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I'm posting on behalf of my roommate. She bought a used car from the dealership, and the very next day it would not start. I didn't get a chance to look at it at the time, but she says it had the check engine light on when the dealership towed it.
Got the car back, was told that the code pulled off the car was a zero (i wasn't there when she was told this) and that everything seemed fine. The next day, the car failed to start again. I took off the battery connections, cleaned them off as best as i can with a wire brush, bought new terminals and reconnected the battery cables. I still ended up having to give it a jump.
This is the part where it gets tricky (I'm a girl, so my car talk is still fairly kindergarten level so bear with me). She told me that while driving on the interstate, the car would suddenly lose acceleration. She's had to take her foot off the pedal and slowly give it some gas for the car to pick up speed again. And then it dies. and it's done that to her for 5 miles until she it started up again and drove the rest of the way to the house. A friend had told me that these escorts are notorious for having some transmission sensor problem. I have been trying to read the threads and so far have not found anything yet. Figured I'd try to take this shortcut to save time.
The car is at the dealership again. And they have not done a single thing to it because the few times they've driven it (mind you, this is all word of mouth), it's acted fine. I'm just trying to help my roommate because driving her around in my chevy silverado is a complete pain in the rear. Looking forward to hearing from you!
 

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Welcome to the world of "intermittent" problems. Been there, done it, with more than one make of vehicle.
Many places don't even want to take your money unless the MIL is lit and you have codes stored. I can tell you, these things don't always set a code either! One I've run into on a few of all different makes is intermittent loss of power. Not to the extent that they'd quit, but so weak that they wouldn't pull a sick old man off the toilet! Half an hour later, they'd run as strong as could be. I had an 87 domestic full size car.(not Ford in this case) Virtually replaced fuel and ignition systems, to no avail. Had a good mechanic working with me and he had no luck either. Even dropped the gas tank looking for plugged inlet. Last time I ran into it on a different car (this time a Ford), tech at the dealer said they hate to see these things come into the shop. Everybody thinks they'll be the one to fix it. You end up with a shop full of guys cursing, swearing & throwing tools around. Wish I could be more encouraging. Feel your pain. Been there, done it!
Hopefully at some point, it'll set a code. Until then, unless they can get it to act up, you're kind of stymied.
 

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I just had a problem with our 93 escort and I found the air intake damper gunked up along with the idle air control valve. Are you familiar with car components? Check and see if the air filter is clean. If it is look and see if you have the same problem I had, remove the large 2" hose from the air intake. The hose connects between the air filter housing and the air intake. Look inside and see if that's all gunked up. If it is, get some gumout and clean it. I'm not sure if the 98 is the same as the 93, but on top of the intake mounted is an idle air control valve. So try to spray the top of the inside of that intake also. That IAC controls a valve that allows a small amount of air for idle.

I'm not a ASE mechanic, just an hvac tech and car enthusiast. So, good luck!
 

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I just had a problem with our 93 escort and I found the air intake damper gunked up along with the idle air control valve. Are you familiar with car components? Check and see if the air filter is clean. If it is look and see if you have the same problem I had, remove the large 2" hose from the air intake. The hose connects between the air filter housing and the air intake. Look inside and see if that's all gunked up. If it is, get some gumout and clean it. I'm not sure if the 98 is the same as the 93, but on top of the intake mounted is an idle air control valve. So try to spray the top of the inside of that intake also. That IAC controls a valve that allows a small amount of air for idle.

I'm not a ASE mechanic, just an hvac tech and car enthusiast. So, good luck!

For sure, make sure that normal maintenance stuff is attended to before resigning yourself to having a bonafide "intermittent" problem. For sure, fuel filter, plugs, cap, wires, pcv syst etc. IAC normally presents itself as an "idling" problem (as the name implies), but the vehicle generally drives ok, once off idle. For sure, an engine starving for air won't run too well - check air filter and inlet. Another problem is splits or cracks in the "bellows" of the air intake hose. If you're getting air into the engine that isn't passing through mass airflow sensor, that'll give problems. I kind of jumped to the conclusion that if the dealer can't find the problem, they've likely already eliminated this kind of stuff.
 

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Had this happen to my 98 mustang gt. ended up replacing the fuel pump and filter. ran okay for a few months and now it's intermittent again. I would suggest listening for the 2-3 second fuel pump prime when the key is first turned to the "on" not start position.
 

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My daughter drives my wife's old 1999 Escort 4 door.
It died on her several times, had to have it towed.
I drove it to test it and it died on me at 30 mph and I coasted to the curb. It restarted after a few minutes but I took it into Ford figuring they had to have the right tools to do engine diagnostic , etc. Maybe it was a timing, computer or other electrical problem. They replaced oxygen sensors, fuel pump and filter and dikked with it to the tune of $2050.
It still had a the same problem. Took it to a small mechanic shop recommended by a friend. They replaced the engine to the tune of $6500. It's been running ok for a year and a half.
This probably doesn't help, just relating my experience.
I could have bought my daughter a new KIA for a few dollars more.
 
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