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Starting problem, 2003 Sable

Car guys:

I have a 2003 Mercury Sable wagon, 3.0 L, two valve engine, with a (re)starting problem. Four times last summer and fall it failed to start, or started, ran poorly for a few hundred feet, then died and would not restart. Each time it had been run previously until thoroughly warm, shut down for a few minutes, then restarted poorly or not at all.

It cranks like crazy, shows no check engine light, plenty of fuel, the shut-off at the tank is not popped.

If I sit and wait a few minutes, or half an hour, then it starts and then runs just fine. The dealership had it for a day, but it did not repeat, and they found nothing to cause the problem.

It has not been a problem during this winter.

I realize it could be ignition, or an electrical problem in the fuel system, or a failing fuel pump. But, if this was the 1950s, I would think ?vapor lock?. If so, where do I put the wet towel?

(Dirty fuel filter? Is it upstream of the fuel pump?)

Any thoughts on diagnosis?

Does the check engine light come on at all?

Since the problem seems related to the temperature of the engine, I’d consider replacing the coolant temperature sensor (the one that signals the computer). Perhaps it’s sending an incorrect signal and the computer is not adjusting the ignition or fuel mixture to meet the conditions.

I’ve had Taurusables behave in a similar manner when their fuel pumps were on the way out.

The check engine light does come on upon unlocking the ignition, briefly, as it should. It did not show up during cranking when the engine failed to start, or immediately after.