2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick

Hello.

I wonder whether anyone has had this problem.

When I turn the ignition, the engine starts up all right, but after a second or two it stalls. ...However, if I quickly stick my foot on the accelerator, and get the revs up high enough, I will hear what sounds like a little waterfall under the bonnet (i.e the sound of trickling fluid) and then the car doesn't stall and I can drive it. ...Until the next time the engine is switched off, and I have to do it all over again.

I took it in for a service last year and told the garage about it: they had a look and found that there was a breather pipe which had been damaged (somehow, it had been flattened), and so they replaced it. I'd hoped that would fix it. But unfortunately it's still stalling.

Has anyone else here had this problem? Or does anyone have any ideas what it might be?

Any help much appreciated!

Thanks,

C.D.

Edited by Clueless Dipstick on 17/06/2020 at 20:35

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - elekie&a/c doctor
Collapsed breather pipes are a common problem on petrol engine Focus models of this age . However , this usually results in erratic/ unstable idle speed. It’s possible the idle control valve needs cleaning due build up of gunge over the years. If your car is a 1600 , the valve is easy to access. On the 1.8 / 2.0 , it’s buried at the back of the engine, so not so easy .
2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick
It’s possible the idle control valve needs cleaning due build up of gunge over the years. If your car is a 1600 , the valve is easy to access. On the 1.8 / 2.0 , it’s buried at the back of the engine, so not so easy .

Thanks for the reply. I'll mention the idle control valve to the mechanic when I take it in for its MOT, and ask them to take a look at it.

All the best,

C.D.

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick

...After thinking more about this, it occurs to me that there might be air in the fuel line --- perhaps as a result of a pinhole somewhere between the tank and engine.

I wonder...

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - gordonbennet

Trickling fluid sound is usually coolant, maybe the system needs bleeding of air, often trapped in the heater radiator.

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - elekie&a/c doctor
Don’t think so . Any hole in a fuel pipe is going to leave a large pool of petrol under the car .
2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick
Don’t think so . Any hole in a fuel pipe is going to leave a large pool of petrol under the car

I missed your post --- thanks for the reply. I haven't noticed any kind of fluid under the car: perhaps it is air in the cooling system, as someone else here has suggested. I did a search for information online about bleeding the air from my particular model, but found nothing, so I've been looking at articles and videos on bleeding car radiators in general --- they differed from one another on some details, but it sounds fairly straightforward (I'm not a mechanic!).

What I've gathered is that I need firstly to park facing up a slight incline, to raise the radiator (as the air will move to the highest point it can), remove the radiator cap (when cool) and fill it, turn the air blower in the cabin to max. temp., and then start the engine and run it for a while with the radiator cap off. The air will get driven out, and the radiator can be topped up again and the cap replaced. I think maybe even I can manage that. (...Famous last words!)

The only thing I'm not sure about is whether my car has bleed nuts that I need to loosen first.

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick

Trickling fluid sound is usually coolant, maybe the system needs bleeding of air, often trapped in the heater radiator.

Thanks for the information --- I had a problem with the cooling system before all this started (coolant level dropped sharply, engine fan running for a long time), so maybe this is related. Would air in the cooling system cause the engine itself to stall on start, though?

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - John F

Oh dear. That sounds bad. Probably cylinder head gasket failure or just an external leak somewhere (pipe connection, water pump, split reservoir) if you are lucky. What's the mileage?

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick

Oh dear. That sounds bad. Probably cylinder head gasket failure or just an external leak somewhere (pipe connection, water pump, split reservoir) if you are lucky. What's the mileage?

Not excessive --- about 80,000. And it's hardly been used over the past couple of years.

As I say, it seems to run all right if I can get it going --- i.e. hit the gas quickly on ignition before it stalls, and then rev it until I hear that trickling sound. It'll drive and idle quite happily until it's switched off. ...And then you have to repeat the rigmarole to get it going again.

I've had a look online at a few articles and videos about bleeding air from the cooling system --- the procedure doesn't look too difficult (or too dangerous!), so I might give that a try first, before I take it to the garage.

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick

An update (in case anyone else with the same problem finds this thread)...

Before attempting to burp the car, I topped up the expansion tank close to the maximum line: it wasn't far off before, but I did it in case it burped so much that the coolant level fell too far.

With the car parked on a slight incline and the engine cold, I removed the expansion tank cap and managed to get the engine running (by hitting the accelerator quickly before it stalled). With the expansion tank cap still off, I let it sit and run, occasionally revving the engine a little (to about 3000 RPM). When I put my foot on the accelerator, I heard even stronger trickling --- it sounded at times like more of a whoosh than a trickle. After about 20-30 minutes of this, I switched it off, let it cool down and replaced the cap. I then left it until the following day.

When I tried it, it started first time without stalling, thank Heaven. I've tried it a few times since and it still starts --- there was one stall, but it's nothing like it was. So it seems that somehow the cooling system was at least in part responsible for the cold-stalling. I don't know how.

I'm not sure that the problem is solved, but the car seems to start far more willingly than it did, and if what I've written here helps someone, then my posting it won't have been in vain... Thanks again to all who replied.

Incidentally, I ordered a Haynes manual for my model the other day: it listed several causes for immediate stalling --- none of which mentioned the cooling system!

Edited by Clueless Dipstick on 13/09/2020 at 19:02

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - elekie&a/c doctor
I’m not surprised that the Haynes manual doesn’t mention cooling system and stalling. They are totally unrelated. The car should idle correctly from cold , even if there was no coolant at all in the engine .
2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick
I’m not surprised that the Haynes manual doesn’t mention cooling system and stalling. They are totally unrelated.

Yes, that's what I thought! I still don't really understand what was causing the problem --- much less why my burping the cooling system should have reduced the stalling so much.

I'd've thought that if the trickling sound and the stalling are related (as they do appear to be) and if that the sounds arise because air is finding its way into some fluid where it shouldn't be and causing the stalling, then that fluid must be fuel rather than coolant.

I just wonder how it can be happening. ...And why it is only a problem on starting. ...And why revving the engine until the trickling sound occurred always overcame the tendency to stall and allowed the car to idle correctly without stalling.

Edited by Clueless Dipstick on 13/09/2020 at 21:13

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Big John

As this is an automatic - does this car have a transmission fluid cooler built into the radiator?

This can be an issue with an older car as with this sort of radiator it can fail effectively joining together coolant and transmission fluid cooling systems.

worth checking - just in case

Edited by Big John on 13/09/2020 at 21:22

2002 Focus LX 16V Automatic - Stalling On Start - Clueless Dipstick

As this is an automatic - does this car have a transmission fluid cooler built into the radiator?

This can be an issue with an older car as with this sort of radiator it can fail effectively joining together coolant and transmission fluid cooling systems.

worth checking - just in case

Thanks: I hadn't thought of that --- I'll look into it...

 

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