Ford Escort Engine Problems

by Jeffrey Caldwell
Ford Escort Engine Problems

Ford Escort Engine Problems

The Ford Escort was a subcompact car produced during the 1980s and 1990s. Ford used versions of an inline four-cylinder engine, some carbureted and some fuel-injected, during the life span of the Escort. If you are experiencing problems with your Escort's engine, the first step to repair it is diagnosing what needs to be replaced.

Starter Motor Problems

When you turn the key you can hear the starter motor spinning but the engine will not turn over, remove the starter motor and inspect the pinion gear--it may be stuck. Also check the teeth on the starter gear and the flywheel. If any teeth are missing, the flywheel and/or starter must be replaced. If the engine turns over but will not start, check that there is fuel in the tank and that the battery is fully charged. Also check the terminal connections at the battery. If they are loose or corroded, they must be cleaned and tightened.

Engine Hard to Start

If the engine is hard to start when it's cold, there is a possibility the carburetor could be flooded. Wait at least 15 minutes before attempting to start the engine again. Also check that the battery is fully charged. If the engine is hard to start when it is hot, remove the air filter and check if it is clogged--replace it if necessary. Disconnect the fuel line at the carburetor and place the end in a fuel container. Have an assistant crank over the engine over and check if fuel is coming out of the line. If not, there is an obstruction that must be cleared.

Idling Problems

If the engine starts but stops immediately, check for loose or corroded electrical connections at the distributor, ignition coil and/or alternator. There may also be a vacuum leak coming from the base of the carburetor or intake manifold. Tighten all of the bolts on the base of the carburetor and intake manifold to the specifications listed in the Escort repair manual.

Engine Misses

If the engine misfires at idling speed, it could be a sign of faulty spark plugs or spark plug wires. Remove the spark plugs and look for damage, and check the spark plug gap. Also look for cracked insulation on the spark plug wires. Remove the fuel filter and replace it if it is clogged. Check the vacuum lines connected to the carburetor for leaks. If the engine misses at engine speeds above idle, check the distributor cap and rotor for excessive wear or damage, and check the ignition timing.

Engine Stalls, Backfires or Knocks

If the engine stalls, check that the idle speed on the carburetor is correctly set, and also check that the carburetor fuel filter is not clogged. Check the gap on the spark plugs and inspect the distributor cap and rotor for damage. If the engine backfires, check the ignition timing and tighten the mounting bolts on the carburetor and intake manifold. Engine knocking during hard acceleration may be a sign that you are using the wrong grade of fuel. It could also be a sign of a vacuum leak or incorrect ignition timing.


  • Haynes Ford Escort & Mercury Lynx 1981--1990 Automotive Repair Manual; Larry Warren and John H. Haynes; 1990
  • Chilton Ford: Escort/Tracer 1991-99 Repair Manual; the Nichols/Chilton Editors; 1998
  • Haynes Repair Manual Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer 1991-2000; Chilton; 1999

About the Author

Jeffrey Caldwell has been a freelance writer for over five months and has published over 250 articles on websites like eHow and Trails.com. Caldwell writes articles on a wide range of topics including travel, camping and automotive mechanics. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Millersville University.

Photo Credits

  • Anders Ljungberg - creativecommons.com