Why won't my pickup start?
August 25, 2008 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out what's wrong with my truck. It's driving me nuts!

I own a 1990 Ford Ranger. For the last three weeks it has been intermittently refusing to start. This usually happens after it has been driven for a short while. (Example: I'll drive it the store a few miles away, run in, come out and it won't start. The engine cranks/revs but won't start.) Once the engine cools down completely it will usually start fine and I can run it long enough to get it to a garage.

I've been to four different mechanics about this and it still isn't fixed. Two of the mechanics couldn't duplicate the problem and told me they had no idea what it could be. A third thought it was my fuel pump relay and replaced that but it didn't help. The latest mechanic told me it was my ignition coil and replaced that. This was a few days ago. I drove the truck for one day afterwards and it was ok. Then yesterday I took it to the store and when I came out it wouldn't start. I let it cool down completely and went back and it still wouldn't start. I left it overnight, went back this morning and still all it does is crank without starting. So it seems that the problem is getting worse. Now even it when it cools down it won't start.

I have a newer car that I use on a daily basis so I'm ok on transportation but I use the pickup to haul stuff for work so I'd really like to get it fixed if I could. Plus I just love the thing and don't want to give up on it yet. But I'm running out of patience, time and money.

I'm having it towed back to the garage that replaced the ignition coil so they can take another look at it but I thought I'd put it to the hive mind as well since it seems no one can give me a proper diagnosis.

Does anyone have any idea what might be going on? Or is it time to give up on the old boy and look for a newer truck?
posted by lysistrata to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Bad ignition wires to go with the bad coil. Bad plugs. And - gasp - bad valves not allowing for proper compression and ignition to take place. Hopefully not the latter. But I'd start with all of the above.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:54 AM on August 25, 2008

Best answer: It could be any number of things but now that it is broke good the mechanic should be able to figure out the problem in a half-hour or less. The hardest problems to fix are intermittent ones.

It's driving me nuts! -- which always brings up the mental image of the pirate with a steering wheel poking out of his pants.
posted by JackFlash at 10:59 AM on August 25, 2008

Best answer: Have a mechanic check the throttle body and clean it if it's dirty. Run some techron or equivalent fuel injector cleaner through a couple of times. This was a continual problem for my old 1989 F150.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:00 AM on August 25, 2008

Best answer: Has anybody hooked up a scanner to it and tried to watch what is going on during these no-starts ? It's possible that the crank sensor is intermittent - that would show up on the scanner as no engine RPM while cranking. It's also possible that the Engine Control Module is going bad (some older ones get solder cracks). There are also wire harness problems that could cause these symptoms. I'm not that familiar with Ford, but those are some things I would look at on a GM vehicle of this vintage.
posted by rfs at 12:15 PM on August 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I'm making a list to bring to the garage.

Have a mechanic check the throttle body and clean it if it's dirty.

Forgot to mention that in the original post. The throttle body was one of the first things I had checked as my brother's '87 F150 had that problem. I appreciate the suggestion however.
posted by lysistrata at 12:17 PM on August 25, 2008

Response by poster: Has anybody hooked up a scanner to it and tried to watch what is going on during these no-starts ?

Actually, I'm not 100% sure. I know that the first garage had it hooked up to a diagnostics scanner but they couldn't reproduce the problem so they found nothing. I'll ask the mechanic I'm working with now if this is what he did before he replaced the ignition coil.
posted by lysistrata at 12:19 PM on August 25, 2008

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