What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarded)

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What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarded)

Post by roOism » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:36 am

This is a really broad topic, feel free to send to the graveyard if I'm wasting time.

I own a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport (not Sport Trac). It's got about 85K miles and there is something funky going on with the engine. About a year ago my friend was visiting and I mentioned that my AC wasn't working, he quickly found a break in the vacuum line and patched it up, the AC works great, but about two weeks later the engine started acting weird. When I'm driving it runs fine, but as soon as I'm idling the RPM's bounce up and down between 1000k and about 200, the engine shakes, and unless I keep my foot on the gas and brake, it will stall out.

My dad plugged into the onboard computer and got a "left bank lean" code. I recently took it in for an oil change and found out that 4 of the 6 cylinders had misfired at one time or another. My buddy (now in Alaska) walked me through checking that the spark plugs were all firing, and they were. I am going to hazard a guess and say that when he "fixed" the vacuum line, he messed up the vacuum line.

Now I'm not very mechanically inclined when it comes to cars, I've never done much more than change the occasional tire and top off the oil, but I just don't have the funds to spend what I'm sure would be a huge chunk of cash to fix this. It's been running like this for longer than I like, and while it sort of works, I'm sure it's slowly killing my car, and the fuel mileage must be awful.

So is there something I can do to try and fix this or am I up shit creek? If it's not the vacuum line what else could cause this? I've tried googling it and come up with lots of message board comments but few answers.

On a semi-related note, I owe twice what it's worth (thank you ex-wife) so I don't think I'll ever sell it, and in it's condition I don't I could pay anyone to take it off my hands. So since I'm stuck with it, and aside from the engine problems I actually do really like it, what kind of DIY mods could I do in the future to beef it up/pimp it out ZS style? I know that's a really broad question, but I am just not DIY'er when it comes to cars, and I don't even know where to begin, though I would like to improve in that department.

Thanks all.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by Banka87 » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:59 am

Whens the last time you changed the plugs?
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by roOism » Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:03 am

Uh, never? Yep.
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by Raggedy man » Fri Aug 20, 2010 5:11 am

roOism wrote: found a break in the vacuum line
If I had to have a guess, I'd say you've already found the problem. If one vac line has gone then there's a good chance others need replacing too.

Give the vac lines a squeeze, if they are hard or 'crunchy' they are probably leaking. Luckily, you can pick the stuff up cheap from most parts stores. Go through the engine bay and remove one at a time, cut a new piece to length and replace it. By doing one at a time you can't go wrong. If you need to do one then you should do them all to save yourself from any future headaches.

If the vac lines aren't the problem then my next guess would be a manifold gasket leak, probably not something you should try to fix on a fuel injected motor without some experience.

You guessed right about slowly killing the engine, when the motor runs lean it causes detonation, which sounds like a rattle when you accelerate hard. This can eventually burn a hole through the pistons, so if you want to keep the car you need to find the problem and stop it from running lean ASAP.

Hope this helps.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by DiscoBubba » Fri Aug 20, 2010 8:10 am

roOism wrote:Uh, never? Yep.
Yikes, how many miles are on the vehicle?

I'm just a shade-tree DIY kind of mechanic and there's still a lot I have to learn so I'll take it to a Pro if I run into anything tricky but so far that's only been a few times in the years I started wrenching.

The best resources I can recommend is a good friend or two who knows about cars, an OFFICIAL Shop Manual, and the Internets. There's probably a specific forum or board for every make and model out there and if your really lucky it'll be a good community of people helping each other out. In my case I've found DIY Guides with detailed pictures that make it SO much easier than just following text and drawing from a manual.

That said, I'd second RM's advice and also raise ya an Ignition Tune-Up. Replace the Spark-Plugs, and depending on your system the wires, distributor cap, and distributor rotor. Of course, your vehicle might have Coil-Packs which I'm not too familiar about but Definitely get on those Spark Plugs. Really not very costly at all and might help alleviate some problems your having, or at least narrow down what could be wrong. Plus its probably past due needing to be done.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by driftking777 » Fri Aug 20, 2010 8:12 am

While your engine is running rough, do you have the a/c running? If so your compressor clutch could be having issues.
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by meatshieldChris » Fri Aug 20, 2010 10:41 am

Basic tune up procedures (plugs, fuel filter, oil, filter (do it anyway, it's not expensive or hard. do it yourself, learning is good.), distributor cap & rotor (if it's got a distributor), plug wires) is a good first place to start checking if you havn't done anything on the vehicle since you got it. The misfire code is kinda a "duuh" thing, as you already know it's running shitty, and you can guess it probably missfired sometime since the battery was disconnected last.

