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Help im at a loss

hey guys, help im lost. I dont claim to be a mechanic, but my brothers do. My 99 Ford Escort ZX2 quit going down the road on me a month ago, but couldnt afford to fix it, so I drove my beater Jeep until I could. Ok well, the drive belt shredded and it wound up jumping time. I replaced the drive belt, but the timing belt was only 2 months old and in mint condtion, so I retimed it. It started and ran good, for a mile, then began to spit, sputter,jerk, and backfire with very little power. I changed the plugs and wires thinking a tune up might help, then I noticed an arking off of the ignition coil, so I replaced it. It has made no improvement, if anything it runs worse. I make minimum wage and cant afford to have a dealership fix it, so my next line of action is to change the fuel filter, and add gas treatment. I start a new job on monday making almost double my current wage, but its a 45 min commute one way daily. My beater Jeep wont hold up to that. If the fuel filter and gas treatment dont work, any suggestions? I am DESPERATE!!! HELP !!! Please

I doubt the fuel filter and gas treatment will do anything. Time to recheck the timing and belt as a place to start. It should not arc off the coil, did you replace the coil wire also?

It’s out of time. The timing belt may have jumped time. Double check your timing belt replacement procedure. Of course, you did what any good mechanic does: you used the repair manual to change the timing belt, right?
Here are some pictures of damaged timing belts, at www.autozone. Compare to your timing belt:

I have the Haynes Manual. My brother and I removed the valve cover, set and blocked the camshafts at tdc like the book said, aligned the marks ( which were very faint) to where they were both basically straight up and down. The Haynes manual wasnt very specific on the proper position of these markings to be fully timed out. Beyond that I am not 100% sure what else he did as I went to get parts at Advance. I only notice the coil pack arking yesterday, as I was getting frustrated. It was arking from the number 4 plug wire area across to the block. I changed it today and no arking.

If I take it in to a shop to have the timing adjusted, what is a fair price to pay? I am wondering if there has been or could have been any further damage done by my driving it home from his house the way it was acting up so badly. It has 165,000 miles on it, and it seems like if you barely give it any gas once you get started and over the initial jerking, it will eventually pick up speed, just dont dare try to tackle a hill or it almost dies.

I just talked to my brother who says it is running about 85 on the compression test, and the belt looks fine. I had the codes read at Advance today and they showed it was misfiring on cylinders 1 and 3.

I didn’t change the coil wire. It looked brand new, and it stopped arking across to the block after changing the coil. In terms of arking it was a spark jumping from the the #4 spark plug wire area at first it was arking to the accelerator cable, then I moved it up above the spark plug wires and then it began arking to the head.

My opinion is that anytime an engine performance problem exists a compression test should be performed. You always weed out a mechanical fault first; especially on a high mileage engine.
Many car parts stores have a compression tester as a loaner tool I believe.

That being said you might consider the possibility of a bad spark plug; recently replaced or not.
You replaced the plugs/wires and then noticed an arcing coil. An arc from the coil is usually caused by a misfiring plug or wire. It’s entirely possible to get a bad plug right out of the box or to have a plug that dies quickly once in use.

You might remove that plug from the cylinder that is causing the coil arc, install it in the plug wire and ground the plug threads to metal on the engine.
Have someone crank the engine over and watch the spark on the plug gap. If the spark is jumping around erratically (say towards the side of the shell) and not across the tip itself then the plug itself could very well be bad.
A darkened plug tip (not necessarily sooty in appearance) can also be an indicator of a bad plug.

An arcing coil can also kill a spark plug so that’s something to consider too.
Hope some of that helps.

Ok, just talked with 3 different shops locally. They all obviously want me to bring it in to them. 2 of them say it has bent valves. The other says it is just in need of having the timing adjusted. Any ideas in this?

Borrow a compression tester (or you can buy a basic one for $50 or so) and check the compression on all 4 cyl. If you get proper compression then the valves are probably fine. If not…well, how’s the Jeep doing?

From your description of the trouble remaining on the Jeep after you fixed the bad plug you very well may have some bent valves due to the valve timing being wrong. I’m not sure if the engine is an interference model or not. Hopefully though you just need to get the timing right and no damage has been done to the valves.

You may want to try and get the Ford running again. The problem with it may be a simple thing to fix and not cost much to repair. If the valves are bent in the Jeep it will be fairly expensive to repair.

Here is an idea you can think about though it may be totally out of the picture right now. The government is offering a deal currently for a limited time and if you qualify for it, to give out (to the dealer) between $3,500 and $4,500 dollars to trade in your old car for a new more fuel efficient model. This is on top of any other savings you can make on a new car deal. Perhaps you can swing a deal on a new car you can afford now that you will be getting a better wage at work and have a very reliable vehicle to get you there plus getting a vehicle with better MPG. The savings in fuel used will also help with the payments.

I have checked the compression it is pretty standard across all 4 cylinders, but is about 15 pounds shy of the minimum recommended. The Jeep is pretty shot! I needs a new front end, was rear ended when parked on campus last year, the drivers door doesnt shut properly, and you can figure on adding a quart to 2 quarts of oil per tank of gas. It has just over 400K miles on it.