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My truck won't start in the cold!

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Old 01-21-2011, 08:53 PM   #1
hworksinc
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My truck won't start in the cold!

Hi all, I've never had to use the 911 forum before, and I sure hope someone here can help ASAP. The title says it all - starting a few weeks before Christmas, my truck has been unable to start (or very hard starting) when the temperature dips into the single digits (Fahrenheit).

My truck is a 2000 4.0 SOHC. On turning the key, the engine turns over normally. If I crank it for a few seconds, it will fire once or twice, but will not start. Once the temperature rises to the upper teens, it starts just fine. There has been no problem idling or running once started. Holding the accelerator doesn't help (ruling out an IAC valve problem).

After the first incident in December, I thought it was an isolated incident - either dirty gas or water in the tank. I tossed in a can of HEET, and let it sit overnight. The next day it was a bit warmer, and my Ex started without incident. Several days later, weather was colder and the problem reappeared.

I suspected the fuel system, so checked fuel pressure - it tested at ~60 PSI after priming, and ~55 PSI running. Despite the normal result, I replaced the fuel filter for kicks since it;s been a while. There was evidence of minor bits of crud in the filter, but nothing serious. I also cleaned my K&N filter, MAF sensor, and IAC valve for good measure. There was a good amount of carbon buildup in the throttle body and upper intake, so I removed and cleaned them as well. Before reinstalling the intake, I also swapped in a new set of upper intake gaskets I had laying around and replaced the PCV valve.

For the next several weeks, it was in the 20's, and there was no issue starting. However, this morning it was once again 8 degrees and just as I feared, my truck wouldn't start. I checked the fuel pressure again and it was 60 after priming and 45-55 while cranking. The engine is turning over just fine, but as before it is only sporadically firing. One difference this time is that after several extended cranking sessions, the engine backfired once. I know the truck is getting fuel and air. I pulled a plug wire and there is spark.

Next up for testing:
Coil pack: Even though there is spark, it looked weak to me. However, I've never heard of a coil pack having problems in the cold (they usually fail with heat in my experience). My multimeter died, so my unscientific test is to bring the coil pack inside tonight, let it warm up and then reattach and see what happens.

Spark plugs: Somehow, I managed to misplace my socket. Will pick one up tomorrow and look at the plugs.

and... I don't know what else. ECT sensor crossed my mind, but that shouldn't cause a problem like this. And input/ideas on what the problem could be would be appreciated. I really can't afford to wait until Tuesday when it warms up a bit.




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Last edited by hworksinc; 05-30-2011 at 09:58 AM. Reason: Corrected fuel pressure measurements
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Old 01-22-2011, 05:18 AM   #2
ShadyGrady
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you did not mention winter weather prep...just to cover ALL the basics, 5W-30 oil or 0W20 oil for extreme cold operation, 50-50 Antifreeze or 60-40 antifreeze mix heavy on antifreeze more than water. Some will say it is a reach, but good battery, cold weather prep for oil and coolant will make for easier starting, and the Heet for fuel every once in a while are what is needed foe those sub 30 degree starts...maybe try a blanket over the engine, remove just before starting helped me during those years I lived in Ohio near lake Erie...it could otherwise take over 20 tries to get it started due to frozen condensation on the engine...i guess that is what is happening...the blanket thing cured my cold morning start issue you describe...i would throw a heavy wool blanket, being careful not to let it touch the exhaust when I parked it each evening...i had all your issues, and I did not have 0W20 oil as an option in the 1980's to go to...so I did everything else to make it easier on the engine during cold cranking...if it is good at 20+, your components are fine, you need to find a way to keep the engine a few degrees warmer, and keep your Battery from freezing, good luck. I got my Blanket from the Army surplus store for 3 bucks...still got it too, however I no longer live in the North...ya never know when you will need it...consider if your engine faces the wind at night, cover the Radiator with wood or cardboard also...JC-Whitney and a Magnet Mount Block heater comes to mind (http://www.jcwhitney.com/magnet-moun...DetailTabPanel) just under $60 before S/H...but to take it that far is up to you...we have all the Military vehicles that need to operate in extreme cold fitted with an oil warming device...we just plug them into a 110 outlet when we park it, cranks up on the first try in the morning. the cord is wrapped up around the bumper...Good Luck!
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Old 01-22-2011, 05:41 AM   #3
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i must add, after seeing only 3 reviews about that Block heater i recommended...we had much better units for engine heaters, and for sub 10 to sub zero the vehicles had battery tray warming pads also...all configured to a power strip that was water proofed so to have only one cord to manage for plugging in during extended park times...and no facing the wind...some trucks had coolant heaters...all that stuff cost a lot of money...i wanted ti help with a low cost solution...just be careful and try the cheaper route...and a test run on a day when you don't have to be to work...so you know it works for YOU! I did a lil longer google search and found these: (http://www.wolverineheater.com/cartrucksuv.shtml) ,
(http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=engine+block+heater) , (http://www.warehouseautoparts.com/Sp...ne_heaters.htm) , (http://cgi.ebay.com/DIP-STICK-ENGINE...item439fb55a69)