Running lean can be a symptom of vacuum leaks (vacuum lines as well as gasket leaks), clogging injectors, fuel filter issues, sensor problems, sensor failures...

starting from the most likely and/or easiest to fix:

(start with the tuneup first so you know you have a good base for troubleshooting!)

Good suggestion on further searching the vacuum lines.

Run a tank through it with a full can of Seafoam, to clean out the injectors. If the truck runs, seafoam will probably take care of the injectors.

Have a friend help you find manifold/gasket leaks. The propane trick works really good.

IACV is less likely to cause a lean situation, but the sensors could be confused and saying something that's not really happening. IACV (idle air control valve) is often responsible for bouncing idle. You don't always need to replace them, you can sometimes clean them with throttle body cleaner.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by Arcana71 » Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:43 pm

roOism wrote:I own a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport (not Sport Trac). It's got about 85K miles and there is something funky going on with the engine. About a year ago my friend was visiting and I mentioned that my AC wasn't working, he quickly found a break in the vacuum line and patched it up, the AC works great, but about two weeks later the engine started acting weird. When I'm driving it runs fine, but as soon as I'm idling the RPM's bounce up and down between 1000k and about 200, the engine shakes, and unless I keep my foot on the gas and brake, it will stall out.
These had plastic intake manifolds that were prone to cracks in the upper plenum. The symptoms were usually as you describe. Start there.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by jclaudii » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:10 pm

These had plastic intake manifolds that were prone to cracks in the upper plenum. The symptoms were usually as you describe. Start there.
Well we had one that would run very rough. This is on the 4.0l v6"e code engine" and a simple way to find out if this is the issue is to take some starting fluid and while the vehicle is idling spray it around the plastic manifold area and all around, etc. (note: you have to take the 4.0 engine cover off to do this, just a few screws and toss it in back for a while). If your rpm goes up and it smooths out, you have a vacuum leak, if no change, perhaps it is just bad plugs like mentioned before.

Instead of a cracked manifold, ours was the famous dry cracked o-ring's for the upper intake...They were about 18 bucks at your favorite parts store...a few bolts and it ran better than before...until it blew a tranny. I wold suggest go over to seriousexploriations.com http://www.explorer4x4.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; and check out the forums over there to find your answers.

But if this is you only rig, a good start is with plugs, plug wire, cap/rotor, and vacuum line's all changed out for new ones.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by crypto » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:22 pm

That is great advice for troubleshooting intake manifolds with cracks or leaks.

Spray starting fluid at the manifold. if there's a crack or gasket leak, it'll get sucked in and the engine will race for a second.
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by meatshieldChris » Fri Aug 20, 2010 4:56 pm

crypto wrote:That is great advice for troubleshooting intake manifolds with cracks or leaks.

Spray starting fluid at the manifold. if there's a crack or gasket leak, it'll get sucked in and the engine will race for a second.
I prefer a small propane torch, unlit. just barely crack the valve, and wave it around. it's more accurate and dissipates faster so you can pinpoint the location easier by testing a smaller and smaller radius. also if you manage to light it on fire, starter fluid gives a bigger bang and burns for longer.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by driftking777 » Fri Aug 20, 2010 8:07 pm

in my MANY years as a mechanic/enthusiast i have NEVER heard of this, thanks for the info. :D
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by elkhills » Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:41 pm

This may not help, but my Honda Civic does exactly what you're describing- idleing up and down, even to the point of stalling out at stop signs. You didn't mention, is it intermittant? Mine is- sometimes the car runs fine, sometimes it acts up.
Mechanic told me it is likely a faulty EIC Vale (engine idle control), a part that controls the air allowed into the engine. This bad fuel/air mix is what causes the engine to race/stall.
If I were you I would google a bit, try to find a Ford forum and search for the Ford equivalant of the EIC.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by crypto » Fri Aug 20, 2010 10:15 pm

I just now thought about this, but is there any connection on a Ford engine between the vacuum system and the A/C clutch? I cant imagine how there would be, which makes me wonder what the hell his mechanic friend actually did to the system.
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by congochris » Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:28 pm

Clogged it, making the compressor work 3x as hard when the A/C clutch is engaged bogging the engine, perhaps? That would only work out as a hypothesis if his engine sucked as badly as the one in my Focus does. Or has other contributing issues that make it suck as bad.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by AZMedic » Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:33 pm

Its a ford...............
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by 6UNF1GHTER » Sat Aug 21, 2010 12:05 am

crypto wrote:I just now thought about this, but is there any connection on a Ford engine between the vacuum system and the A/C clutch? I cant imagine how there would be, which makes me wonder what the hell his mechanic friend actually did to the system.
Yeah, that has got me scratching my head also.
That particular A/C compressor model # escapes my mind right now, but every compressor I've seen while wrenching never had any sort of vacuum connection whatsoever. The clutch is basically engaged via voltage signal from the main switch.

