98 Ford EscortSE problems, lots of shaking. My car is my job

On idle ( at a red light or in park while on) it shakes terribly. When I shift into N it will lessen for 3-10 seconds, but then it will cycle back to the vibrating. The spark plugs were replaced about 4 months ago and got a brand new transmission 5 years ago this coming summer. It came into the family in '00 and I got it when I turned 16. The vibration started about 2 years ago and at first I was told “little car has shaky engine”. When it got worse I was told it was the motor mounts, which I replaced a year ago. When they were first put in the car ran smooth as ever. My mother turned on the AC while I was taking her for a test ride that same day and it started back shaking. They said the motor mounts were perfectly in place, and that it was a broken fan blade. My husband and I just don’t see a fan blade causing that much shaking. If this helps describe it, I can hear the car violently vibrating when I park and take pizza to someone’s door.

Also a more minor problem, ever since we put new brakes on, my brake light comes on too easy. The weight of the peddle will turn the light on, and I have to keep using my foot to pull it up after each time I touch it, and sometimes when I’m driving.


First thing I would check is spark to all 4 cylinders–my guess is that you are running on 3 cylinders. Make sure all 4 plugs are gapped properly and torqued properly. Then, make sure all 4 plug wires are connected. Unplug each and the engine should almost stall out. If one has no change–there is your answer!

Brake problem–make sure the master cylinder is not overfilled with brake fluid.

Other possibilities:

Check Engine light on?

Does the vibration go away once you start driving?

What does the tachometer read at idle?

Gas mileage? General performance?

FYI it would be better to shut the car off when you get out to make a delivery. Saves gas, prevents “theft of opportunity”.

He used one of those (in my words) “gappy measure things” haha… but there is always a possibility for human error in anything. It did have that problem before the plugs were changed the last few times. I will have Guy check all of that when we awakens.

Engine light has not been on since I have got the new transmission (except the time I ran out of gas heh)

It does go away once I am driving.

I’m not exactly sure the number, but several people that have checked it said it was normal for my car. I think between 1 and 1.5? Or maybe between .5 and 1… whichever is correct.

Gas tank:13 gal. I drove 460 on one and 1/3 gal (highway and city mixed)

Overall it has good performance for a little 4 cylinder. Compared to our Maxima it does not just jump up to speed fast or go up the mountain as fast, but that is all besides the shaking.

Also - do you have any idea about the brake light? Thanks for all your help :]

You may have some sort of vacuum leak somewhere. Get some starter fluid and carefully spray it around vacuum hoses. If it starts idling differently, try to narrow it down by feeling around to see if one of them is cracked.

It could clearly be many other things but the Idle Control Valve could be it too. They can be cleaned with some carb cleaner. Not sure how comfortable you or any of your family member are around taking thing apart, though.

That brake light is controlled by a switch on your brake pedal. They are usually held in by two nuts that allows one to make adjustments when the pedal actually presses the switch’ stem. Yours is likely adjusted too low so it make contact to the pedal quickly.

My husband is really good with cars, and what he is not exactly sure about he has a friend who just graduated college with some sort of mechanics degree. He has just been really busy and has not had time to really get into it yet.

Firs, the brake light switch is adjustable. Move the switch in to close the gap between the plunger and the pedal pad.

Second, what brand spark plugs are installed?

Does the car have a tachometer? If so, at what RPM does the engine idle? How stable is the idle speed?

I’m not exactly sure the number, but several people that have checked it said it was normal for my car. I think between 1 and 1.5? Or maybe between .5 and 1. I know one of them is very wrong, but its the correct one…i just cant remember which. It barely fluctuates, very stable. As for the speed I have never paid attention.

Brand is NGK

If it is stable, is that also while you’re taking off? Or is there a fair bit of hesitation or stumbling?

If it behaves pretty normal, the idle could be adjusted a bit too low.

it takes off well… not as fast as the Maxima… but there is a big difference between that and an escort

Well, it won’t take off as well as a porsche either but it appears to take off as well as can be expected by an older escort, is what I meant.
When you turn on the lights, AC and all electrical devices, does the shaking get worse?

Did the rough idle begin a few months after the timing belt was replaced? If so take a close look at the harmonic balancer. Look for any play on the crankshaft.

Those cars are actually known for shaky idle. I don’t think its that it is inevitable - if everything is in good shape its pretty smooth. If anything goes wrong - even little things, they will make a lot of vibration. But the little things could be anything from mounts to old plugs or wires etc. You can find plenty of discussion of it, including on this site: http://www.feoa.net/modules.php?name=Forums

How many miles are on it?

The next time its shaking at idle & the opportunity is there, pop the hood and pull the vacuum line off of the top of the EGR valve. See if that doesn’t smooth it right out. Since he’s good with cars the husband should also seek out & clean & tighten all of the power cable connections and body grounds around the engine compartment.

The ignition coil packs on those cars tend to be a problem & first start showing issues at no or light throttle. Are those spark plug wires original?

The other suggestions so far are also things to pay attention to (including that brake light switch adjustment).

Does the engine smooth out when you have the ac/heat selector in the off position? The a/c compressor runs all the time on these cars except when the selector is turned to the floor and the added work placed on the engine from the a/c compressor often causes these cars to run rough.

Another thing to check is the PCV line sometimes the rubber elbows crack causing a vacuum leak, which causes a rough idle. I own 5 Escorts and rough idle is common especially under either of these conditions.