98 Ford Escort ZX2-Stumped everyone I know

I will try to be short but still cover everything…I wont admit this to my wife, but this is my fault(initially)…The zx2 decided a week ago to drop coolant, and oil very quickly(or it seemed to me). This caused a bit of hesitation on the engine and then within a mile it shutdown on me. I assume that it over heated and the engine was performing it’s last act of self-preservation(which as a married man, I can understand). Up to the moment it shut down, there was not a single dummy light on or service engine beacon lit. After I popped the hood and decided to refill all fluids that seemed way too low, I let it cool and then tried to restart. It cranked but would not catch and turn over. I pulled the plugs, the upper portion had some oil, but the chambers looked clean and clear. A good Samaritan decided to stop and ask if I had any clue as to what I was doing…Promptly saying no, he came had a look and a hear and decided that the engine ‘sounded’ okay. He then returned from his truck with a hand held code reader(what are the odds, I mean who carries that around with them). He told me that there was indeed no codes present and so we went through and checked to see if it was getting spark, which it was. He then offered to go and get a car trailer and tow my sorry butt 35 miles home(seriously, this guy was a saint). So here is what I know a week later-I have a 98 zx2 that shutdown due to overheat issue/low oil level. It cranks, the pistons move, the cams turn, the plugs have fire, there is compression(80+ psi, my gauge is old so not reliable), and the plugs are damp and smell of gas upon removal after cranking. I put a couple cc’s of gas in each chamber and tried to fire it, I got one good pop and then just continued to crank. I am at a loss, and if you guys can’t help point me in the right direction, I will continue to use this as an excuse to stand on the driveway, scratch my head, drink a beer, and dodge the wife while cussing at the engine. After a ton of research on the net for a solution, I did run across exactly one post from a gentleman who said that this model did in fact have a ‘red’ button to reset the sensors after an overheat shutdown…Is this true? I tried to locate it with the directions he gave in his post(passenger side, under the dash pull the carpet, remove kick plate, undue screw, push and hold red button for 15 secs), and couldn’t find anything resembling a button. Is this a myth or something that a car maker does to charge us 500-1000 dollars only to go in a press a reset button? Thanks guys, and again, any help would be very appreciated…The wife is posting on facebook that she is starting to look for a new car and a new husband :wink:

There’s no overheat reset button. The “red button” discussed sounds like the fuel safety cutoff. It triggers if there is an impact that might be great enough to damage the car. It turns off power to the fuel pump. That doesn’t sound like your problem.
80 PSI sounds low.

Get a can of starter fluid. Spray it into the air intake while someone is cranking the car. If it fires up briefly, then you have a fuel problem of some sort. If so, the first step would be to measure fuel pressure.

Sounds like you blew the head gasket.
Typical for that engine.


Thank you both, okay, I will start with the starter fluid and the partner to crank, see if it will turn over…On the head gasket, will a blown head gasket be enough to cause it not to even fire up a bit or roughly…Thought that was like a timing belt that was a bit off, will run but rough as all get out. Head gasket replacement, thank you ford and your start bolts :stuck_out_tongue:

Ty, tried the starter fluid, and no luck…next part to eliminate?

Head gasket/Head/Engine, given your description of how this happened. Otherwise, it would be to look at the ignition system.

You can’t ignore that temperature gauge and fail to check oil and other fluid levels as needed, without suffering the possibility of doing major damage. Reactive repair is always more expensive than proactive maintenance. Most car engines do not have any self protection from the driver, they self-destruct if you let them.

Thank you…and I am with you completely, that is the bizarre part there wasn’t anything to indicate a problem…no lights and the temp gauge was right at the normal operating point…which may mean I need to look at that after I get it to run again.

Depending on where the water temperature sensor is, it’s possible that if the coolant was quite low the sensor may have been uncovered and therefore unable to sense the overheating that may have been happening.
We are guessing that it did overheat from your description and from the 80 psi compression figure you posted. Maybe you should get an accurate tester and re-do the compression test. If you get better readings, then maybe it didn’t overheat and there is some sudden but simpler problem to deal with.

Gotcha, are you sure there isn’t a little red magic button that will make all this go away and stop my wife from looking for maraca pool boys ;). No sweat though a better set of gauges for compression…if it isn’t the head gasket what is the alternate line of troobleshooting…ie, electrical, the pcm saw an overheat and rrfuses to start up until it is clear?

The PCM doesn’t lock any failure conditions to the point that it refuses to restart. You have one or more actual faults that are preventing operation. Fortunately, there are probably less than 100 possibilities at this point. You have to verify the basics.

Compression - must have this to work.
Fuel - must have about the right amount of fuel delivered to each cylinder.
Spark - must have sparks in the right places at the right times.

Find out which one(s) of those that you don’t have. After that, you can try to find out why.

Roger, that is what was tripping me up though, I figured that even a blow head gasket wouldn’t cause it to not at least sputter…but I do understand not enogh of one of those three things will cause it literally to spin it’s wheels and fire up