Edmunds Answers



  • zaken1 08/26/11 3:25 pm PST

    Many vehicles are built with a choice of several different motors in them. Some of these motors have different parts on them than others. I realize that not everyone is aware of the various engine options which were available on their model vehicle; but if people simply would tell us which engine is in their car; it would greatly simplify the task of diagnosing a problem on a car we can't see; which local mechanics have been unable to figure out. It also is essential to know your engine size in order to know which parts to buy. In some cases it also is important to know what type of transmission a car has. Don't you agree???

    Your 1995 Sable was available with either a 3.0 liter V-6 (VIN code "U"), or a 3.8 liter V-6 (VIN code "4"). There originally was a label under the hood which listed the engine model; or you can find it through the VIN code on top of the dashboard, on the driver's side, next to the windshield.

    From the symptoms you describe; I'll bet your car has the 3.0 liter "U" engine; because that engine has a troublesome part on it, called a crankshaft position sensor, which is infamous for making a car stop suddenly without warning while driving, and then restart after it sits for a while. The 3.8 liter engine does not have this part on it. If you have the 3.0 liter motor; I would replace the crankshaft position sensor before doing anything else.

    There also is a part called a fuel filter on your car, which will do the same thing if it becomes clogged. Pardon me for sounding condescending; but I am astonished that none of the people you spoke with mentioned EITHER of the two parts which most commonly cause this problem!!!! I know that the authorities in Texas rewrite the school textbooks; so they will not say things which conflict with the beliefs of the party in power; but I didn't think they also rewrite the automobile repair manuals to leave out the most likely problem parts.

    Anyway, there is one more part called a distributor ignition pickup; which can also cause this problem; but it is not as likely as the other two.

  • ladymechanic1 08/28/11 3:45 pm PST

    I soo appreciate your answering. I did forget to give you engine details.. Nope, its not at 3.0. My car is a 1995, Mercury Sable 3.8 L engine, V6
    I did find the fuel pump emergency shut off valve on the drivers side wall under the carpet in the trunk and it wasnt tripped, so that simple hopeful fix was not the problem. As far as fuel filter, it was changed by the Mobile oil change guys within the last month when the engine kill problems began. It was so hot here I took it to them, especially with the kill problem, I let them suggest a fix with oil change and thats what they did.
    ya know everything sounds good when you turn the ignition key on...almost like its not getting gas but I also keep in mind that even though I pulled over immediately, I could hear the bubbling water. I did restart it and got home only a block away. Marciano, the mgr of the Oreillys says his 94 Ford truck did this and they replaced the PCM (Powetrain Computer Module and it worked. Found that part in wrecking yard closeby for $75.
    Ive thought perhaps it the ECT (Engine Coolant Temperature sensor on the intake maifold)..? I just dont know what to do next short of letting a shop tow it in... :( hate to do that after sooo much of my own effort. I even pulled every high power fuse and re-seated them in case it was that. Thanks so much for your help, from internet, apparently there are a lot of people iut there with similar issue.

  • zaken1 08/28/11 8:57 pm PST

    Starting problems of the type your car has can come from either lack of fuel; or lack of spark; or lack of compression, or a blown timing chain. It is important to narrow down the range of these possibilities in order to prevent wasting parts and time. Just think of how much work and money you could have already saved if you had first proved it was not in three of those four areas...

    Buy a can of engine starting fluid, remove the intake air duct from the throttle body, prop the throttle valve partly open, and spray a 2 second burst of starting fluid into the throttle body air inlet. Then release the throttle, quickly slip the air duct hose back on, and try to start the motor. If it starts briefly and then stalls; the motor is not getting fuel. But if it does not show any sign of starting; you have proven that this is not a fuel supply problem.

