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1990 Escort EEC-IV 1.9L CFI No Ignition

03-30-2011, 02:25 PM
My Escort won't start. It cranks good and I'm getting fuel but no spark. Ran cold check and ohmed out the ignition coil primary and secondary, the TFI module, the distributor pick up coil, and the wiring harness. Everything checked out good. I have 12 volts at the ignition primary coil and pins 2, 3 and 4 of the TFI module. All my voltages look good according to the service manual. I replaced the distributor pick up coil because there was oil inside the connector and it idn't read good cold. Still no spark! I'm at a loss for what else to check or what could be wrong. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you very much in advance.

03-30-2011, 08:32 PM
I would have said there is no way to actually check whether the electronics inside the TFI module are working -- except to replace it with one that Was working. I did that for a brother-in-law whose Topaz quit running suddenly. I got the module from a different Ford engine in a pick-n-pull junkyard for $5. The car started right up after I installed it.

The hardest part was getting the special purpose wrench to reach the tiny bolts to remove the moduel from the dist.

03-31-2011, 08:18 AM
I think those modules are famous for going bad on all Fords. Not that it means anything but I'd be interested to know if you have 12V at the coil while the engine is cranking.

03-31-2011, 10:14 AM
I dont know if the module supplies 12 volt pulses to the coil, or if the coil has 12 volts on it all the time and the module provides grounding pulses.
I expect it could be difficult to determine whether you do or dont have 12 volts at the coil however; because the inductive reactance of the ignition coil would likely confuse whatever meter you used to take the readings. Even at cranking speed it would be an alternating signal you were measuring.
A digital VOM wouldnt likely show it well - since they all work by -sampling- the voltage a couple of times per second, and it might not be sampling at the time the signal went to the coil. The pulse might be too short for an analog meter to do more than give a slight twitch to the needle.
An oscilloscope connected to the coil would show the signal though. A light bulb connected across the primary winding of the ignition coil might blink to indicate it was working. That is, if it didnt get burned out from the induced voltage "overshoot" that would be present.

If I had a first gen. Escort with that module, I would take an extra one on long drives, along with the tiny "Ford ignition module" tool too. Since I have 2nd gen. Escorts - I definitely have an EDIS module (the igniter) in the trunk of each car; though the EDIS units seem to be more reliable.
They sell the special 'Ford ignition module wrench' at any auto parts place that carries the "Lisle Tool" line of bubble packs; Lisle #64650 i think. And carries one made by "Performance Tool" that has both the 7/32" hex on one end and a T-20 torx bit on the other end: thus....
Its Performance Tool # W1217.

03-31-2011, 07:44 PM
The TFI modules seem to be better quality than they were 10-15 years ago, but I've had 1 or 2 of them go bad on my '88 Escort in the 18 years I've owned it. There's a way to test them and I used to know the procedure, but I don't remember it anymore. If you take the module to Auto Zone they can test it for you in less than 5 minutes.

04-01-2011, 08:08 AM
What about using a test light to check voltage at the coil during cranking? I was thinking something could be wrong with the ignition switch. A buddy had an '88 Escort that did that. Likely because his key chain must have weighed 5 pounds! :-)

04-12-2011, 07:31 PM
Thank you to all who have responded. I appreciate your help. After having tested the coil, staor, and the TFI module which passed with flying colors every time, and comparing it with one I keep in the trunk, I finally just replaced it and the car started up without hesitation. Fortunately, I kept my receipt and the box, brought it back to Autozone, and they replaced it for free. My module lasted almost 6 years. That is not to say that it was good for 6 years. Although the car started fine and ran okay, the timing was not correct after warm up. I noticed the difference as soon as I installed the new module. After a lot of research on the internet, I decided to relocate the module from the distributor to a heat sink. I ordered a TFI Relocation Kit from McCully Racing Motors last Friday. It should be arriving by the end of this week. Since there is not enough room on the firewall, I think I will mount it on the driver's side strut tower. It should get ample cooling and stay dry. The kit also comes with sheilded wires which can also be important. I probably could have gone to an electronics store and picked up a heat sink then made a wiring harness to bring over the power, ground and PIP signal from the distributor but the kit makes it a lot simpler.
One thing that still bugs me is that the bell or alarm that rings when you leave the keys in the ignition or your headlights on can barely be heard. I think it is located under the dash someplace. Can I just replace the alarm or bell? Thanks.