The only possible thing, vacuum related... which could cause loss of A/C would be a blend door or actuator. Usually the hot - cold slider on the dash controls that, if it is in fact vac and not cable operated.

-------

If there was a pre-existing vacuum leak, and was "fixed" I'd venture to say that isn't the issue that is causing the problems you describe now. It would have been immediately noticed after the ECM (computer) came back up in loop.

First things I would do in order of cheap & easy:
1. Disconnect both battery cables and leave them off for about 5-10 minutes. Before you hook them back up to the battery, touch them together for a second... this will usually reset the ECM to re-learn. Make sure you hook the cables up properly on install... (red to + and black to -)
Note any changes.

2. If it starts acting up again, get it scanned again. If you don't have access to an OBD II scanner, drive on down to one of the big box part stores... they usually have one that you can use in the parking lot. If there are any codes, write 'em all down and report back.

Sorry for the rant, but I hope this helps.
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by meatshieldChris » Sun Aug 22, 2010 12:20 am

congochris wrote:Clogged it, making the compressor work 3x as hard when the A/C clutch is engaged bogging the engine, perhaps? That would only work out as a hypothesis if his engine sucked as badly as the one in my Focus does. Or has other contributing issues that make it suck as bad.
Ford AC systems have a high pressure cutoff switch. The low pressure switch cycles the clutch on and off during normal operation, and if the compressor or lines clogged, waayyy before it becomes a problem, the high pressure switch shuts down the clutch.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by KnightoftheRoc » Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:58 am

AZMedic wrote:Its a ford...............
Pretty much, this about covers it. Pull the radiator cap off, and while holding the cap, have a buddy park a Dodge under it- replace the cap on the new radiator. Most of your problems will now be fixed.

I used to be a die-hard Ford fan, mostly due to "programming" by my dad, who always liked Fords. I would defend my choice as an adult with "They're so easy to work on!", until I realized one day, that I knew this because I was ALWAYS working on them. My first Dodge really impressed me, what can I say?

and, I believe the "vac line" on the AC problem was probably the low pressure line of the AC system, not the vacuum system the engine uses. I've never seen the engine vac system used to do anything with the AC system. Doesn't mean it hasn't been done, I've just never seen it.
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by Caenus » Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:29 am

My Tahoe did the same thing (02, 5.3L V8). 1000 rpms to 500rpms. Took it to my buddies shop, gave it a tune up, no change. Computer did not show any faults. Never had A/C problems. Started around 90K and continued until I traded it in at 160K. It only happened when I started it and went away after I drove it. It was an annoyance, but never stalled on me.

I'll be interested to see what you do to fix yours.
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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by meatshieldChris » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:56 am

Caenus wrote:My Tahoe did the same thing (02, 5.3L V8). 1000 rpms to 500rpms. Took it to my buddies shop, gave it a tune up, no change. Computer did not show any faults. Never had A/C problems. Started around 90K and continued until I traded it in at 160K. It only happened when I started it and went away after I drove it. It was an annoyance, but never stalled on me.

I'll be interested to see what you do to fix yours.
classic symptoms of a dirty, failed, or leaking IACV or gasket, esp considering the mileage.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by meatshieldChris » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:58 am

oh oh! I remembered something with the imports, some Hondas will exhibit those symptoms if the coolant is low (air pockets). Try removing the rad cap (when cold), make sure it's topped up, and run it till no more bubbles come out of it, filling it as it drops. When complete, replace the cap, and test. I only know of some imports doing this, but might be worth a shot.

re: fords and the easy to work on thing: I hear ya. Try removing a transmission from a Ranger with a V6. NOT FUN. Best thing I ever did on that job was welding up a 4 foot 1/2" drive extension.

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by MI-1Honkey » Sat Aug 28, 2010 5:37 pm

meatshieldChris wrote: classic symptoms of a dirty, failed, or leaking IACV or gasket, esp considering the mileage.

What he said....

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Re: What's wrong with my car? (AKA I am automotively retarde

Post by Patient Zer0 » Sat Aug 28, 2010 8:30 pm

IACV? Please explain.
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