Engine stalls, hesitates uphill only! - FordTough.ca - Home of Canadian Ford Truck Enthusiasts
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-09-2010, 08:23 PM Thread Starter
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Question Engine stalls, hesitates uphill only!

Thanks for dropping in on this, a bit of a last ditch call for advice and help.

I have a 98 Ford Ranger 4x4 with the 4 liter engine and auto transmission (145,000 kilometers). The engine stalls or hesitates when going up steep (back-country road) hills. The stall is more like a hiccup, lasting a second or less and then recovers. However, on very steep inclines it will repeatedly stall/recover (about 4-6 times) in quick succession until the engine just stops. This only happens on the inclined parts of the rough, bumpy, back-country dirt roads over which I travel most of the time. On paved highways and the grades encountered on highways the engine performs well (or so it appears), even when accelerating up a paved incline at highway speeds (40-80 KPH). But at slower speeds (5-20 KPH) on inclined back-country roads (with the engine under greater load, perhaps) there is a problem and regardless of whether the tank is full, half full or nearly empty. However, the engine only stalls/hesitates when going forward. The CEL flashes on only at the moment of the stall but does not stay on (there are no stored codes). The engine generally works fine in reverse though (perhaps an occasional, very rare stall), backing up any hill no matter how slowly, steeply inclined or bumpy. The fuel tank has been removed, inspected and was found to be very clean, the main fuel filter replaced, all fuel lines inspected, and the pump appears to be working. A mechanic from a garage I use went out with me for a road test with a fuel pressure gauge and the fuel pressure checked out OK for city and highway driving.

I brought the truck with me from Canada to Nicaragua where I now live. Most mechanics in Nicaragua know very little about fuel injected gasoline engines since most vehicles sold in this country are diesel. Unfortunately the garage I have to use is 4 hours away (one way) and usually involves an overnight trip. Equally unfortunately they do not have access to the type of road conditions on which I am having problems and cannot observe or reproduce the problem. So,any thoughts or help with what the problem could be would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

Alan Harvey
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-09-2010, 09:50 PM
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Our shop truck was experiencing a "stumble" like you are describing when under acceleration load or on inclines - it was diagnosed as a faulty coil pack by the dealer.

Since you've eliminated the fuel supply, I think you (or your mechanic) need to look at the ignition side as that's likely where your issue lies.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-10-2010, 12:20 AM
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Agree with Blue Oval. I just wanted to add that you might want to inspect all the ignition system connections, particularly on the high voltage side. Over the years something may have come slightly unplugged.

You don't necessarily need a solid physical connection for a high voltage circuit to work -- most of the time. But when you start jostling things around, it'll fail.

My own example of that, is many years ago I drove my old AMC Concord all the way from Barrie, down the 400, down Yonge St., and when I made a left turn off Yonge near Lawrence, to get into my side street, the engine completely conked out. When I checked under the hood, the last shards of the distributor cap were dangling from the coil and spark plug wires above the rotor. I had forgotten to screw down the cap earlier in the day, and the car made it all that distance (in an almost straight line) from Barrie, with no problem. The first sharp turn I made, and the dangling distribor cap hit the spinning rotor and smashed it.

Obviously, the Ranger 4.0 doesn't have a distributor cap. I'm just trying to illustrate that things can run fine with the ignition high voltage, because the current will jump an open air gap (that's how mechanical distributors and your sparkplugs work). But if you move things around, like turning a corner, or going up or down a steep hill, wires can move enough to open something, causing you to lose spark. As soon as you level out, the connection re-establishes itself, and everything seems like it's back to normal.

Like Blue Oval said, definitely check your coil pack. Wiggle the related parts of the wiring harness around, and the various high voltage wires while it's idling, to see if you can reproduce the problem and narrow it down. Disconnect the various cables, check that the connections are clean and free of oxidation, and replug them.

If it's an electrical problem you need a bit of patience and persistence, and you have to be methodical.

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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-10-2010, 01:20 AM
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Ford trucks are famous for deteriorating wires. Mine went just before the coil plug

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-10-2010, 01:43 AM
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Any older vehicle will start having electrical problems. Doesn't matter if it's a Rolls Royce or a Lada.

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-13-2010, 09:27 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your replies. Access to the internet is almost as bad as good garages, so it may be a few days before I can respond to you.

A friend of mine in Canada knows his local Ford dealer fairly well and passed the problem along to him. Their mechanic was leaning toward the coil as good first place to check as well. I'll take a look at it and get back with an update. Thanks again.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-22-2010, 08:07 AM Thread Starter
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The consensus from this and other forums, plus the local Ford dealer in the hometown of some friends in Canada who rallied to help, was that the problem could be with any or all of the coil pack, high tension wiring harness or the plugs. Turns out it was the plugs. I replaced them and the engine runs fine.

As a side note, it appears the problem was specifically with the 3 plugs on the right side of the engine (left side if you standing in front of the vehicle looking at the engine). The long white ceramic insulator that the cables snap onto all had dozens of small, vertical cracks in the top half. The 3 plugs on the left side of the engine appeared fine. Does anybody know what would cause such cracking/crazing and why it would only happen to the plugs on one side of the engine? (I would post some photos but it isn't obvious how to do that).
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-22-2010, 03:28 PM
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they could have been cracked when installed(that side is fairly confined)were the plugs carbon tracked(black lines on ceramic)if so you will want to replace those wires also to prevent further problems.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-14-2010, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by b4000 View Post
Any older vehicle will start having electrical problems. Doesn't matter if it's a Rolls Royce or a Lada.
Don't think lada's every had that problem. I scrapped most of them before they got the chance.

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