Vibration - 2004 Ford Focus

Problem: Vibration together with a noise that sounds abrasive and destructive. Mechanics have failed me.

It feels like driving over the intense short rumble strips that are meant to tell you when a wheel is outside the traffic lane. I feel and hear it in any gear, whether I am moving or not, but hardly at all in Park or Neutral, and hardly at all when cruising at high speeds.

It is worst on the first drive of the day - much less on subsequent drives, even if the engine has been allowed to cool fully.

History: 1. When this began, less than 600 miles ago, I had the transmission checked, where I had warranty coverage. Found: No transmission trouble but a broken engine mount.

  1. I had the engine mount replaced (and two gaskets replaced because they had started to leak), together with Virginia’s mandated annual inspection - passed.

  2. Vibration lessened but continued and started to worsen. Within 3 days the engine stalled in traffic and THE NEXT DAY the “check engine” light came on. I went back to the same place. The ignition coil and spark plugs were replaced. Power returned, and no stalling or warning light, but the vibration persisted.

  3. One mechanic baffled: “What do you expect with 101K mileage and 16 valves?” - But this came up too fast to be ordinary wear and tear. What should I do?

Further details:2.0L Zetec E engine.

Is the engine light still on? It could be a couple things. Dirty MAF sensor or maybe even a temp sensor making the engine think it is always running cold. Also, a vacuum leak could cause your symptoms. A some test could be done to rule out the vacuum leak. You can clean the maf yourself with sensor cleaner. The temp sensor should throw a code, but not always. A scan tool could tell what temp it thinks it is running at. Lazy O2 sensors could also be a possibility.

No, the engine light is not still on. Next action apparently is to check the mass air flow sensor.

What is “a some test?” As a career technical writer, I hit the ceiling when someone uses an acronym without defining it?

Is there a test for the O2 sensor?

MAF is Mass Airflow Sensor. It is in the plastic piece of the air intake. It will get a brown coating on it and it should be shiny silver. The O2 sensors get lazy. Their values will bounce around and confuse the computer. The heater inside them goes bad. As far as I know, a scan tool is the only way to monitor them. If you do replace the O2 sensors, only use Ford OEM sensors.

Have the codes read at your local parts store and post them here. That should help better define a direction to look in.

That “baffled” mechanic? Avoid him.

Has anybody checked the harmonic balancer

A bad balancer could have numerous symptoms

Mass airflow sensor (MAF) is clean as a whistle.
A code read (done twice for good measure) came up clean - no codes registered, so that rules out the O2 sensor and the temp sensor.

So how does one test for a vacuum leak, and how does one test the harmonic balancer?

Basically the problem starts when I start out in the morning and persists even when the engine is warmed up, BUT

It is essentially gone for subsequent trips that day, even when the engine is allowed to cool down. Apparently it takes all of the oil to drain down into the pan (e.g. parked overnight) for the problem to recur.

Someone suggested that it might be fuel trouble, so I used injector cleaner to no avail. The next step would be to replace the fuel filter - a task that the Ford Motor Company has made criminally difficult via fastener lock tabs in extremely tight places. I don’t want to undergo this task unless someone says that this is a likely cause.

ANOTHER possibility. I went several days without driving and then checked the oil without starting. It was totally clean but about one pint OVER the full line. Again, I don’t want to drain and then refill if this won’t handle the vibration (I’m 74, and it’s COLD weather. Any suggestions on this?

Are you due for an oil change, and has it been changed since this all started. Your comment about sitting overnight and oil drainage has me wondering about the anti-drain back valve in the filter. Even so, that would only produce some clatter for a matter of a couple of seconds - unless your oil pump is not doing well or the pickup screen is a bit clogged.

Of course, I still don’t have a good feel for what you are describing either. If the car vibrates whether driving or at idle, then that points to engine mount issues. I know one mount was found faulty, but it’s often hard to identify a failed mount as the forces on them hide the defects. Of course, they also wouldn’t get better over the course of the day.

Solved - it WAS the fuel filter.
As I learned the hard way, don’t try to replace this yourself, particularly if you don’t have an hydraulic lift. I succeeded, but the details are gory.