Sputters, shudders or stalls sometimes


cstrat
03-03-2006, 03:33 PM
I have a 95 windstar 3.8 with 236K. Recently (last couple weeks) car has been acting up. It began by a couple times just dying while idling. It was as though the ignition had been switched off. The car started right back up with no problems and ran fine. This happened twice in about two weeks. It has not done that in a while but in the last few days it has begun to sputter a bit when accelerating..but only slightly and not consistently at all. Also running down the highway it does the same thing but then recovers almost instantly. In addition a completely different symptom is the cruise control. It has always worked flawlessly but the past couple days it operates roughly with a constant acceleration/decleration cycle amounting to 2-3 mph. It will first speed up then slow down but not smoothly, kind of in a herky jerky way. Lastly, the car for the past couple weeks seems to be running fine but when going over a decent sized bump will cut out momentarily like it does sometimes when accelerating. The car was last tuned up majorly by professinal mechanic at about 160k. The check engine light had been for some time but went out last week after i changed the air filter and noticed the air snorkel from the outside to the air filter box had been disconnected and i reconnected it. It almost feels like a loose wire or electrical connection somewhere..? Anyone have a similar problem..Any suggestions?

Thanks,
chuck

phil-l
03-04-2006, 08:53 AM
The inconsistent running portion of your symptom description sounds to me like a TPS (Throttle Position Sensor) that's failing.

You can think of the TPS as an old-time stereo volume control that's attached to the engine's throttle body: It basically tells the engine's computer exactly where the gas pedal is. When it gets old, it can start sending inconsistent information (kind of like a dirty volume control on an old stereo; lots of static in the sound), confusing the engine control computer.

Thankfully, the TPS is fairly cheap and easy to replace.

tender.one
03-05-2006, 11:34 AM
:shakehead Well, now I'm really confused. I have a 2002 Windstar and a couple of weeks ago, noticed that in the mornings, the cruise control wouldn't "catch." No big deal. I waited about 5 minutes and then it did. Went over a bump one time and it turned off completely.
Thought that was the worst of my problems.
Well, one day I started the van and it was "screaming!" I was a little worried but it was kinda cool out (the van is always in my garage) and it stopped.
A couple of days later, I started it and it sounded like it had a bad cough. I started backing out of the driveway and it seemed better when the gas peddle was down. Drove about 1 minute and it sputtered and coughed but then it almost seemed to "clear it's throat."
(Sorry, I'm a girl and this is the best way I know how to describe this fun stuff)
So, nothing else for a couple of days.
Well, last night I started it and it sputtered, coughed and died. Engine light and battery light came on. Started it again....... same thing. I let it idle and it would die. If I pressed on the gas, it would cough but keep going.
I had to run a short errand and had to take it so I floored it and it ran roughly for about one minute again and then it was fine.
It almost seems like it has a frog in it's throat and I have to push it out.
Help?

Lisa

phil-l
03-05-2006, 07:14 PM
tender.one -

You have several different symptoms, which may or may not have a common cause. Let's look at them one at a time.

- Let's start with the "screaming". I assume by this you mean that the van made a loud "screaming"-type sound when it started, and the noise went away a few minutes (or less?) later. When this noise was happening, was anything else unusual going on? What was the engine's speed as shown on the tachometer? Normally, your engine should start and jump up somewhere between 1000 RPM and 2000 RPM. After running for a few moments (perhaps a few minutes, it it's cold), it should idle, indicating somewhere around 750 RPM. Was it doing this when the "screaming" sound was occurring? In my experience, most sounds like this (at least, as I think you're describing it) are somehow related to a belt slipping (your Windstar has only one belt driving all of the engine's accessories; it's commonly known as a serpentine belt). The belt may be worn, or something in the belt's path isn't working correctly. Yes, cold weather can excaberate the symptom. As always, more details about the symptoms you're seeing can help track down the cause.

- Intermittent cruise control can have numerous causes. You imply this problem can be related to temperature; perhaps some water got someplace it shouldn't be. When it freezes, it can cause problems. Since this problem doesn't prevent use of the van (and doesn't have a simple "check this" type of solution), I'll ignore it for the moment.