    If it is shown to be a fuel supply problem; please bear in mind that lack of fuel could be caused by a defective fuel pump, or a defective fuel pump relay, or a blown fuel pump fuse, or a bad ground connection for the pump. Please note that it is not reliable to conclude a fuse is good because you can't see a broken conductor. Sometimes fuses go open in places which cannot be seen. This is why the only reliable way to test a fuse is either to check its resistance with a meter, or to substitute a new or a known good fuse of the same rating. Then test for power at the fuel pump. The best way to test the power at the pump is to buy a cheap 12 volt test light. This tool works even better than a voltmeter for this sort of job. If there is no power at the pump; work your way back to the pump relay and the pump fuse; until you find where the power is being blocked. A wiring diagram may be helpful here; which can be found in a service manual for this specific model. You can also get complete service data online with an $11 one week subscription to the Mitchell Manuals professional database. Their wiring diagrams are far, far better than anything you'll find in a consumer grade service manual; and there is all sorts of additional information you won't find elsewhere: Do it Yourself Automobile Repair Manuals - Mitchell 1 DIY

    If you have determined that this is not a fuel supply problem; the next thing to do is to buy a remote starter switch, connect it between the battery cable terminal on the starter solenoid and the small terminal on the starter solenoid where the wire from the ignition switch usually attaches (after removing the ignition switch wire). When you press the button; the starter should run; so be sure the tranmsission is in Park and the brake is firmly set. Also be sure to keep tools, rags, and hands away from the fan belts and other moving parts.

    Find the ignition timing mark on the crankshaft pulley, and the degree scale on the timing cover. You may need to clean the pulley and cover with a rag and solvent in order to find the timing marks. It may be necessary to mark the timing mark on the pulley with chalk to make it easily visible.

    Crank the starter in brief pulses until the timing mark on the pulley is even with the 0 degrees TDC mark on the degree scale. You may need to use a wrench on the pulley to turn it in small enough amounts to get the marks to line up properly. I sometimes use a chain wrench wrapped around the pulley to move it. Once the timing marks are lined up at somewhere between TDC and 5 degrees BTDC; make a mark on the side of the distributor body just below the bottom edge of the cap, in line with the cap terminal that connects to the spark plug wire for the # 1 cylinder. (The # 1 cylinder on this motor is the cylinder closest to the fan belt end of the engine; on the left side of the motor when you are standing next to the fan belts and looking at the motor).

    Then remove the distributor cap, and see where the tip of the rotor is pointing. The rotor tip should be either pointing directly at the mark you made for the # 1 cylinder's plug wire terminal; or else pointing directly across from that mark, on the opposite side of the distributor. If the rotor points anywhere else; the timing chain has broken or jumped out of position.

    Let me know how this much has worked out; and I'll give you further instructions, if necessary.

  • ladymechanic1 08/29/11 2:03 am PST

    Thank you for great detail!! I will work on this on Monday, Aug 29, 2011 and see what develops. Have to do work under covered parking but the heat here at 109, and 120 on the pavement is just killer. Im going to try to enlist professional mechanic help if I can. Two things I've wondered about, one is that it almost overheated the day I put on the MAF sensor and the CCRM. It didn't have that problem before and within one block seems awfully quick...so I was wondering is it possible the mobile one guys when they changed the fuel filter didn't some how seat that right? Or perhaps left off a step like resetting a fuse or relay? It just got worse and worse after they put the new fuel filter on.
    Secondly, Im sure youre right about the high power fuses under the hood because the day I went out there after putting on the MAF and CCRM, I noticed the radiator fan was not turning. I did the usual tests and found it to be functional. I went back into OReillys and told the guys I wanted a 50A fuse instead of the 50 one in there. They laughed at me and said that it was the same which I agree with, but insisted on buying a new fuse. As soon as I put in the 50A fuse, that radiator fan kicked right on!! But I am aware it's not because of the 50A or 50 fuse, its because when I pulled the old one and reseated it AND put a new one in, it fixed the radiator fan right away. Thats the only reason I just reseated those. If I buy all of them, its a goodly number or fuses that I don't know I really need to replace Its hard to decide what to pot shot next on my own. I really think what I need is for a shade tree mechanic to come here with a diagnostic tool suitable for a 1995 Sable and find out as much as possible what's wrong. But, last week I did take it to the dealer repair shop and I did what they told me, replace MAF and CCRM. Dealer mechanic said he couldn't get past the MAF if it was bad to diagnose. But, unless I can start the car, I can't get it back there to complete the $120.00 diagnostic test I already paid for. I'm not sure he's just trying to pull the wool over my eyes or if that true?!!! Anyway, thanks for your help. I will do these tests and get back to you. Thank you!

