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Stalling FORD Focus!

I have a 2000 FORD Focus with about 85,000 miles. It doesn’t seem to like to idle at all anymore, and at every stop light or in every traffic jam, I have to put the car into park and rev the engine to keep it from stalling. My stereo has also stopped working; I’m not sure if this is related, or if the entire piece of junk is just falling apart. What could be making it stall so much??

Idle speed is controlled by the Idle Air Control (IAC) valve. If the valve on your car is dirty or worn the idle speed will fluctuate or it won’t idle at all. There are other things that can contribute to a poor idle, but the IAC is one of the first places to look.

Has anyone, such as a mechanic, looked at the car for this problem? Is all required maintenance up to date? Is the check engine light on?

The idle speed and the non-working stereo are two separate issues. Check the fuse for the stereo.

In order to give us somewhere to start, you first need to give us some idea of the maintenance that this car has had. All too often, people post problems on this board, then when asked about maintenance they tell us that the car “has been serviced regularly”, but when pressed for details it turns out that “regularly” was actually not regularly enough.

Going by the odometer, this car should have already had two major services, at 30k and 60k in addition to simple oil changes, and is due soon for the 90k service. However, since this car averages less than 10k of driving per year, it needs to be serviced according to elapsed time, rather than just according to odometer mileage. Thus, if the 90k service has not been done, it is actually overdue by about 1.5 years for the “90k” service.

Has this car been serviced according to “the book”, namely the Ford Maintenance Schedule? If not, then you first have to bring the car up to date with ALL of the service procedures for at least the last major service interval, which should be listed for 90k.

Please post back with information regarding the car’s maintenance history.

The car had the 30k and 60k service, but not the 90k. For a few years, it was driven significantly, and then since I moved to the city two years ago, it has been used very rarely. When I do drive it, the drives aren’t far. I had assumed the majority of my problems stemmed from “underuse.” I don’t do my oil changes every 3 months (it’s hard to justify given how little I drive it), but I try to get it done every 5 or 6.

I doubt your car is falling apart but it is telling you it has the flu. Since you are not driving it much it must be sitting for a while between drives. Cars left sitting can be invaded by spiders, mice, and other critters. So there are lots of potential problems to rule out.

Let’s keep it simple. Take the car in for the 90K type service which will entail new spark plugs and air filter; either or both if worn can cause your problem. Once this service is done then evaluate how the car runs. During the service the mechanic may note some carbon and deposit build up in the intake area. Sometimes cleaning and lubing some intake parts will resolve this issue. A fuel injection system cleaning might be helpful.

When you take the car in you don’t have to be too specific about your problem. You can just say the car is not running as good as it used to. The mechanic should be able to tell something is off on their own. Where you take the car is important. Do some research and avoid national chain operations. They tend to throw unneeded services at you to “pump up” the bill and their profits.

While mcparadise’s IAC suggestion has validity, until the car’s maintenance is brought up to date (as I pointed out, the “90k” service on your car is now 1.5 years overdue), it is potentially much more expensive to attempt to “cherry pick” one cause for the stalling problem.

When you attempt to cure a problem before bringing a car’s maintenance up to date, you usually wind up “throwing parts” randomly at the problem until you hit the target, and this random throwing of parts can be expensive while possibly not resolving the problem. Meanwhile, that ignored maintenance is taking its toll on fuel economy and long-term durability of the engine, transmission, differential, etc.

After new spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter, etc are installed, the problem may go away, or at least it would be much easier to diagnose the stalling problem at that point. While you are at it, make sure that the transmission fluid is changed also. There is no substitute for proper maintenance.