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My daughter's Ford Escort :(

My daughter has a 2001 Ford Escort w/ 120,000 miles. Lately the car will crank but won’t start for 5 - 10 seconds and only after three tries. It’s an intermittent but, she claims, an increasingly frequent problem; sometimes it starts right up. It happens both when the engine is cold and when it’s warmed up.

I’ve seen it happen myself a couple of days ago. I’ve taken it to two shops that I trust completely as far as their ability to do diagnosis and repairs, but each time they couldn’t duplicate the problem. I recently left it with the one shop for two days and they started it several times each day with no problem.

We’ve replaced the spark plugs. The check engine light comes on with a reading indicating a misfire in one of the cylinders, but we’re not noticing any rough engine performance, etc.

Any ideas?

First how about posting the exact code (like P0123). Second, does your daughter park on a hill? Does the engine turn over normally (the starter turns the engine at the usual speed)?

How about replacing the spark plug wires. If they are 120,000 miles/7 years old they are past due for replacement. I would also replacing the fuel filter if it is past due.

Fuel pumps on modern vehicles have a valve in them that prevents the fuel in the line from draining back into the tank when the engine is shut off.

When you try to start the engine, the computer enables the pump for about 5 seconds of cranking. If the engine does not start, it shuts off the pump for safety reasons. If the valve is failing and the fuel is draining back into the tank, it can take multiple start attempts to re-prime the fuel system and get the engine to start.

One way to diagnose the problem is to re-prime the system by repeatedly energizing the pump before trying to crank the engine. This can be done by turning the key to RUN but not to START. Wait 5 seconds and turn the key back to OFF. Repeat this process 3-5 times. Now try starting the engine. If it starts immediately, you’ve found the problem.

Get a code reader and see what code(s) it is throwing. Some local parts places like AutoZone will read your codes for free or loan you a reader if you pay a deposit.

My daughter had a 2000 Escort SE and we had to replace the coil pack, plug wires, and plugs and replaced the fuel filter (again) to cure it from occasionally running rough and/or throwing a code.


Hold the pedal down an inch. If it starts nicely, the throttle position doober isn’t working. A shop can fix the other problems.