- Intermittent engine running and sputtering/coughing can also have lots of problems. But many of them are easy to track down. How many miles are on your van? Are all of the normal tune-up items up-to-date? If you don't know for sure, I'd guess there are some things that are out-of-date. For a 2002 van, I'm guessing that spark plugs, spark plug wires, air filter and fuel filter are all due to be changed. Each of these, if bad, can cause the symptoms you've described. If all of the tune-up items are up-to-date and it still sputters, there are some other things that can be checked.

One common item if it seems to have trouble idling (wants to stall) for awhile, but then it goes away when warm: The Idle Air Control (IAC) valve. Like its name implies, it adjusts the air the engine needs when idling. The valves are noted for getting sticky, which causes idle problems. Thankfully, the IAC isn't very expensive or difficult to fix (handy D.I.Y. types can clean it themselves).

- Is the "Check Engine" light on? If it is, that means there's some kind of error code stored in the engine control computer. A well-equipped shop can pull the code out of the processor (for a fee); note that AutoZone will pull the code for free! If decided to get the code pulled, make sure they tell you the actual numeric code, not just a description (i.e., make sure they tell you something like "Code P0123", not just "Your XYZ sensor is bad). Share the code here; we can help.

Well, I've probably written to much. Is any of this helpful?

tender.one
03-05-2006, 07:24 PM
Hey.
Interesting enough, it was out of power steering fluid? That was put in last night and ALL problems were not present today.
My boyfriend says that shouldn't have affected the engine as far as he knows though.
When the screaming occurred, everything else seemed normal. The only thing I forgot to mention was a clicking sound from the right side of the van (my right while sitting in the van).
That too, would stop but like I said, today, nothing?? Does that make any sense? It ran great. I even went into the city (took cell phone just in case) and nothing. Not a sound, not a sputter, nothing.
I do need to get a tune up though, as it now has 130,000kms on it. (travel a lot to the USA)
Thanks so much for your reply. I guess if it happens again, we'll have to recheck what you've wrote. I appreciate your help, that's for sure.

Lisa

phil-l
03-05-2006, 09:22 PM
Hmmm - I must admit, I was presuming fluid levels were correct. Yup, low power steering fluid can make a lot of noise (basically, because a pump that's designed to pump fluid is now trying to pump air).

If you've got 130,000 kms on it and think you need a tune-up - you need a tune up.

tender.one
03-05-2006, 10:29 PM
Do you think that would account for the stalling and coughing though?
Getting a tune-up this week. Going to Minneapolis so it will have to be done before I go.
Hmmmm, maybe I should just get it done there. I'm so afraid of getting ripped off.
Guess I'll come crying if it happens again. LOL

L

wiswind
03-06-2006, 03:27 PM
VERY common cause for cruise control to not work or intermittently not work is the brake pressure switch. This is located on the bottom of the master cylinder. A new one from the dealer should be about $20 or less. Very easy to replace.
If it looks "damp" when you look at it, it is most likely leaking brake fuid, which causes the failure.

cstrat
03-06-2006, 06:50 PM
Actually the cruise does work, it has never failed to engage and at least attempt to maintain the set speeed. But the last few weeks, it works very poorly with constantly changing speeds always within a few mph of the desired set point. Wondering if the fuel pressure could be at fault? Fuel filter? Dont think it has ever been changed car has 237k. Plus I ran car out of fuel for first time ever just before all this started. Debris from the bottom of tank has clogged fuel filter perhaps?

What should I expect to pay for a Throttle Position Sensor and is this a dealer only part? If not, is it still a good idea to buy the motorcraft part?..Thanks for the help.

LeSabre97mint
03-06-2006, 10:24 PM
Do you think that would account for the stalling and coughing though?
Getting a tune-up this week. Going to Minneapolis so it will have to be done before I go.
Hmmmm, maybe I should just get it done there. I'm so afraid of getting ripped off.
Guess I'll come crying if it happens again. LOL

L

Lisa

I would get the van worked on closer to home. If you have it fixed here (were I live) in the cities, and have trouble you would have to have it fixed at another place. Ask around for a good place.