the last one is a "Dipstick Engine Oil Heater" prob the easiest solution...just remember to keep the OEM dipstick HANDY for the swap or however you want to use this if you try this route...good luck again!
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Old 01-22-2011, 05:41 AM   #4
2000StreetRod
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ECT & IAT sensors

The ECT sensor significantly affects the air/fuel ratio when starting and running. The IAT sensor also affects A/F ratio but not as significantly as the ECT sensor. Both can be checked with an ohmmeter using the table in BrooklynBay's helpful threads but that does not check their connection to the PCM. I suggest that you borrow a scanner and read the values that the PCM reports. You could also read the fuel trims to see if your engine is running lean. Some of my lower intake gaskets were leaking as well as my upper gaskets. That leaned the A/F ratio.

Do you have any DTCs?

When the engine first starts are the rpms excessively high for a few seconds? If so, that indicates a leak somewhere in the intake system.
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Old 01-22-2011, 08:08 AM   #5
ShadyGrady
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Every once in a while Mother Nature will help up see that out ride is not perfect...I figure 2000StreetRod does have a point...we all just trying to help.
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Old 01-22-2011, 08:16 AM   #6
waskly
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fuel pump relay?

fuel pump itself

fuel pressure regulator?

i'm out of other ideas less its electric.

ect is not even used at start up....

iac's have cold problems some just stick/bind/seize.
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Old 01-22-2011, 05:57 PM   #7
ShadyGrady
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I sure hope to hear what fixed it!?
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Old 01-23-2011, 06:07 AM   #8
ranger7ltr
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I see one particular problem here...

Quote:
Originally Posted by hworksinc View Post
Hi all, I've never had to use the 911 forum before, and I sure hope someone here can help ASAP. The title says it all - starting a few weeks before Christmas, my truck has been unable to start (or very hard starting) when the temperature dips into the single digits (Fahrenheit).

My truck is a 2000 4.0 SOHC.

I suspected the fuel system, so checked fuel pressure - it tested at ~60 PSI after priming, and 30-50 PSI running (depending on throttle position). Despite the normal result, I replaced the fuel filter for kicks since it;s been a while.
For the next several weeks, it was in the 20's, and there was no issue starting. However, this morning it was once again 8 degrees and just as I feared, my truck wouldn't start. I checked the fuel pressure again and it was 60 after priming and 40-50 while cranking. The engine is turning over just fine, but as before it is only sporadically firing. One difference this time is that after several extended cranking sessions, the engine backfired once. I know the truck is getting fuel and air. I pulled a plug wire and there is spark.


and... I don't know what else. ECT sensor crossed my mind, but that shouldn't cause a problem like this. And input/ideas on what the problem could be would be appreciated. I really can't afford to wait until Tuesday when it warms up a bit.
So the normal result of running fuel pressure is 30-50 psi? Not on any properly running Ford returnless fuel system which your 2000 Explorer is part of...Minimum operating pressure is 55 psi and normal pressure will be 65-72 psi and the pressure DOES NOT vary with throttle position...

