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Questions and Answers

Ford Contour Idles Rough, Sluggish

Q. First, I have a 1997 Ford Contour 2.0 liter DOHC, automatic transmission, 130,000 miles, fuel injected, with ABS. I bought the car to have a nice project to work on with my father. I was always into cars, and this was going to keep me busy for a long time, and still is.

My car's symptoms are the following:

Ford Contour Idles Rough, Sluggish
  • Rough idle.
  • Sluggish response with accelerator.
  • If I give too much gas, it wants to stall.
  • Gets very hot under the hood.
  • Passing emissions, but smells very chemically.
  • If sitting at a red light, in summer with A/C, it's very rough and will stall.
  • Performs best when cold, very sluggish and lack of power when warmed up/hot.

I have also noticed, that the timing gears do NOT have timing marks on them, but when properly aligned, the gears are off 1 or 2 teeth, and there was no way for us to adjust the belt because they wouldn't line up.

I have taken the following actions:

  • Replaced: Fuel filter, spark plugs, PCV valve, both O2 sensors, timing belt and tensioner, spark plug cables.
  • I have flushed the cooling system, tested the coolant sensor, came back with acceptable voltage readings, used pointless fuel injector cleaner through the gas tank.

I don't know if this matters or not, but when I checked the Throttle Position Sensor, it read exactly backwards, as I opened the throttle, then described in the repair manual.

I'm so sorry that this was so long, but I have ran out of ideas. Thank you very much for your time, and hopefully your possible solutions.

Thanks,
Max

A. Well let's clear a couple of things up first. The reason you did not see any timing marks on the camshaft gears is because there are none. Ford has a special tool that firs on the camshafts to line them up. Then you line up the mark on the crankshaft gear and that is how the cam timing is checked. Also, keep in mind that a used belt will never let all the timing marks line up due to stretching.

I believe the reason why the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) is reading backwards is you have the ohmmeter leads reversed. Polarity does matter when taking the reading.

Now, for the possible causes of the problem. First I would clean the Mass Air Flow (MAF). This has fixed many a driveability problem such as yours. Here is the TSB Ford issued and a good way to fix the problem.

Ford F150 Codes P0171 & P0174

Ford Expedition P0171 & P0174

Ford Mass Air Flow Sensors

If cleaning the MAF does not resolve the issue, I would look at the Coolant Temperature Sensor (CTS). Best way is with a cold engine, having sat overnight, and a scan tool. The CTS reading on the scan tool should be within 1 or 2 degrees of the ambient air temperature.

If you test it with a volt or ohm meter, these are the values:

Temperature Engine Coolant/Intake Air Temperature Sensor Values
°C °F Voltage (Volts) Resistance (K ohms)
120 248 0.27 1.18
110 230 0.35 1.55
100 212 0.46 2.07
90 194 0.60 2.80
80 176 0.78 3.84
70 158 1.02 5.37
60 140 1.33 7.70
50 122 1.70 10.97
40 104 2.13 16.15
30 86 2.60 24.27
20 68 3.07 37.30
10 50 3.51 58.75

Additional Information provided courtesy of AllDATA

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