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Replace injectors or replace car?

We have a 96 Windstar that we purchased used in 2001 with 95,000 miles. At 139,000 we had a rebuilt engine put in (in 2005). Within 3 months we noticed a hesitation and stalling from startup. Several times we stalled in the middle of an intersection or highway. Quite scary. We took it to two different garages but they couldn’t figure it out. So we just lived with it since it was otherwise running well (we prayed a lot when crossing highways).

Within six months the Check Engine light came on for no apparent reason. This time we took it to three different garages. The first said the O2 sensor was bad. The second said the rebuilt engine had excessive oil in the cylinders (although we weren’t seeing clear evidence of burning oil, nor were we using much, about a 1/2 quart every 1000 miles). The garage that put the engine in said that one cylinder had oil drain down, whatever that means. All this took several months of back and forth. Meanwhile the rebuilt engine provider refused to replace the engine because there wasn’t sufficient evidence that the engine was a problem. We couldn’t get anyone to fix anything without great expense so we continued to drive it (the check engine light didn’t come on again until several months later).

Now in the last 6 months it started to run very badly (very rough idle, not much power, check engine light coming on). Recently, the check engine light would blink when accelerating. It became almost impossible to get the car up hills. Finally we convinced the original shop to address the problem again, this time to diagnose it without cost. He says that there doesn’t seem to be much oil on the plugs. He replaced the plugs and the wires and did a motor vac. Still it runs badly (although not nearly as badly as when we took it in). Now he wants to replace all the fuel injectors (this time at our expense). He thinks that one or more is bad, but he can’t say for sure. He has a history of replacing things to diagnose so we are afraid that this could be the start of an expensive effort with no guarantee that it will run any better than before.

The car is otherwise in good condition (fairly new tires, most of the front end was replaced 30,000 miles ago, not sure about the condition of the ball joints–these weren’t replaced, shocks and struts good, transmission seems fine, interior fine, AC still works). While it would be nice to get more miles out of the rebuilt engine (it has only 30,000 miles on it) we don’t want to put good money after bad. The car is not worth much (even if it were running good).

Should we just donate this vehicle and take our losses or should we replace or rebuild the injectors? Or is there another likely cause of the problems?

Wow, you’ve had some bad luck with this vehicle. Some questions and comments:

  • what is the estimate for replacing the injectors? Does this include a fuel filter and a check of the fuel pump (it should)
  • can you get the shop to take some liability - for instance, if the problem is not fixed, you pay no labor.

it sounds like you are already into the “good money after bad” phase with this car. It is also unsafe and unreliable. I’d opt for a newer, more dependable vehicle if you can swing it.
Good luck!

The estimate to replace the injectors with new injectors is about $800. That didn’t include a fuel filter and a check of the fuel pump. Usually there are other expenses every time we work on this thing.

  • The shop might take some liability. They have put in a number of hours so far diagnosing, changing plugs, and doing an engine vac, no charge. That’s something. They might go a few hundred dollars more.

Thanks for the help.

Too bad you hadn’t posted here BEfore you bought that van. I would have said “don’t buy it”. I’m sure I would have had a lot of company.

'96 was an exceptionally poor year for Ford Windstars.

Faulty head gaskets, broken front springs and tranny problems headed the list.

My son wouldn’t listen to me when he bought a new one in '96. The tranny gave up at 48k miles. Yeah, out of warranty. He put in a used one and got rid of it.

If I were you and could afford to do some money shuffling, I’d get rid of the van and buy a Toyota or something.

I certainly wouldn’t replace or even clean the fuel injectors. I’m no tech but my gut tells me those are not the problem.

I’m sure OK4450 has come across this type of problem at some time and could give you an excellent answer. Well, some thoughts and suggestions anyway, eh OK? heh heh

A leak down test will confirm if you have an engine problem related to compression readings. Taking the vehicle to numerous garages is seldom a good idea though because too much gets lost in the translation.

Some of these people (either the engine rebuilder or the second shop who stated there was oil in the cylinders) should have performed a compression or leak down test. The spark plugs are out anyway so you’re already there. That falls into the no-brainer category.

It definitely sounds like a lot of guesswork is being done at your expense and when someone says they need to replace ALL of the injectors then the red flag goes up. Injector failure (singular) is rare anyway and to claim they’re failing en masse is ridiculous.

What I would suggest is dropping by an AutoZone, Checkers, etc. and have them pull the codes for you. They will perform this service for you free of charge. Post any results back here for further discussion and hold off on buying a case of injectors for the time being.

I seem to tell people with older Fords to get rid of them. Don’t try fixing it with a mechanic’s guesswork because it usually guesses away a lot of cash.