By October 13, 20061 Comments Read More →

1997 Ford Explorer Engine Won’t Start Sometimes When it Sits

Reader Question

I have a 1997 two door Ford Explorer sport. I’ve used it an average of about once every two months just to make sure it runs still. The last time I used it I drove it to the grocery store and it started fine.

When I came out of the store it wouldn’t start. I left it there over night and a guy came and jumped it, but it took a little while before it started. When I got home I charged the battery since it’s only 1 year old and it makes the sound like it’s about to start but it just won’t kick over.

My neighbor even let me try his battery and it still won’t start. I now have decided to sell it to a friend, but I told him I want to fix this first. I went to start it today and it sounds like it wants to kick over but it won’t. I’m thinking that since the gas in it is almost a year old it may have clogged the injectors or clogged something?

I work on motorcycles all the time but only know the basics on cars. What would you suggest doing, cleaning, checking? Should I go get some starter fluid and try that? Thanks for the help.

Howdy Matt,

When you say it tries to start, but wont kick over you mean the engine is turning over ok, but it wont ignite correct? So if that is happening, you have plenty of battery power….the headlights are bright, the engine is spinning over it is just not igniting and starting. Right?

So, if that is the case, you are missing one of the key ingredients to start an engine.

Fuel, clean and fresh fuel – remove the fuel cap and smell inside the tank- does it smell like fresh raw gas or does it smell like paint varnish cleaner – which would due to bad stale gasoline.

Also need the proper fuel pressure – you should hear the electric fuel pump inside the tank whine for a few seconds when you turn the ignition key to the start position. If you don’t hear anything from inside the tank, have someone beat on the bottom of the fuel tank with their fist or rubber hammer AS you crank over the engine to try and jump start a weak fuel pump.

Spark – do you have a strong spark to the spark plugs – if you don’t have spark from the ignition coil to the spark plugs you cant ignite the fuel.

Compression – does the engine sound normal when it spins over? Not too fast sounding, like the timing chain broke or there is an internal engine problem?

Battery power – the engine has to turn over fast enough to compress and ignite the fuel mixture. If the headlights are bright, but the engine turns over slow, you might have a bad starter motor. If the headlights go out when you turn the key, you have a loose battery connection. If the headlights go dim as you turn the key you probably have a bad battery or a bad starter motor.

If you are missing any of the above….you gotta find out why.


Austin Davis

Posted in: Won't Start Issues

1 Comment on "1997 Ford Explorer Engine Won’t Start Sometimes When it Sits"

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  1. dd says:

    I have the same vehicle. It was the sensor switch in the shifter. Mine has an automatic transmission and somehow the sensor switch went bad. If you push the shifter all the way over and back it would engage and the engine would turn on. The shop changed the switch and now the truck starts.

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