The Ford returnless fuel system is designed to run at a constant pressure no matter what... There is not a vacuum operated fuel pressure regulator to vary the fuel pressure and the pump will run constantly and supply the fuel rail with the same pressure... If you are seeing a variance of fuel pressure you have a fuel pump, fuel pump sock, or fuel line supply problem...

And the ECT sensors' purpose is to provide proper feedback to the PCM to monitor and control the fuel mixture based on engine temperature...If the engine is below or above a set temperature, the PCM will increase the fuel amount the injectors deliver to aid in starting and cold running of the engine or to assist in cooling an overheated engine...What is the coolant level in the engine?

Testing the output of the ECT sensor would be step #2 after verifying the fuel pump is delivering proper pressure and that pressure is getting to the injectors through the fuel rail..Testing this and other sensors only requires a voltmeter... Look at this link for more info on this and other sensors and their functions...http://www.fordfuelinjection.com/?p=28




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Old 01-23-2011, 09:33 AM   #9
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Intake gaskets?




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Old 01-25-2011, 10:31 PM   #10
hworksinc
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Sorry for the delay in updating - got a bit slammed with work the past few days. Long story short, the problem was the ignition coil even though it tested ok electrically. I'll post details soon. Thanks again for all the help!




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Old 01-27-2011, 08:34 AM   #11
lovebite
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although the main problem was found don't forget to give those plugs and wires some attention.




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Old 01-27-2011, 10:54 AM   #12
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good to hear ya back up and running!
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Old 01-31-2011, 09:25 PM   #13
drb1956
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I've had a number of Fords, and I gotta tell you in all honesty-Motorcraft batteries suck in extreme cold-the wifes Escape(07) started all this winter-went to Wisconsin, temp dropped to -12 overnight and no start, had on jumper cables for 40 mins before it would crank fast enough to fire off. I can let my Ranger sit for 3 days in this weather with a Wal-Mart battery(Everstart), and it fires right up. Go figure????
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Old 05-30-2011, 09:55 AM   #14
hworksinc
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovebite View Post
although the main problem was found don't forget to give those plugs and wires some attention.
Just noticed I never updated this with the complete resolution. Like I said, the main problem ended up being the coil pack. On examination of the old coil pack, there was a good amount of rust on the exposed metal on the bottom. I broke it apart and it appears that moisture had gotten inside and caused some corrosion of the secondary windings, thus decreasing spark power. Still not really sure why it only caused a problem in extreme cold though. I replaced it with a Screamin' Deamon coil pack, and noticed an immediate improvement in starting performance and power on acceleration.

Now, for the other half of the story. As lovebite mentioned, the plugs and wires were also on my list. Since the starting problem was resolved, I held off on further diagnostics until the weather improved. When I finally had a chance to pull the plugs, I was in for a big surprise! On all 6 spark plugs, the center electrode was burned down by at least 0.03" making the spark gap at least 0.08" total. These were Bosch Platinum Plus plugs, which I've used for years with no problems in all my previous cars. This set had no more than 40,000 miles on them, and the same kind of plugs lasted more than 80,000 miles in my last car with no visible damage. I guess the other stories are true around here, and I can add my experience to that list. The Bosch plugs are simply NOT appropriate for these trucks. I went with a set of Autolite double platinum plugs, which seem to be a good choice based on other posts.

NB: I corrected information in the first post. I incorrectly reported the fuel pressure values for my truck and inadvertently listed numbers from my friend's '97 Ex that I had been working on at the same time. My numbers were ~60 PSI on priming and ~55 PSI while running. During the second incident, the pressure were ~60 PSI while running and 45-55 PSI while cranking, but the battery was already loosing charge from numerous starting attempts.




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Old 04-19-2013, 06:19 PM   #15
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notes about coil packs

A long time ago the GM integral coils would arc a hole through the cap into and through the rotor and ground out. the cause of this was not the coil or the cap but high resistance from bad wires or excessively wide plug gaps. The current can't make the jump so it backs up and leaks out wherever it can and the coil casing was the easiest. might be similar on this one.

I am having the hard start cold as well and thought I'd look to the forum for a solution. Recent plugs and wires, maybe 25k ago and the coil is original as far as I know. Only had the truck for 30k or so with 125k on it now.
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