My crazy starting problem

This is driving me nuts.

'94 Ford Ranger,v6,4.l, 167’000 miles. Untill recently best, most reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned. Here we go with the symptoms:

Always starts right up every morning. Always starts if sitting more than a couple of hrs. BUT, drive on a series of brief errands, after the third or fourth start/stop, will not start. It cranks like crazy, no problem there, it just won’t start. After repeated attempts every few minutes or so, after sometimes as few as 10 minutes, or as long as an hour…varoooom! starts right up as though nothing ever happened. A detailed phone survey of local garages is not very encouraging…“sounds like could be yada, yada, yada, drop it off next Wendsday with your Visa card and first-born child and we’ll call ya”.

Any thoughts on narrowing this down, things I could check myself before submitting to the “open checkbook” solution? (I have changed spark plugs and wires, so thats not it).


…“sounds like could be yada, yada…”

They’re not yanking your chain. That’s the best anyone can do under those circumstances. Furthermore, whoever is going to work on this problem will have to replicate the problem. I can take a guess, if you like. Ignition coil. If you know how to test the coil, start there.

BASICS… Is there spark and fuel?

When people call me up and ask for a diagnosis over the phone I ask them if they can back the car up to the phone so I can take a look at it. Bring the car in if you want it fixed.

I would suspect there is a problem with the ignition causing this to happen. To help pinpoint the area, carry a can of starter fluid with you and when the trouble happens again spray a small amount in the intake and see if that helps get the engine running. If it does, then there is a fuel problem most likely. Perhaps a faulty fuel pump relay. If adding the fluid doesn’t change anything then look for a ignition problem.

“things you could check yourself…”. The aforementioned starting spray AND a spark indicator, like a timing light. You don’t have to check the timing setting; just watch for flashes from the timing light during cranking (timing light connected, of course).

If you want to throw a part at it, the TFI ignition module, which bolts to side of the distributor, might work.

Here is Ford’s opinion on your problem for what it is worth.

You are NOT going crazy. I have a 93 Ranger with the absolute identical problem. I just posted my question before I saw yours. I have tried the starter fluid fix and that works fine but is no long term solution. Let me know what you find out. I hope it’s not the fuel pump as that is an expensive fix. That info from Ford was no help at all and my local Ford dealer is clueless. Good Luck