Wed Nov 12th 2008 18:45:17: Stuttering 1.3L Fiesta

I recently left my 1.3l V Reg (1999) Ford Fiesta in a damp field overnight (I was taking part in a bike race!) and that night it rained a lot. The next morning I was driving home and discovered the car had developed a stutter / kangaroo / judder (or whatever you want to call it) at low to medium rev's when you accelerated.

Research pointed towards the fuel filter, spark plugs and HT leads. The fuel filter was the cheapest item at under £5, so I replaced that first. The fuel filter is located on the passenger side just in front of the rear wheel. The pipes just unclip and there is one screw holding it in place. Advice from a ford mechanic was "change it quick and then you don't get too much fuel over the floor". So it was pretty easy to replace, however unfortuanely it didn't solve the problem.

Therefore next thing to replace was the plugs and leads. These cost £30 and were easy enough to replace with the aid of my dad's ramps (as it's easiest to unplug them from underneath the car). The assistance of second person is a good idea when changing the HT leads due to the location of the distributor on the back of the engine. Anyway changing the plugs and leads solved the problem, and now the car is running perfectly again.

Glad I didn't have to take it to a garage as they wanted £85+VAT just to diagnose the problem!


I thought the AA were there to diagnose such problems....

My spark leads got replaced the day after my car passed its MOT (oh, the irony) after simmillar problems. Annoyingly the leads whihc Halfords recconed fitted only just fitted, and were actually shorter than the ones I removed.

As a stop gap measure, the AA man removed the metal heat shields which were shorting out on one leads.

Interestingly, the Haynes manual says "DO NOT FIND TIMING FAULT BY REMOVING ONE LEAD AT A TIME FROM DISTRIBUTOR" Guess how the AA man found which lead was to blame (he even had plastic pliers type tool to help him.

Comment by Eddie at 8:01 on Fri 14 November 2008

Heh... I would put money on, if I had a time machine, you only having needed to replace the leads (about £25-£40 depending on source).

Rule of thumb I've discovered is if your engine starts misbehaving at low rpm (particularly if you put your foot right down), particularly if the engine may have got wet or damp, then the ignition electronics are to blame. The most vulnerable parts of which are:

Most cars: the HT leads (insulation eventually breaks down / becomes porous)

Older cars: those, plus the distributor cap + rotor

(really old cars: points / breaker ;)

Modern Renaults/Nissans and others that have followed their leads: The "pencil coils" - mount directly on top of the spark plugs, connect to the ignition timing module with LT leads, and have a terrible reputation for being a touch fragile... oh and cost like twenty quid EACH, IF you get them from a decent supplier, and may be secured with awful star-bit bolts apparently made out of pewter and obscured by the inlet manifold. After getting the first one out, eventually, I nipped over to Homebase on 3 malfunctioning cylinders and picked up some regular hex bolts of the same length and pitch because I didn't think I'd even get as far as tightening them back up, let alone extracting them a second time.

My old VW used to simply EAT HT leads, must have got through three new sets of 4 in the course of 30,000 miles or so... but only one set of spark plugs, and that's because I figured I may as well do them at *some* point after skipping them on a couple services. Vauxhall and Renault following on have had a set of leads and a set of coils between them in a similar distance... again the plugs have been changed but probably didn't need to be. Sparks are pretty hardcore these days.

(apparently the set of coils I installed are the third that the renault has had ... after i bought it at 72k miles... so it's not a terrible replacement schedule, but worse than it could be.)

Comment by tahrey at 13:22 on Thu 30 June 2011

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