My 1999 Ford Escort ZX2 went kaplooie. Much trauma



I have a '99 Escort ZX2. It is red. It’s got 113K on it. It is my baby. Since I got it (used, 104K on it), I’ve replaced the timing belt, timing belt pulleys, throttle cable, did a valve adjustment…odds and ends like that.

Today, as I was backing out of my parking space, it stalled. (This has never happened before, and this was one in a series of errands…I’d been driving it around town for the past few hours and it was totally fine.) I freaked out a little bit, put it in park, turned it off and restarted it. It seemed fine, started like normal, but then the idle dropped to < 250 RPM. It’s usually idling at 1000-1250 RPM (shakes a lot, but that seems common for these cars). Also, it normally gets up to 2000-2500 RPM when I’m accelerating to sixty, and I ran it up to sixty after the stall and it’s not getting past about 1250 RPM. It doesn’t shake any more at idle, but that’s because it’s hardly running.

Help! What’s wrong with my baby? I’m so traumatized…it’s my first car, I just got it last year, and I’m a starving artist/college student so I’m really praying this isn’t going to be fatal. (The $96 throttle cable surprised the $#!% out of me.) Any ideas?

Mucho thanks in advance,



On a Ford of this age, I’d be looking at a problem with the Idle Air Control valve or a dirty throttle body.

If you don’t know what this means, take it to someone who does.



Thank you sir and/or madam, I’ll pass this info on to the old fart who has no idea what’s wrong with it but seems to have a better grip on it than me.


The other thing you have to figure out is what kind of maintenance is overdue on this thing. The IAC valve makes sense except for the bit about having trouble getting up to 60.

How old are the spark plug wires and spark plugs? Fuel filter? Air filter? Have the “old fart” check the fuel pressure. Since you say it is an “old fart” s/he may know how to use a vacuum gauge - s/he might use such a thing to check it for exhaust blockage and/or vacuum leaks too.


Did you replace the timing belt tensioner when you did the belt? I had a couple of these fail on my ZX2.


Everyone is missing the clues. The rpm INDICATION is wrong. There’s no way you’d b going 60 mph at 1250 rpm.
I think that the rpm gauge needs to be checked / replaced /ignored. For the shakes, stop the drinking, and change the spark plugs (for starters).


Good observation, hellokit.

Aside from ignoring the tachometer, the OP should bring all maintanance items on this car up to where they should be at 120k miles. If decent maintenance (perhaps for the first time) doesn’t solve the shaking problem, then she should have her mechanic (the old fart?) check the condition of the motor mounts.


Julia, Why Not Stop By A “chain” Auto Parts Store And Have The Car Checked ?

Free of Charge, most “chain” stores like Advance Auto Parts, etcetera, will send a friendly employee out to your car with a code reader. They will plug it in and tell you whether or not your car is keeping any secrets from you. They will probably give you some advice, too.

Your car’s computer can store codes that could help determine which system / circuit on your car has malfunctioned. It might have some for you. Be ready to write down any and all codes. They should be in a format like PO 1234 or PO 0455, etcetera.

Write them down and post them back here. You’ll probably get some meaningful advice.

By the way, I’ve driven these Escorts and you’re right, a shake (major vibration) at idle seems to be the norm.



The shaking isn’t the problem though–we’ve replaced the spark plugs and it always does that, these cars are notorious for that–and thus I am not concerned by it. Now that there is a lack of shake and my car is barely idling–that’s the problem. I think the tach is correct, because it’s barely running, and this is a problem that only sprang up after the stall-out.


Is the car up to date on all of its maintenance?


I’m gonna say not. The previous owner appears to not have done anything to it in the entire time they owned it, which is understandable because this car is a total pain to work on.


Until all maintenance is brought up to date, it is going to be difficult (and potentially more expensive) to try to “cherry-pick” the source of the problem.

Additionally, you are shortening the car’s effective life span by skipping maintenance.
Invariably, proper maintenance is cheaper than the repairs that result from lack of maintenance.


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