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96 Windstar Check Engine Light

I have a 1996 Ford Windstar ( 3.8L V6) and the check enginge light has been on for several days. I need to get an emissions inspection and was told they won’t look at it if the light is on. Someone else told me to unhook the battery for 15 minutes to clear the error codes. Will this work?

It depends. It might reset the light until the car completes a series of drive cycles. And the emission tester won’t pass the car unless it has been through the drive cycles. Take your car to autozone or checkers or one of the other car stores that will check your light for free. It takes all of 2-3 minutes. It might be something as simple as a loose or defective gas cap. Bottom line- get it checked out then go from there.

That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

Sorry. The guy from Auto Zone said the error message read “cylinder 1 misfire”.

Reseting the Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) will also reset the emissions monitors. This will require a series of driving conditions to reset them all. Any emissions station will reject the test until all the monitors are ‘emissions ready’.

The code is for misfire, then this condition must be fixed before the light will stay off. You probably need to start with replacing the spark plugs, then checking the coils and wires if that doesn’t fix it.

start with replacing the spark plugs and wires.

Replacing the spark plugs on you Windstar is a difficult task. Replace #1 spark plug. Have someone knowledgeable to look at the old spark plug. One can tell a lot from a spark plugs appearance.
Disconnect battery to erase the check engine light. Over a few days, make several local “trips” with your truck. If the light comes back on, replace #1 spark plug wire. “Trips”, again. If light again, check ignition coil or fuel injector.

You can disconnect the battery for a while and erase the memory of the ECU or PCM but like BK stated, if you erase the memory codes you also erase the monitors being set. The test station may just require a minimum number of monitors to be set or all of them, it depends on your IM station requirements. To get them set again you will have to drive the vehicle for some time in order for the routines to renew the testing cycles. I recommend you DO NOT erase the codes in a effort to solve this since it will require you to drive it more before you can have the IM testing done.

If replacing the spark plug solves the error code issue or something else does, the ECU will let you know (by using a scanner) that a change has happened at least and may leave the code light on for a while. It may take several drive cycles for the particular code to clear or it may clear right away. It depends on what code it is, some clear faster than others.

I have to disagree with you. The misfire monitor won’t run if there is a DTC (trouble code,like P0301) set. The misfire monitor is a continuous monitor. The misfire monitor will run right away if there isn’t a DTC. So fred should disconnect the battery (or, use a scan tool) to erase the code, after each repair attempt.
After the check engine light doesn’t come on any more (repairs successful), the non-continuous monitors will need several “trips” to run. The auto parts store scanner will show if when they all run (their icons won’t flash anymore on the scanner screen).
Here is an article which tells you about monitors: To get to this article, you go to OBDII and Emissions Testing in the menu. Then, fill out the form for email.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but dropdeadfred, that model/year had a problem with head gaskets and the first indication was a “misfire detected”. Does the car run rough sometimes initially when first started up in the morning, then smooths out as it warms up? If so, you could have a bad head gasket. Ford extended the warrentee for that problem to 60, or 70K miles or maybe more. You probably have over 100k on your car, but hope for a bad plug wire or bad spark plug and maybe you’ll get lucky. I do know those rear plugs are a bugger to get to without a lift.

Thanks for the info Hellokit. I will check it out.