  • zaken1 08/29/11 2:25 pm PST

    If you buy a low cost digital volt/ohmmeter at Radio Shack or an auto parts store; you can use this meter on the resistance scale to check fuses; and save having to buy new ones. A good fuse should have zero ohms resistance. It is also important that the connector blades on the fuse are shiny clean. A fine pitch file can be used to scrape the corrosion off the terminals; which works even better than pulling the fuse in and out. If there is visible corrosion on electrical contacts which you can't reach with the file; buy a can of electrical contact cleaner and spray it into the contacts. Don't use anything except electrical contact cleaner for this purpose, because other cleaners will leave chemical residue on the contacts.

    The sudden overheating is a puzzle. It is unlikely to have been caused by a fuel filter or anything that the Mobil people did. Sounds more like the thermostat just happened to stick shut at that time. Have you removed the radiator cap and checked the coolant level by looking directly into the radiator? It is absolutely necessary to do this (when the motor is not hot) when there is any possibility of overheating taking place. If any air has gotten into the cooling system; the level in the radiator can go down, while the plastic reservoir remains full. This is a time when you cannot trust the reservoir level to indicate the status of the radiator coolant level.

  • ladymechanic1 09/05/11 11:43 pm PST

    Okay, had time to work further on this starting problem. Because the radiator fan problem was solved by replacing that fuse under the hood, I replaced ALL high power fuses under the hood just to be sure.
    . . It didn't fix problem so next strategy: with help of a friend, I was able to determine gas WAS getting to the engine. However, when we looked at the connector from the ignition coil to the distributor, there was NO spark when I turned it over by trying to start the car. So, my next step is to replace the ignition coil. I won't be doing this until this weekend (9/10/2011).
    I don't think I mentioned I'm almost a 60 Yr old female so the heat here in Texas has finally TODAY on Labor Day broken 69 Days of triple digits!! I have to repair slow and easy for my own sake. If you have any advice about what to replace as I go for the ignition coil, let me know. No spark seems to point to the ignition coil and since this is a 95 Mercury Sable with 222,000 Miles, I'm okay with diagnostic step by step replacement if old parts. No one with OBD1 can pull any codes!!!

  • ladymechanic1 09/05/11 11:48 pm PST

    Forgot to mention..no air in the cooling system for sure.

  • zaken1 09/06/11 1:18 am PST

    Hi again,

    We're making some progress here: having narrowed it down to no spark is VERY helpful. Now; that absence of spark could be caused by at least 5 different things, and the coil is less likely to be defective than most of the other possibilities; so I would advise you not to risk more of your money by running out and buying a coil just yet.

    The first thing I would do is to remove the distributor cap; and watch to see whether the distributor rotor spins when the starter runs. If the rotor does not turn while the starter runs; then the timing chain has broken (which will stop the sparks from being generated). That would be a simple but expensive diagnosis.

    If the rotor spins with the starter running; you will need a 12 volt light bulb with two wires connected to it for the next test. This can be bought for cheap at a parts store. It is called a 12 volt test light. The ones you buy ready made usually have alligator clips on the ends of the wires; which would be very handy here. What I want that light for is to test whether the coil is receiving power from the battery, and whether it is being switched by the ignition module.

    The way to test for power to the coil is to bend one wire on a paper clip so that it sticks straight out, and insert that wire alongside one of the two wires that go into the plug on the coil, so that it touches the metal terminal on the wire inside the plug. Clamp one wire from the test light to a clean metal part on the engine; or to the metal part of the battery ground cable. Attach the other wire from the light to the paper clip. Don't let these clips or wires touch any metal parts; or they could short and blow out one of your new fuses.

    Turn the ignition key on to the position where the warning lights on the dashboard come on, and see if the test light glows. If the light glows; there is power reaching the coil. If the light does not glow; move the paper clip to the other coil wire and retry the test. If the light does not glow on either wire; the paper clip may not be inserted far enough into the plug to touch a connector; or the ground connection for your light may be loose or faulty. Try moving the connections around while the ignition key is on, and see if you can get the light to glow. If the light did not glow in the first test; and also does not glow when you move the paper clip to the other wire; try connecting the light between the two battery cable terminals to make sure the light works. If the light works; but it will not glow when connected to the plug at the coil; unplug the plug from the coil (you'll have to use a screwdriver to lift the latch up to release the plug) and try touching the meter lead directly to the terminals in the plug. The bulb should light when one of those two terminals is touched. If the light does not glow when touching either of the coil plug terminals; then power is not reaching the coil. If you get the light to work with one of the coil wires; put the plug back on to the coil, and connect the paper clip to the wire that did not light the bulb.