Regards

Dan

cstrat
03-11-2006, 11:14 AM
Well actually the next day after I wrote that the cruise quit working altogether. I gave up and took car to mechanic. He told me the speed sensor was not communicating with computer therefore car is shifting erratically or not at all. I can drive the car but must shift manually and cant get 1st gear at all. I was told must remove tranny and replace gear which drives speed sensor as they replaced the speed sensor to no avail. I decided i can no longer spend any mnore money on this car and wil be putting it up for sale as is mayube on ebay. I bought a used villager and will see if it is any better than the windstar. also prolly the last ford I will ever buy. before any one says well the car has 238k..i also have put two engines (warranty) and this would be the third time the tranny has been rebuilt (all non warranty)

Cali_Cathleen
02-09-2007, 02:52 PM
tender.one -

You have several different symptoms, which may or may not have a common cause. Let's look at them one at a time.

- Let's start with the "screaming". I assume by this you mean that the van made a loud "screaming"-type sound when it started, and the noise went away a few minutes (or less?) later. When this noise was happening, was anything else unusual going on? What was the engine's speed as shown on the tachometer? Normally, your engine should start and jump up somewhere between 1000 RPM and 2000 RPM. After running for a few moments (perhaps a few minutes, it it's cold), it should idle, indicating somewhere around 750 RPM. Was it doing this when the "screaming" sound was occurring? In my experience, most sounds like this (at least, as I think you're describing it) are somehow related to a belt slipping (your Windstar has only one belt driving all of the engine's accessories; it's commonly known as a serpentine belt). The belt may be worn, or something in the belt's path isn't working correctly. Yes, cold weather can excaberate the symptom. As always, more details about the symptoms you're seeing can help track down the cause.

- Intermittent cruise control can have numerous causes. You imply this problem can be related to temperature; perhaps some water got someplace it shouldn't be. When it freezes, it can cause problems. Since this problem doesn't prevent use of the van (and doesn't have a simple "check this" type of solution), I'll ignore it for the moment.

- Intermittent engine running and sputtering/coughing can also have lots of problems. But many of them are easy to track down. How many miles are on your van? Are all of the normal tune-up items up-to-date? If you don't know for sure, I'd guess there are some things that are out-of-date. For a 2002 van, I'm guessing that spark plugs, spark plug wires, air filter and fuel filter are all due to be changed. Each of these, if bad, can cause the symptoms you've described. If all of the tune-up items are up-to-date and it still sputters, there are some other things that can be checked.

One common item if it seems to have trouble idling (wants to stall) for awhile, but then it goes away when warm: The Idle Air Control (IAC) valve. Like its name implies, it adjusts the air the engine needs when idling. The valves are noted for getting sticky, which causes idle problems. Thankfully, the IAC isn't very expensive or difficult to fix (handy D.I.Y. types can clean it themselves).

- Is the "Check Engine" light on? If it is, that means there's some kind of error code stored in the engine control computer. A well-equipped shop can pull the code out of the processor (for a fee); note that AutoZone will pull the code for free! If decided to get the code pulled, make sure they tell you the actual numeric code, not just a description (i.e., make sure they tell you something like "Code P0123", not just "Your XYZ sensor is bad). Share the code here; we can help.

Well, I've probably written to much. Is any of this helpful?

I have similar problems with my 2002 Windstar. When you start it and warm it up, within the first 10 minutes or so if you hit a stop sign or traffic light, it will spurt, shake, lurch and rev so low that the engine light will come on unless you put it into neutral or even park. Lately it is getting significantly worse. It started about one year ago. Engine light keeps coming on. The reading is always the same code: 171. (about five times now in one year) The mechanic has serviced the transmission, replaced the spark plugs and wires, the PCV valve, changed the EGR valve, the IMRC (not sure of order sorry), fuel filter, and something else near the EGR. He says it looks like a vacuum leak but he can't find it. I am a single mom with three kids, can't afford another car right now and need this to continue working but lately it is getting very frustrating because I go sometimes when traffic isn't exactly clear just to get the engine to stay on. The mechanic says it might be the oxygen sensor or maybe a head gasket leak which he can see slightly but not enough to where it should miss like that (and it doesn't do it always just intermitently). I don't want to put any more money into it unless this is going to finally solve the problem. Any suggestions?

tender.one
02-09-2007, 03:15 PM
I thought I would mention that the problem I posted about was fixed with no more trouble.
The coughing, etc. stopped once I got the EGR sensor replaced. Cost under $200.

