This problem showed up this summer, different times under load: on hot days, going uphill, AC on. Also, always happens when the temp gauge is just above halfway. Even after a stall, I am able to limp home, and it improves the longer the car runs after the problem starts. First I replaced the fuel filter which was pretty dirty, problem didn’t improve, so had the shop run codes – low ignition voltage. They replaced the coil, and that seemed to help for a while. Now, in109 degree heat, its starting to hesitate again, but the engine light hasn’t come on this time. I had to replace the radiator about 4 months back, when it was cooler, and don’t know if its somehow temp related. Also, haven’t replaced the timing belt since I bought it with 90K (its has 119K now). Thanks!
I’d begin with a basic tune up plugs/wires and cleaning the MAF sensor. I’d recommend replacing the timing belt too. If the timing belt has 119K miles on it it’s overdue for a change. The recommended change interval for the '98 Escort is 100K miles. Your engine is a non interference engine so if the timing belt does break before you get it changed it won’t damage the engine, just be the inconvenience of being stuck on the side of the road.
You really need to tell folks about the past episode that involved radiator replacement. The error codes that were there back when the coil was replaced would probably help. But mostly I think you need to have someone check if for a bad head gasket. I wouldn’t do a thing to this car until I had done that and checked the compression.
Make sure the ZIP tube from the air cleaner to the throttle body isn’t cracked…not uncommon