    Now crank the starter while watching the light. If the light flickers rhythmically while the starter runs; this means the ignition module is doing its job of switching power to the coil. If the light does not glow when the starter runs; either the ignition module or the distributor ignition pickup is faulty.

    Let me know what you find with these tests.

  • ladymechanic1 09/06/11 2:39 am PST

    Just FYI, the Mobile oil change guys just put a new ignition control module on a few weeks ago along with the thermostat and gasket. I know the parts can be sold defective even to begin with but I tend to believe the ignition control module is working. I also confirmed they used that oil or gel that comes with the ignition control module when they put that part on. I will do my best to try to diagnose electrical currents. But, that scares me a bit. I've always taken off the battery cables when I work on my car. I will update by Sun if I'm able. Just can't understand which if these gyestimates are the problems that don't throw codes!!

  • zaken1 09/06/11 3:32 pm PST

    Well, I know a lot of old mechanics who went out of business when electronic ignition and electronic fuel injection came into widespread use. These things were initially intimidating to me also; but when I now look back at what then seemed so hard to adapt to; I just smile about how stubborn the mind can be about taking on new activities.

    When I taught motorcycle mechanics courses in Florida, my students often said that electricity was the hardest subject for them to understand (because it can't be seen). But if you develop the ability to visualize things in your mind; this issue can become much more manageable. Incidentally, I am 9 years older than you.

  • ladymechanic1 09/06/11 7:28 pm PST

    Its not, for me, hard to understand but instead, fear of electrocution by accident! Other problem is access to the store without a running car. This morning, I walked two miles one way. But I'm gonna beat this. its gotta be electrical because when I would turn left ir rt, car would instantly die. Sometimes died when just driving straight but... Can't help feeling that's a wire or device shifting. There is a plug hanging on the left side of the firewall that isn't plugged to anything. I thought its the testor diagnostic connection because its oddly shaped with several female receptacle holes and the plug is shaped with around six sides. Looking at the hood its on firewall left side. Don't know if that's supposed to be attached to something!! Anyway, working on it.

  • zaken1 09/06/11 10:51 pm PST

    I can't help you with the hanging plug; as I'm not much of a Ford products fan; but I might be able to ease your fear of accidental (or even purposeful) electrocution. I used to ask my students whether it would be safe to firmly grasp both terminals of an automotive battery at the same time. There was always at least one person in the group (typically a female) who shuddered at that thought. So I would walk up to the battery and promptly grab the terminals; and nothing would happen. I then explained that electric power comes in many different combinations of pressure and potential volume. The human body has an inherently high resistance to the flow of electricity. The electrical resistance of a human body is measured as several million ohms. Because of this high resistance; it requires a very high electrical pressure; expressed as volts, before enough energy can flow through a human body to cause pain or damage. It would require at least 200 volts for an electric power source to be potentially dangerous (and even that much voltage would need to be available in a sizable quantity before it constituted a danger). So the 12 volts which is stored in an automotive battery has just a tiny fraction of the amount of pressure that would be needed to be dangerous. That's why you can grab a battery's terminals or touch electrical wiring in the car with absolutely no concern.

    There are just two possible exceptions to this statement. One is that the low pressure energy stored in a car battery has a large amount of volume. The power can't flow through a human body in any significant quantity because of the body's high resistance; but it can flow through a low resistance metal bar or wire quite easily. If you lay a metal bar or wire across the terminals of a car battery; there will be sparks flying, and the metal will heat up very quickly. If you are holding the bar when that happens, it will be no more dangerous electrically than when you touch the battery terminals; but your hand might get burned from the heat that has built up in the metal bar. Similarly; if you connect the power from a car battery to a starter motor (which is made to conduct electricity very easily and to convert electric power into rotating motion); enough power will flow through the starter to physically crank the engine with great force; and that force could injure you if your hand got in front of the fan blades or got caught in a moving belt or pulley. So though you couldn't be electrocuted; you might be physically injured from the indirect effects of electricity.