Lisa

wiswind
02-09-2007, 08:38 PM
EGR sensor would also be called DPFE (Differential Pressure FEedback).

Cali Cathleen, I would look into the TSB 3-16-1 update that is mentioned relative to the P0171 / P0174 codes.
This is by FAR more likely to be of help than replacement of oxygen sensors.
It is almost certain that this is caused by a vaccum leak....and that changing the oxygen sensors will not solve it.
In short, the bolts that hold down the upper intake manifold have bushings, aka isolators on them that break down when exposed to oil.
Most ANY vehicle will have some oil in the intake manifold.....it comes in from the crankcase through the PCV valve in the form of vapor.
It is necessary to remove the vapor from the crankcase as, in short, nasty stuff builds up inside the crankcase during operation that, if not removed, cause the engine oil to break down....and sludge up.
The oil breaking down the isolators on the bolts that hold the upper intake manifold down, cause the manifold to become loose......and leak.....as it is at a vaccum....air is leaking in....which the computer does not know about.....causing the oxygen sensor(s) to detect the lean condition.
Sometimes the problem shows up on both sides, or.......in your case, on 1 side.
It is very possible for 1 side of the upper manifold to be leaking....as in just 1 little leak.

So, I would read up on the TSB..... and a link to a site with super good information, with pictures, that another member posted is http://leckemby.net/windstar/windstar01.html

If you have a shop do the work....you might print out information, at the very least the TSB #....and a description...... so that they will be able to know what they need.
I find that I feel much more comfortable going to a shop with a very good idea of what is involved helps.
If you do the work yourself, you will find the part numbers that you need for the job.
The front valve cover, from what I have read was updated for the 2002 year....so you should be fine there.

Also, more good news, it is super unlikely that you have a problem with your head gasket....unless you really, major, overheated the vehicle.
The head gaskets were fine long before your year......1995 had head gasket issues...
If you do have coolant leakage that is getting into the cylinders.....the lower intake manifold gaskets are much more likely.....I do not know how they are on your year...
I have not read posts about them for certain causing the vaccum leaks.
They are much cheaper than head gaskets....although replacement of the lower intake manifold gaskets are part of the head gasket job.

fastasshell
02-11-2007, 12:18 AM
one of the problems that i have notice with my 98 windstar is on a cold start it will act as if it wants to die. well it sounds like it has something pulling the engine down right off the start.
And then it will catch up and smooth its self on out. Well to start i notice that the van would eather take a long time to warm up or not warm up at all. So i replaced the thermostat but that did nothing. Then i look for leaks anywhere that i could see one. But i did not see any at all and i know that it had to be one because i had to refill the antifreez bottle about once a week. So i went to auto zone the other day and i said to one of the men to come outside for a sec to see if he could tell me if this looks to be like a water pump problem. "Well he said" it looks like you may have a little leak coming from behind your water pump. "then he said" I wouldn't worry unless the problem got worst. So the other day i was looking at the front brakes and i had the passanger front side wheel off and i just so happen to see the leak really well from that angle. Now if i had a bad water pump could it pull the engine down at a cold start? if anyone has anything please let me know. thank you!

wiswind
02-11-2007, 10:11 AM
You might have a leaking front cover gasket.....aka timing cover gasket.....one and the same part.
The gasket is cheap.....replacing it is a very major job!
The new gaskets are better, so you should only need to replace them once.
I put some Bar's stop leak in when mine were just slightly seaping, and they have held for about 4 years so far......

