Help me Tom Cruise! (06) Ford Escape ran out of gas, and won't start)

So my story starts simple enough; I ran out of gas in my buddy’s car, filled it back up, it finally started but ran like >poop< for the first 10 min or so. Finally after coaxing for 10-15 min, she stays coming around. After 30 min or so of driving, I could drive her all I wanted, so long as I didn’t let it idle below 12-1500 rpm. If I did that, she’d kill, and stall out. Well I drove her the other day for most the day and it seemed the kinks were worked out. So today when I tried to drive her round the block for a final check, she up and dies, and hasn’t started since. I’ve replaced the fuel filter, checked the intake, and dropped a can of sea foam in to the tank to boot, but no dice.
Signs and symptoms seem to mimic a bad mass air flow sensor or possibly a clogged catalytic converter, with the exception that it only shudders and acts congested on low rpm’s and doesn’t choke out at high revs.

I’d like to get this thing back to my buddy without spending too much on $$$


You have to check the fuel pressure to see if it’s within specs.

A tank mounted fuel pump for fuel injected vehicles relies on the gasoline in the tank to lubricate/cool the fuel pump.

If you run the gas tank out of gas where the engine stalls, you run the risk of damaging the fuel pump.


what does Tom Cruise have to do with your problem?

Bill you beat me to it.

“what does Tom Cruise have to do with your problem?” It’s a quote from the movie “Talladega Nights.” It’s one I use when I feel like I should know the answer, but don’t…

@Tester If you are opining that the fuel pump could be the issue, wouldn’t that leave a code in the system? Also, if the fuel pump were fried, why would it work at higher rpm’s but stall at lower idling?

Just musing…

Update I hooked my car up to a handy dandy computer, and voila! No codes.

Back to the drawing board Pinky…

I’m not Tom Cruise but I look like him and I’m inclined to agree with Tester. You may owe your friend an expensive fuel pump. And I mean that legally you owe him a fuel pump unless he was renting the car to you. Borrow tools and cars at your own risk. Much better to rent them.

A bad fuel pump will not set a code.

@Bing Well if you look like Tom Cruise then I’ll take it! lol I have to admit I almost want it to be a fuel pump at this rate, it seems like it might be a simpler fix. But a bad fuel pump wouldn’t have been causing the issue I described above, where the car ran fine in all rpm’s above 12-1500. And I was giving it some gas a couple times to see if it would stall on the higher ranges.

—Update— Just retracing my steps this morning to try to jog loose any details that might be helpful. Noteworthy: When I started it this morning it started up, and didn’t have any problems until it shifted into gear, at which point it sputtered and stalled. From then on I have not been able to get it to start. The rest is history. ^^^ Beginning to think I may need to hire an adult…

Will it start if you hold the accelerator pedal to the floor? Just wonderin’ because that could make a difference in any wild axx guessing I might throw out there. :smile:

Bear with us a bit. The answer to the problem is not always obvious when it comes to cars but with some back and forth we might be able to get things steered in a general direction at least.

“You have to check the fuel pressure to see if it’s within specs.”

I agree with Tester here. I borrowed my uncle’s pristine 1994 Ranger to do a couple of hauling jobs. I ran out of gas on the interstate and it took me an hour to get it started again. It ran like crap and jerked and bucked until I got it home. When I checked the fuel pressure it was below specs so I replaced the fuel pump. My uncle was pleased with the way it ran because the fuel pump gave it new life. The new fuel pump also fixed his gas gauge problem.

Well, went to bed worth my tail tucked between my legs boys. Woke up, had a cup of Joe, and wouldn’t ya know it, the infernal thing starts first try! Out of respect for my friend, I’m still going to take it to an adult tomorrow to have it given a once over, but at this point I’m still plumb mystified. Thanks all, I’ll give an update if the “adults” find anything.

I suppose it is possible that all the debris in the bottom of the tank was sucked up on the sock filter in the tank and maybe some of that cleared with gas in the tank now. These days though it is just not a good idea to run the tank dry.

I’d guess the 3 most likely possibilities are

  • Fuel pump problem – test fuel pressure at the rail and the pump. Pump inlet screen could be clogged too, which could produce an intermittent symptom.

  • Cat damaged - the cat is designed to expect as input mostly co2 and water vapor, with trace amounts of o2, co, hc’s , and nitrogen compounds. When the engine spins but no fuel injected, the input to the cat is air; i.e. mostly nitrogen and oxygen. That’s no good for a cat, esp for a hot cat. Temporarily disconnect the cat and see if it runs better.

  • Clogged injectors - for the reason posted above. It could take several applications of diy’er fuel injector treatment, or it might take a pro-treatment where a heavy duty cleaner is injected directly into the fuel rail. Or it might require the injectors to be replaced. This theory can be tested. One idea is an injector balance test.

I am hoping for bing’s solution, a self cleaning sock, ie fuel filter, though if there is that much debris in the tank I would be a tad concerned over the long term. How big is a sock anyway?