04-13-2011, 08:04 AM
I haven't heard of the relocation kits but that certainly sounds like a good idea. Good of AutoZone to give you a refund on an electric part. They are a good company from what I've seen.

04-13-2011, 09:39 AM
Here is the link to the McCully website that has the relocation kit.

It costs about $50.00 plus shipping and handling. I was lucky because my first module died at a toll booth in New Jersey and they blocked off the lane. The second time, it died when I was with my wife on line waiting to get my oil changed. If the module died while I was on the hghway in the passing lane, it might have been a whole different story. I figure if I got almost six years with it mounted on the distributor, I probably won't have to replace it again if it stays cool on a heat sink mounted away from the heat of the engine.

04-26-2011, 11:27 PM
1990 Escort EEC-IV 1.9L CFI - TFI Module Re - Location
I finally got around to re-locating my distributor mounted TFI module today. It was a little more work than I thought it would be but I think it will be worth it. Even though my last TFI module, made by Wells, lasted almost six years, the car never actually ran correctly after warm up. The engine would ping after warm up especially with the A/C on. It started up fine when it was cold but was very difficult to start once it warmed up. I had to keep my foot on the gas just a little, to get it to start. The failing TFI module probably had a lot to do with the bad gas mileage I was getting. Then, one day, it just died while I was waiting on line to get my oil changed. That is what prompted me to move the module to a cooler location. I purchased the TFI Module Re-Location kit from Mc Cully Racing online. They send you the heat sink with Artic Silver 5 on it and a three wire harness. Here is the link.
After the TFI module died, I connected my OBD 1 FORD code reader and ran diagnostics. I didn’t receive any failure codes. I checked the module cold with my digital ohm meter and then, checked it with 12 volts on it. I cross checked it cold on the bench with another known good module and it the readings were all the same. Go figure. Finally, I just swapped it out with a good module I carry in my trunk and the car started right up.
Without going into too much detail since it has already been done a few times before, I have listed the 12 steps I took to re-locate the TFI module from the distributor to a heat sink. I have also included some pictures at the bottom.
I hope this message helps somebody. I was lucky twice because both of my modules died when I was not in a bad location or in the fast lane on the highway where it could have been dangerous. A stock Escort with a 1.9 L engine doesn’t generate any real heat but just the same, it gets hot enough to destroy the TFI module on the distributor. Also, my driving habits don’t submit the car to any abuse at all which is why the module lasted so long in the first place.
1. Remove the six pin connector from the TFI module. (see picture 1)
2. Disconnect the engine ground in the front of the engine.
3. Move the engine ground to the back of the engine. (see picture 2)
(This step may not be necessary on all engines but was convenient for me)
4. Open up the wiring harness and separate the TFI connector and associated wires.
5. Position the six pin TFI connector to reach the heat sink located on the right strut tower.
6. Reposition the rest of the wiring harness so that all of the other connectors reach freely in their
new position without touching anything. (i.e.: linkage or hot engine points)
7. Remove the TFI module from the distributor. (7/32 socket made by Excelite)
8. Clean and prepare the surface of the TFI module to receive Artic Silver 5 compound.
Applying Artic Silver 5 properly is extremely important if you want to dissipate heat from
the TFI module to the heat sink. Their web site posts many ways to apply the compound and
many warnings. One important warning was NOT to use your finger to apply the compound. You
will contaminate the compound. I contacted them by email and told them I was using the
compound for something other than a CPU or processor and they sent me instructions.
9. Install the TFI module on the heat sink located on the right strut tower. (see picture 3)
10. Connect one end of the three wires (PWR, GND, and PIP), to the stator or pick up coil in the
11. Seal the back of the distributor where the PWR, GND, and PIP wires connect to keep out dirt and
moisture. I used black silicone.
12. Connect the other end of the three wires (PWR, GND, and PIP), to the TFI module located on
the heat sink. (be sure not to mix the three wires up)

Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3
The heat sink gets very hot. That’s a good indication that the Artic Silver 5 compound is transferring heat from the TFI module to the heat sink. After a few minutes, the heat sink is too hot to hold your hand on it. I realize that the class action lawsuit against Ford for mounting the TFI module on the distributor as a cost saving measure is now fading into history but I felt I would share my experience in case there is someone else out there who has had the same experience I had with my Escort. I hope this helps. Thanks.

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