I am also wondering about your lower intake manifold gaskets.....
When mine were leaking....and it was very slight, I would sometimes have some rough running at start up.......and I have not had it happen in the nearly 1 year from taking care of the lower intake manifold gaskets.
I think, when I shut down the engine, the pressure in the cooling system pushed some coolant into the intake, and then when I started the car....the miss was caused by the coolant being drawn in.
In my case, it was not bad enough to light the CEL, but caused the vehicle to stumble and run rough for the first 30 seconds.
The FORD replacement gaskets for these are also improved.
Stop leak did not keep them sealed in my case.
I have pictures posted of my lower intake manifold gasket job.

Cali_Cathleen
05-18-2007, 03:27 PM
Wiswind

Thanks for your suggestion. I was very busy, so I ignored it a bit longer. I know probably not good at over $3 a gallon, but sometimes your priorities shift anyway.

I just wanted to thank you though because finally I had a chance to really dig around and see if I could do it myself with my schedule or if I could find someone competent and inquistive enough to attempt to listen to a woman about her car trouble. I did finally realize no way my schedule would let me try this on my own. I was also worried that I wouldn't have the upper body strength to properly tighten everything back up.

After much searching, I found a mechanic not too terribly far away who took to diagnostics like Sherlock Holmes may have if he was not fictional and was mechanchically inclined. He checked the O2 sensor, just to be sure, but also agreed it was not the cause. He actually got more into this than I expected. In the end, he determined that he should change out the gaskets and bolts. Which he did.

Car has been fine since. Still not the greatest gas mileage, but I know I need to do some tire and suspension stuff, so I am sure that isn't helping. But no more sputtering, shuttering, massive fluctuations in RPM on cold start. It is all gone. Thankfully my car now appears to "no longer be possesed" :grinno: .

The good news is he had another client with another Windstar who was complaining of the same issue and because I was the guinea pig in his shop. He only charged me 2 hours labor for the whole project plus the bolts and gaskets which I thought in So Cal was pretty reasonable.

Anyway, this is too long, just wanted to update and mostly to say thanks.

EGR sensor would also be called DPFE (Differential Pressure FEedback).

Cali Cathleen, I would look into the TSB 3-16-1 update that is mentioned relative to the P0171 / P0174 codes.
This is by FAR more likely to be of help than replacement of oxygen sensors.
It is almost certain that this is caused by a vaccum leak....and that changing the oxygen sensors will not solve it.
In short, the bolts that hold down the upper intake manifold have bushings, aka isolators on them that break down when exposed to oil.
Most ANY vehicle will have some oil in the intake manifold.....it comes in from the crankcase through the PCV valve in the form of vapor.
It is necessary to remove the vapor from the crankcase as, in short, nasty stuff builds up inside the crankcase during operation that, if not removed, cause the engine oil to break down....and sludge up.
The oil breaking down the isolators on the bolts that hold the upper intake manifold down, cause the manifold to become loose......and leak.....as it is at a vaccum....air is leaking in....which the computer does not know about.....causing the oxygen sensor(s) to detect the lean condition.
Sometimes the problem shows up on both sides, or.......in your case, on 1 side.
It is very possible for 1 side of the upper manifold to be leaking....as in just 1 little leak.

So, I would read up on the TSB..... and a link to a site with super good information, with pictures, that another member posted is http://leckemby.net/windstar/windstar01.html

If you have a shop do the work....you might print out information, at the very least the TSB #....and a description...... so that they will be able to know what they need.
I find that I feel much more comfortable going to a shop with a very good idea of what is involved helps.
If you do the work yourself, you will find the part numbers that you need for the job.
The front valve cover, from what I have read was updated for the 2002 year....so you should be fine there.

Also, more good news, it is super unlikely that you have a problem with your head gasket....unless you really, major, overheated the vehicle.
The head gaskets were fine long before your year......1995 had head gasket issues...
If you do have coolant leakage that is getting into the cylinders.....the lower intake manifold gaskets are much more likely.....I do not know how they are on your year...
I have not read posts about them for certain causing the vaccum leaks.
They are much cheaper than head gaskets....although replacement of the lower intake manifold gaskets are part of the head gasket job.

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