it will catch and start and then it will run with no problem. It only has this problem in the cold.

How old is the battery?

The battery is about 2 years old, but I’m pretty sure it is not the battery. It’s more like the choke isn’t working - and I know there is no choke. It sputtered and coughs until it finally starts. It only does this in cold weather.

Now that being an old vehicle, would be looking at plugs and wires as a start.

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But the plugs and wires should not make a difference when it is cold.

It could be the engine temperature sensor is bad. It may be telling the ECU that the engine is warmed up and thereby operating it in the closed loop mode.

(There are two temp sensors, one for the temp gauge and one that feeds the ECU).

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no choke

electronic fuel injection

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Maybe clean the back of the throttle plate and seat. If air is bypassing it’s not choking properly.

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The engine requires a much richer fuel mixture (more gasoline per unit of air) for cold starts. How that is accomplished varies from car design to car design. On my Corolla of similar vintage there’s a gadget that screws into the coolant jacket that – when the coolant is cold enough – it injects extra gas during cranking using a 5th injector called the cold-start injector. After it starts up, then the ECM then injects more gas that usual to keep it running smoothly while the engine coolant remains cold. As the coolant warms up then the ECM reduces the amount of gasoline injected. It’s a sort of orchestra effect, lots of stuff has to work correctly for a cold engine to start and run well until it warms up. And the colder it is, the more stringent the requirements. So something may be wrong with all that on your Windstar.

The comment above about checking the routine maintenance items like the spark plugs is a good one. When the engine is cold even if the fuel mixture is correct for the temperature, the spark plugs still have a harder job to do. If the spark gap is too wide for example, the spark might not be able to jump the gap with a strong spark in cold temps, and this symptom could happen. If it isn’t routine maintenance issue, then you’ll have to do a little research how the cold start operation is designed to work for your vehicle.

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The problem has become progressively worse. It is cold now and it will hardly start and stay running. The engine runs a second or two and dies. The engine bucks and snorts. The engine is very sporadic when the gas peddle is pushed. Part of the time there is little or no response to pushing the gas level to increase the rpm. It runs very rough but does better if I can get the engine up and keep it at about 2000 rpm. Other than starting and letting it run, it has not been driven much in the last 3 months.