Blinking Engine Light came on then stopped

Here s the backround and what happened today. We’ve had this van for almost four years. It’s a Ford Freestar 2006, with 73,000 miles. We had to have the catalytic converter replaced within the first year we had it at no cost to us do to a solid engine light that we immediately took care of. The original was found to be defective. The only symptom it had was it would run rough at around 40-45miler per hour. After the converter was replaced it ran fine w no issues. The in Dec of 2014 it came back on after I had been driving for over 30mi and then idulling for 20min in a school line. I called the shop immediately and took it in the next business day…I didn’t drive it at all that weekend. The mechanic checked it out and found nothing wrong with it. Our best guess was I had let the gas run down to low (first time ever I had driven w it’s the idot light on). They did an oil change and still everything checked out ok. During the transmission fluid check they told me I should hear the transmission fluid flushed and replaced in the near future but it wasn’t needed right away. The van has done fine until this last week. We’ve had a lot of rain and fog…my husband ran it for a few days and said it did fine. Then this morning I took my husband to his truck…we had been driving for 40min with speeds up to 50mph.I had idyldeld for about 15min while he loaded his truck with no rough running. NO ISSUES. It was raining and very foggy!!! After I dropped him off and went back the exact same way, about 10min later and going about 50mph suddenly the check engine light started to blink. I wasn’t in a safe place to pull over, so I slowed down, put my hazards on, and vegan praying. I was going to try and get to the Sheetz which was about a 1/4 mile ahead of me. It blinked for 3min and it was off. The van never ran rough, jerked, shook, or anything. I Drove it further to church and asked for one of the guys to check it out. NO CODE!!! Said to keep an eye on it and call the er mechanic on Mon morning. Keep it to speeds under 40. Is it truly safe to drive to church in the morning and take the kids to school??? Was it a false code??? Is it the transmission??? I’ve never had a van this messed up!

It’s usually best for your own wallet to stop driving immediately and pull over with a flashing check engine light. Have the car towed to the shop when that happens. You’ll usually be money ahead. Sometimes it can be a red herring, but that’s not usually the case. I expect there is a code stored, but whoever attempted to read the code didn’t have a compatible scan tool for your car. You may need to go to a Ford dealership, they’ll have the correct scan tool and can tell you what the active, pending, and historical codes in the ECM memory.

The only other thing I can think of is it might be a cat problem that is happening b/c of excessive idling or running low on gas. Both can stress the cat. Is this a manual transmission vehicle which you’ve recently push started? That can be stressful on the cat too. Anyway, with this theory, once you get the car filled up with gas, back on the road, and moving the cat problem detected might go away. But besides further damaging the cat, the cat may be getting extremely hot, which could present a fire hazard, so you need to definitely get this looked at.

A blinking Check Engine light indicates that a major misfire is occurring. And a major misfire can damage the engine and the catalytic converter.

You need to have a scanner that’s capable of checking for history codes. A history code is one where the Check Engine light either comes on or blinks and then shuts off.

Tester

GeorgeSanJose
…might be a cat problem that is happening b/c of excessive idling or running low on gas. Both can stress the cat. Is this a manual transmission vehicle which you’ve recently push started? That can be stressful on the cat too.

How do those things harm the CC?

Tk you all. Going to call in the am to have it towed to the repair shop. I’ll the shop MONDAY morning to get it looked at. They have a certified Ford tech so he can run the code. I wouldn’t take my van to the local dealer because they are HORRID!!! They belittled women and charge well over $200 to check a code. I went toe to toe with them over the faulty cc. Did talk to a friend who is an ASE mechanic and he’s thinking it may need new fuel filters and plugs. They didn’t replace my plugs at the last major service so it may be time. He told me worest case is its the head gasket. Ugh!!! I want my 69 GTO back. So much easier to work on.

