Enggboy New Reader
2/25/15 2:46 p.m.

Hello All,

I thought I would pick the GRM braintrust to help troubleshoot an issue I am having with my 2002 Focus sedan.

It has the 2.0L 8-valve (SPI) SOHC engine and it is having difficulty starting when it is cold (below -15*C or so). The battery is fresh and the engine cranks very strong, but when it is cold it takes a lot of time to get a successful explosion happening in the cylinders. The colder the engine the longer it takes to fire-up. Once running it is fine, there are no noticeable stutters or hesitations.

As it is cranking it will take 5+ seconds before any cylinder starts to fire, and then it is intermittent. It seems like it can take up to 5 or 6 attempts (at about 7 to 10 seconds each) as the temperatures get really low (-35*C and below) before it will steadily turn over under its own power. I don’t remember it being this bad last winter, or a problem the winter before that. Unfortunately I don’t have access to plug in a block heater to determine if that would help (I suspect it would).

My initial thoughts are that the injectors are dirty and not atomizing properly, but my fuel mileage doesn't seem to be suffering. Is there anything else I should look for that could be causing this? Dirty MAF, vacuum leak, etc.?

I am trying to catch up on some deferred maintenance (no time or money) and this is one of the last tings I have to fix. Any help is appreciated, thank you!

mazdeuce PowerDork
2/25/15 2:58 p.m.

With the cold being what it has been, I'd suspect something fuel/wet fuel related. I hate to suggest you change the fuel filter when it's this cold, but if you haven't done it in recent memory, that's where I'd start.

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/25/15 3:00 p.m.

As odd as it sounds, I bet it's fuelling ok- you may want to see if you can clean the injectors. But even if you do, not much will evaporate at those low temps, anyway.

What it's doing is trickling the fuel slowly in, hoping that eventually there will be enough to start. At least that how it should be calibrated- whether it is nor not may be different. BUT... that is based on some pretty specific cold fuels, from about 1999 (since that's about when the cold testing was done). If the cold fuel spec changed in your part of Candada (which I'm assuming, since you say C, and the SPI focus was only in north America)- it would make starting more difficult.

Then there's the temp- the actual requirement is that the car starts un-assisted down to -20F/-29C. -35 is a LOT colder, so you may want to look into a block heater. I know you say you can't get one- but a 100W light would work. Getting farther away from -29C, and all bets are off.

MAF or Vac leaks are not an issue during crank- it's just about fuel.

Enggboy New Reader
2/25/15 3:17 p.m.

Thanks you for the input. I am indeed in Canada, good call. I cannot plug in a block heater (it has one installed already) as I have to park the car on the street and I don't think it would be wise to run a 200' extension cord out to the car (and across a road at that).

A few years ago the gov't spec'd an ethanol requirement in fuel and it seems that all the 87 octane (ROM + MON average) has 10% ethanol content now. Could the ethanol be causing these issues? The premium fuel (91 octane) doesn't have ethanol, so if that is the cause I could always fill up with premium before it is going to be really cold.

Any recommendations for how best to clean the injectors: magic fuel additives, off-car cleaning by a shop, just buy new injectors, etc.?

Thanks again!

Edit to add: The car has about 270k kms (170k miles) on it, original injectors, and the fuel filter is probably due as well (in spring...)

yamaha MegaDork
2/25/15 3:40 p.m.

My '01 focus zetec is behaving the same way when its super cold. I'm assuming its due to a slight icing effect on the plugs.

Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
2/25/15 4:04 p.m.

I'm with Alfa on this, it's probably just too cold. You need to heat the block, or make it spin faster cold. What oil are you running? A 0w30 might help.

On fuel, if I remember right, premium gas is slightly less volatile than regular, so you'd want to run 87. For cleaning injectors the only stuff I'd recommend other than a professional service is Chevron Techron concentrate plus, it's one of the only readily available ones containing Polyetheramine (PEA), strong stuff.

Enggboy New Reader
2/25/15 4:43 p.m.

In reply to Kenny_McCormic:

I am running 2W-20 dino oil, but I have some 0W-20, and it is due for a change so maybe I will try that and see if it improves.

As for the Techron, that is not available in Alberta that I have found so far, but I have access to RedLine SI-1, which according to the MSDS contains PEA. I will grab a couple bottles and see if I can clean up the injectors along with the thinner oil.


Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
2/25/15 4:54 p.m.

I had to look it up to double check, I didn't think the SPI 2.0 was specced/backspecced for 20 weight but it is, so run 0w20.

Can you get Gumout Regane? That's the other one I can think of that has PEA.

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/25/15 5:05 p.m.

Thinking of other things- when was the last time you changed the plugs?

As for the fuel, normally E10 is suspended below 40F- there are a handful of regions around the US that doesn't- but they are warm areas anyway.

Basically, the heat of compression vaporizes enough fuel to get it going- but it's really tough when it gets cold.

Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
2/25/15 5:14 p.m.

Plugs (and wires, cap, rotor, etc if applicable) certainly can't hurt.

iceracer PowerDork
2/25/15 5:20 p.m.

Two temperature sensors have a lot to do with cold starting. Intake air and coolant. If one is out of spec. it will affect cold starting. But I suspect your main problem may be cranking speed, Battery or starter.

The ethanol has no effect on starting. My '13 Fiesta started right up one morning at 15 below. No block heater.

fujioko HalfDork
2/25/15 8:42 p.m.

As Kenny suggested, you may want to replace the spark plugs before investing in new injectors.

Streetwiseguy PowerDork
2/25/15 9:06 p.m.

Make sure the coil will jump a 3/4 inch gap, or make your friend jump 18" up when he's holding it and you are cranking.

Have you tried holding the throttle a wee bit open? Some people have been told the jeebus will crush your testicles if you open the throttle starting an injected car. They are wrong.

Enggboy New Reader
2/26/15 10:37 a.m.

Thanks for all the tips, I will try to reply to each as best I can:

Kenny_McCormic: It looks like the Gumout is available easily here, so I will pick some up and give it a few tanks.

alfadriver: Around these parts they keep the ethanol year round, no matter the temperature, but it sounds like that is not a real issue for me.

iceracer: I have an OBDII link to the Torque app on my Andriod phone, and when I check the intake and coolant temps reported it seems to fall in line with expected. The intake is near ambient at start-up, and the coolant is a few degrees above ambient after sitting out all night. The cranking speed is good, there is no hesitation with that (new battery and the starter is quite strong still). Our '12 Mazda 5 fires up beautifully on the same ethanol gas at any temperature too, so that I why I leaned on the injectors, but needed to doublecheck with the hivemind.

Streetwiseguy: I have temped the testicle crushing by trying small throttle input, medium and even WOT. It does not seem to affect the outcome in any appreciable way. (and my testes have so far remained uncrushed...)

To all who mentioned plugs/wires/etc: The plugs are the OE style platimun tipped ones and are about 2 years old. I will pull them (when it warms up) and double check the gap/condition. The plug wires are about a year old. Coil is original, so I could see if a pick-n-pull has a lower mileage one to swap out as a maintenance item when I can.

Thanks again for all the input. I will try the injector cleaner first, then when I can I will re-gap/replace plugs as needed and the coil when I can.

Have a great day!

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/26/15 11:51 a.m.

In reply to Enggboy:

If you go WOT, that turns the fuel off. Which is really handy if you think it's flooded.

Tipping in has no real effect- the amount of air pumped at those speeds changes very little with throttle movement.

One other thing about the length of crank- at some point, the fuel will stop flowing- and then start again- this is to prevent the system from getting flooded. But that is how it works. For that particular car/calibration, I can't recall how many crank attempts until it stops, but it will, briefly.

(I HATE cold testing)

Enggboy New Reader
2/26/15 1:16 p.m.

That is some good info to know about the fuel management, thank you.

alfadriver wrote: (I HATE cold testing)

You should try living in an area that is basically cold testing straight for months at a time! I once changed the transmission fluid in my Miata on the curb at -20*C. It took 10 minutes for the oil pouring out to turn to a trickle. Then another 30 before it started to drip... that sucked ass.

Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
2/26/15 1:26 p.m.

In my experience coils pretty much either work or they don't, they don't get weak without failing entirely a week later. At 1 year the wires should be fine. What brand plugs? I only run NGK.

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/26/15 1:30 p.m.

In reply to Enggboy:

Yea, it's bad enough in SE Michigan. I'll pass.

Kenny- this focus would be coil packs- just the coil, wires (which are new), and plugs (which are new).

When it runs, are there any hesitations? I changed the coil in my FIL's ZTEC Fiesta- which fixed a misfire. Apparently, they can crack.

Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
2/26/15 1:50 p.m.

I've had ignition troubles masked as fuel troubles screw me over too many times to dismiss 2 year old spark plugs. If the coil pack is known to crack, that should definitely be inspected and/or traded out for a known good one. Note that a new made in china coil from the parts store is generally not a known good one.

iceracer PowerDork
2/26/15 5:20 p.m.

Aftermarket coil pacs have been found to be inferior to OEM Ford units.

Ask the guys with ZX2's

Enggboy New Reader
2/27/15 9:24 a.m.

The plugs are a platinum NGK. I prefer Bosch, but the NGK's were available when I needed them.

Once it fires up there is no stumble or hesitation at all. The engine runs like a champ once it is awake, it just doesn't like to get out of bed when its too cold outside

I will keep my eye on the parts yards to see if a low-mile Focus comes in so that I can try to grab the coil pack off of it.

Ultimately, this issue should resolve itself in the next month as we are getting out of the season of -20, but I want to get it ready so that it won't do it next year.

Thanks for all the help and suggestions, they are greatly appreciated.

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