    There is only one system in the car which contains electricity at a pressure of more than 12 volts; and that is the ignition system. The ignition coil converts the 12 volt battery power to about 30,000 volts; in order to make the sparks which fire the fuel mixture in the cylinders. But unlike the battery; the available quantity of power from an ignition coil is quite low. So if you touched a high voltage coil wire or spark plug cable; you might get a sting and jump from the shock; but there would not be enough power in the spark to injure you. It is also possible to sometimes get a much milder shock if you touch a 12 volt wire that is connected to a relay or other device which has a coil in it; but that kind of shock is more of a surprise than a pain.

    Other than those particular places; you cannot even get a shock from the electricity in a car.

  • ladymechanic1 09/07/11 2:15 am PST

    I am looking at several other possibilities. 1.). Replace the PCM (power train control module) but, even in Chiltons book, I can find it called that!!! so don't know what to do about that..need to know where it is, cuz a discount guy had one for $75 but he wants me to bring in the part to make sure its the rt one.
    2.). There was a hose looking at the car from the front, and this hose was hanging down the day I drove home after putting on the MAF sensor and the CCRM. I CANT confirm it cuz I don't have even in the Chiltons book for 1995 sable a schematic for the vacuum system but one of the guys just hooked it back up to a t-connector without knowing if it was rt hook up. But I've read a ton about a vacuum leak causing sudden engine kill and how that type of problem WONT throw a code. Gonna try to inspect lines but cars not jacked up. 3.) Remaining issues are caused (per research) by possible bad EGR valve but more likely the IRCM.. read a lot about that.
    . I believe when I asked before about the wiring hanging under hood, firewall, passenger side that's the KEOG..whatever, testing coupler..its only one shaped like that.
    . One more thing, considering buying an Eqous OBD1, OBDII diagnostic tool of my own around $137. But nobody seems to be pulling any codes: two different garages including dealer couldn't do it. That's why I'm thinking maybe its a vacuum hose etc cuz they won't throw a code. Thanks for info on electric shock...feel better about that now. Question. was it enough on a vacuum hose just to shove it raw ended hose on the connector t? Seems like that's nit much to RESTORE vacuum and to hold it on!!. Thanks for all your help. I'm determined to solve this!!

  • ladymechanic1 09/07/11 2:26 am PST

    Probably, cheapest and easiest next step is to replace the Integrated Relay Control module, located on the front engine radiator support. From what I read, the ignition control module (Which has already been replaced, sends that spark or info about it to the ignition coil sooo, (also read where the IRCM in this yr car 1995 mercury sable) contains fuel pump relay. So anyway...trying ovah here!!

  • zaken1 09/07/11 1:26 pm PST

    WHOA there!! Remember about 5 entries back you said you found THERE WAS NO SPARK FROM THE COIL. And I said in response that we were now making some real progress, and then gave you some tests to make to narrow down the possibilities of why there was no spark (since a no spark condition will absolutely prevent the engine from starting). After that, you said you are uncomfortable about working with electricity or testing things with the battery connected; and you have SINCE THEN NOT GIVEN ME ANY FEEDBACK ABOUT THE NEXT STEPS I ASKED YOU TO DO. Instead; you are now going off on a bunch of other tracks about vacuum leaks, fuel pump relays, loose wires, powertrain control modules, and all sorts of other things which you either notice, wonder about, or read about.


  • akright 04/22/14 8:51 pm PST


    Hi guys i know I am 3 yrs late on this issue but my 95 Sable 3.8L is having a similar issue. The difference betwen me and ladymechganic is my motor dies but the rest of the car has power and that dang blasted 'check engine' light comes on. Ugh!

    Parts I've replaced:
    Rotor, Coil pack, battery, fuel pump and the multi-function relay module thingy. A

  • Stever@Edmunds 04/23/14 9:43 am PST

    @akright, no problem continuing the thread. You may want to start a new one in the off chance a "new" expert will see it.


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