Help this 1993 Ford Probe start!
August 9, 2007 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Help this 1993 Ford Probe start!

My friend has a 1993 Ford Probe sitting in his driveway, we've decided to try and fix it. Here's the problem, it sounds like it really wants to start, but it just won't turn over.

According to someone who looked at it, the Distributor is fine, the distributor cap seemed to have power going through it, but nothing coming out of it, so we replaced it.

The spark plugs were replaced, the spark wires were replaced.

We replaced the battery due to it having sit for a year, and my stupid ass jumping it wrong. This leads to another problem, there seems to be a smell of burning electronics coming from the fuse box. (I'm very familliar with this smell.) It's not the main fuse and we tested the circuit relay and it tests out fine, it clicked when we applied voltage and the continuity seems to be working properly.

The smells seems like it's coming from what's labeled as the Air Conditioner Relay, but that particular part of the car hasn't worked in a long time.

The timing belt is apparently working fine, the gas has been sitting for over a year, so we don't know if that could be the problem, we added Heet to the engine and used some starting fluid to try to get the thing to turn over. My friend swears that it's doing the same thing it did before, so this doesn't seem to be a symptom of the car sitting.

Turn the key and it whurrs and tries to start, but it never actually turns over. Practical suggestions would be very much appreciated. We'd like to fix it but if it sounds like it's a losing battle, let me know. Thanks a bunch all!
posted by gregschoen to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
I had a 90's Probe GT that had a starting problem. It was a crank arm position sensor failure. Twice.
posted by probablysteve at 12:16 PM on August 9, 2007

"it whurrs and tries to start, but it never actually turns over"

I assume you mean you hear a noise, but the motor does not turn over, not that it turns over but does not start. If that's the case, check the starter and solenoid - both of which AutoZone, Advance, etc will do for free.
posted by cdmwebs at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2007

Take the advice of the two comments above - then if you're still having troubles, consider that the engine may be flooded. All those start attempts.. and each attempt to turn the engine squirts a bit of fuel into your cylinders.

To rectify this, remove the spark plugs and wait. Waiting for all the fuel to evaporate can take as long as a few days. Make sure that the hood is closed - you don't want debris or water moisture getting into the cylinders.

You can also use this opportunity to make sure that the spark plugs haven't been fouled by excessive fuel.

REMEMBER: When working around a flooded engine, there is too much gasoline somewhere. Too much gasoline anywhere is a bad thing, with the potential to be dangerous. So don't smoke while fooling with spark plugs.

Come to think of it, have you checked to see if the plugs are actually firing? If you haven't you should do so, but *after* the gasoline has evaporated from the open cylinders. To check the plugs, remove one and then reattach it to the spark plug wire and set it on a secure metal place on the engine block. Crank the engine. If you don't see sparks, you got ignition problems upstream.
posted by terpia at 12:39 PM on August 9, 2007

It could also be that the car has some broken teeth on the flywheel reduction gear ring, or that the starter has a bad soleniod or frozen bendix. The flywheel reduction gear ring are the teeth on the outer edge of the flywheel that engage the starter motor pinion when the starter bendix pulls the pinion in, generating the torque necessary to allow the starter motor to turn over the engine. The starter motor spins a couple thousand RPM, but the gear ratio between it's pinion and the flywheel circumference makes a 20 or 30:1 step down ratio, so that the relatively modest amount of power a battery and small electric starter motor can generate can turn over a car engine. A bad solenoid, or a "frozen" bendix (a bendix being just a centrifugally operated mechanical drive clutch for engaging and disengaging the starter drive motor, to prevent overspeeding the starter motor after the engine starts) can create similar "spins but doesn't turn" scenarios. You can usually drop the starter, soleniod and bendix drive complete, as a unit, and take them to a specialty service that can clean and rebuild them, for less than the replacement cost of the unit. You can also buy reliable replacement units (usually with a 30 day warranty) from junkyards, for far less than even rebuilt units at auto parts stores.

But, if the ring gear has broken teeth, the pinion on the starter may pull in, but never be able to turn the engine, if the engine happened to stop in the right position, there being no teeth on the flywheel in that spot for the pinion to engage. There is usually an inspection hole to look through to check this, or you can drop the starter motor, and turn the engine through by hand to see the whole ring gear in a full rotation of the crankshaft. If the car is a manual transmission, you can just put it in second gear, and push it forward 6 inches to a foot on the ground to get past any broken flywheel teeth, to get the engine to turn over to start, assuming that the flywheel teeth aren't badly stripped. The only way of fixing this problem permanently is to replace the engine flywheel, which requires dropping the transmission. That's a huge PITA for the do-it-yourself mechanic.
posted by paulsc at 12:58 PM on August 9, 2007

An engine needs three things to run: compression, the right fuel mixture in the cylinders, and spark at the right time. You need to figure out which one you don't have.

You do not give detailed enough information for us to guess which is the problem. I don't understand your description of "wants to start", "won't turn over", and "power going through it but not coming out (distributor)".

Assuming the engine turns (the belts move) when you try to start it:

Basic spark check: pull a plug, put the wire on it, set the plug on the block. Crank. Look for spark.

Basic fuel injection test: Put one end of a broomstick against an injector, the other end against your ear. Or, use a tube/hose of some kind. Crank, listen for clicking.

Check the exhaust for presence of gas vapor (just use your nose).

You need to narrow down the problem with systematic troubleshooting like this. Please post more information as you have it and we'll try to help.
posted by putril at 1:29 PM on August 9, 2007

After further reading I'm convinced that what you mean when you say "turn over" is contrary to what paulsc and others think you mean. They are giving detailed responses when we're not at all clear about very basic functionality of the car.

Please use plainer language to describe what's happening. Do the belts move? Does the fan turn?
posted by putril at 2:02 PM on August 9, 2007

Response by poster: All the stuff starts, it whurrs. All the power stuff seems to be on and it sounds exactly how it would sound when you start a car but it never does the "bruhhuhhmmmm" like it would when it actually starts.

I would post up a video of what it looks/sounds like from my phone, but I'm at work, maybe a little later on.
posted by gregschoen at 2:13 PM on August 9, 2007

If it's a stick, make sure the clutch relay is working right.
posted by The Deej at 2:13 PM on August 9, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, and it's an automatic
posted by gregschoen at 2:14 PM on August 9, 2007

OK then you can ignore the answers above that people wrote in response to "won't turn over" which was lingo you used incorrectly. The starter is fine, the flywheel is fine.

Check for spark. Check the injectors for life. If you have both of those, it gets more complex (checking for fuel pressure is probably next).
posted by putril at 3:00 PM on August 9, 2007

Did you add fresh gas? It might be worth throwing a shot of drygas into the tank and seeing if it helps- old gas can get water build up, which doesn't start so well.
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:49 PM on August 9, 2007

Had the same problem on my old '93 i4 Probe.

My problem was the computer chip inside the distributer. Replaced the ENTIRE distributer (not just cap) and she fired right up.
posted by stew560 at 5:52 PM on August 9, 2007

« Older css vertically align text in input elements?   |   starting a bar in Chicago Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.