It’s possible given the rain and damp conditions that moisture affected the plug firing. This can occur with aged spark plugs which may appear to be operating fine but once moisture is introduced into the equation a spark may choose the easier route to ground; through the plug boot into the valve cover or cylinder head instead of across the plug gap.

" . . . charge well over $200 to check a code."

Many/most new car dealerships have labor rates of $100 per hour, or more

Keep that in mind

Another thing . . . retrieving the fault code is merely the starting point. Once you have the codes, you have to start diagnosis, and that can sometimes take a little while. The scanner is just one tool, and the mechanic has to interpret the data, do tests, before he arrives at a diagnosis

I just checked, and the van is due for fuel filter every 15k, and plugs every 60k . . . so yes, get the basic maintenance up to date first

I agree with ok4450. The key part of the description of what happened is that it was a very rainy and foggy day. OP may have driven through a puddle (or puddles) that drove moisture up into the engine compartment. With aging ignition components such as wires it is common to get arcing and misfiring under these conditions. I believe the engine on this van is not COP so it uses standard (hard to replace) spark plug wires. Have these ever been changed? Did the problem go away once conditions were drier?

This van is not coil on plug

It doesn’t have a distributor . . . it has a coil pack . . . but it does have an old fashioned wire set

A little update…turned the van on to remove a DVD from the player and there was no blinking light. The spark plugs had NOT ever been replaced except two when the CC was replaced. There are no strange noises, no fluctuation on temp of running hot, exhaust looks normal to me with normal smell.however coolant is very low, oil does need to be changed …its due this month…, there was no foam on the dip stick. It started fine.

@Greytcar “however coolant is very low”

I would look into that, if I were you

Watch for puddles, might even want to crawl underneath and look for evidence of dried coolant, which indicates there was a leak

I would guess you’re due for fresh coolant, due to the age of the coolant

“The spark plugs had NOT ever been replaced except two when the CC was replaced.” It’s my habit to replace all 6 if one or two need replacement, especially with the age and miles. New plugs and wires should prevent that flashing light from coming back on a damp day. Also, your past due for coolant replacementvand transmission fluid change.

Tk all! We bought it used and had assumed the dealer had done the scheduled work. Sounds like they didn’t. Waiting to have it towed now and take it to the shop. I’ll let you all know what they say.

GeorgeSanJose wrote … might be a cat problem that is happening b/c of excessive idling or running low on gas. Both can stress the cat. Is this a manual transmission vehicle which you’ve recently push started? That can be stressful on the cat too.

Auto-owner writes

How do those things harm the CC?

A-O: I got that info from my Corolla’s FSM. I think it is b/c mixtures out of whack can damage the cat, and the engine computer has a more difficult time to get the mixture correct at idle than at higher engine load. Likewise if you running nearly empty, if you’ve ever done that you’ll know the engine sputters awhile before it stops completely, so you’ll tend to get periods of too-lean, maybe followed by too-rich conditions. The push start w/manual transmission could cause bizarre mixtures too, b/c when you push start you do it with the key in “on” rather than start. The engine computer presumably knows what to do when the key is in “start”. But push starting with the key in “on”? The computer isn’t expecting a start condition to happen then, so it will be at a loss as to how much gas the engine needs. The only time my Corolla has ever backfired was one time during a push start, and backfires are hard on the cat too.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=246515

It was water in the spark plug…caused a misfire…engine is fine

Thanks for posting the diagnosis. Glad you are back on the road.

@Greytcar

“It was water in the spark plug…caused a misfire…engine is fine”

Are you quite certain it isn’t actually coolant . . . ?

Water where? Do you mean on the plug tip(s) or in the plug wells of the valve cover?

I think OP means there was water on the spark plug wires, maybe got under the spark plug boot, and was shorting out the spark.

It wasn’t coolant…no sweet smell or white exhaust. It was water on the plug water due to the very heavy fog plus I apparently ran through a very deep puddle. I did get it tuned up, trans flush, and oil change. It’s running great!!!