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Discussion Starter #1
I just tried to start my truck and it won't. Checked the oil, gas, battery (all fine)... cleaned the battery terminals and checked cables (fine)... tried the lights (they work)... checked underneath for any leaks (none)... what now?

It's a '91 with 128K miles on it, I've had it for 10 years and it's never done this before. The only "new" thing about the truck at all is that it's been parked in the garage for the last two weeks or so rather than out in the open, for the first time since I got it. I drive very little, last time was over a week ago and it worked just fine then.

I have no idea if this makes a difference, but this last week has been incredibly humid and hot, and the air cooled down and dried up a lot yesterday. Could condensation be a possibility in some way?

This is panic time for me, since it's my only transportation and I can't afford to call a mechanic. And wouldn't you know it, I have neither the knowledge nor the tools to work with. So, if any of you can talk me through some checking (in idiot wording and patiently), please do :help:
 

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Try starting it while the trans is in neutral, if it starts then its your trans lock out safety switch out of adjustment.

The fact that the lights work indicate adequate electrical, do you hear a click when you turn the key? Both under the hood and inside the cab? Are there dual fuel tanks? Does the engine turn but not catch, or is there no response at all?
 

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Explain a little more of what happens when you turn the key. When you turn the key to the "ON" position can you hear the fuel pump whine? When you turn the key to the "START" position does the engine turn over? or do you hear a clicking sound? or does nothing happen?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Oops. Details. I was too frazzled to think of those.

Ok, it's a stick shift and will only start with the clutch depressed. Does that answer the transmission question?
Yes, it clicks when I turn the key (don't know about under the hood since I sit in the cab when I turn the key).
Yes, it's got dual tanks, and I tried both.
Yes, the engine turns over. It sounds to me (remember, I know nothing) as if it didn't get any gas to actually start running. It stops as soon as I let go of the key and it snaps back to the former position.

ETA: Oops again, fuel pump. I hear no whining, but then I don't know right what it would sound like. The sounds are normal except it doesn't go - OH FOR GOD'S SAKE!! meant to say PAST the engine turning over!!
 

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I'd be tempted to pour a few ounces of gasoline down the throttle body and then go inside the cab and turn the key to start it. If the engine catches and and runs for a few seconds, I believe that you can assume the problem is in the fuel pump, fuel line, fuel filter, fuel injector, or fuel pump fuse or relay.

If the engine acts the same after doing this, then I believe you can assume the problem is in the ignition system (coil, spark plugs, plug wires, etc).
 

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Put the key in the run position then take off the fuel tanks cap and listen for a whining sound, both tanks. If the sound is present that is a good sign. If there is no sound at either tank, check the fuses. Usually located under the steering column, mounted on the inside of the firewall.

If the fuses look good, then try to locate the cabs clicking sound, the tiny sound you hear when you turn the key. There is a reset button that can fail to engage, this is located most often under the glove box. Still no sound?

At this time remove the electrical supply wire and connector that connect to the reset button set up, look for burnt marks. Clean or repair as necessary to reestablish current flow.
 

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Vera said:
Ok, I can try that. Where's the throttle body and what does it look like?
Geez, I'm a Chevy guy! Generally, the throttle body is top center of the engine under a black plastic housing. It took the place of the old carburator, if that helps. There is usually a large black plastic hose or tube that goes from air filter housing to the throttle body housing.
 

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agmantoo
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In one of your explanations above you hint as it may run when in the crank position but possibly dies as you let off of the key. If this is correct the problem is with the electronic device about the size of a pack of cigarettes and is mounted on the side of the distributor. This device is notorious for failure. It takes a thin wall 7/32 nut driver to get it off. It can be changed without removing the distributor and no adjustments are required other than removal and replacement. The item is in the high $20 range at most auto parts stores. Buy a wrench and avoid the aggravation.
 

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First, establish your truck has a throttle body, if its fuel injected it will not. The throttle body is a round opening mounted in the upper center of the engine. About small cereal bowl size. It will be under the air cleaner, the large sheet metal object at the top of the engine. It usually has a single centered wing nut attaching it.

After removing the air cleaner, look for a metal rod on the drivers side of the top of the engine, usually round but not guaranteed to be. It will move by hand horizontally, its attached to a flat plate within the carb (if so equipped). You will not be able to see the internal plate unless you are looking straight down into the carb.

By moving the metal rod there should be visible gasoline being sprayed into the carb. If you can not see or smell gasoline, fuel is not getting to the carburetor.

When you try the pour the gas in thing go small, maybe as much as a soda bottle lid will hold. And have a disposable cloth handy in the event of a fire, or a fire extinguisher.

Do you know what model engine it is? There will usually be a number on the side of the truck, it will say some thing like 4.0 liter or similar.
 

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AFKA ZealYouthGuy
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Vera, you could help us out by writing your VIN number down. Then we can identify the engine the truck has. (unless you know that) or you can check it out yourself at www.ford-trucks.com

My guess is it's a 4.9L (Straight 6) or a 5.0L (V8).

It does NOT have a throttle body. It's single cylinder EFI.

What you have described can be about 30 different things.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Ok, I went and looked and looked and couldn't find the air filter. It's definitely NOT a round thing on top of the engine like in my previous vehicles. There's nothing on top of the engine except for about 269 black plastic hoses of all sizes. Then, after flashing a light under the dash and all, and not having a clue what I was looking for, I walked off in total disgust and picked raspberries for a while.

Agmantoo, it never gets to running. It only cranks as long as I turn the key, and that stops when I let go and it snaps back to the previous position.

ZYG, it's a 4.9L straight 6 - somewhere in my paperwork, it says 4.9L (300) L6 Gas Fi, in case that means something. And it's got fuel injection.

Now that I've calmed down a little, I remember that it didn't get to turning over on the first try either. My first thought had been that I'd left the lights on and the battery was dead, but on the second or third try, it turned over and the battery gauge showed "normal".
I just tried it again and it's still doing the same thing now... battery, oil, gas gauges look fine, lights work, turning the key turns the engine over, and that's it.
 

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agmantoo
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Vera, obviously there are many things that could create your problem but you need to verify if you have spark at the plugs. The device I referenced is still my number one suspect if you do not have spark.
 

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check the fluid in the battery, and if you can, check the voltage. It may have desicated enough to not have enough amps to crank the motor to start. I've had that problem before. I had to change the battery, and all worked well after that. How old is your battery, and if it's one that you have to add water, I'd be checking that battery fluid level.
 

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the air cleaner should be located just behind the d/s headlight. it is square and should have metal clips holding the top and bottom together. if u pour a small amount (tbsp) of gasoline on the air cleaner it should start. if it doesnt then u have either a plugged fuel filter or a firing problem. also check to see if the air filter is dirty.
 

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Vera said:
Now that I've calmed down a little, I remember that it didn't get to turning over on the first try either. My first thought had been that I'd left the lights on and the battery was dead, but on the second or third try, it turned over and the battery gauge showed "normal".
I just tried it again and it's still doing the same thing now... battery, oil, gas gauges look fine, lights work, turning the key turns the engine over, and that's it.
I believe that you should give that battery a good charge and try again.
 

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I think you flooded it somehow......if you have a good charge on the battery so it will crank for awhile just get in and floor the gas pedel while cranking the engine.

basically if it ran a few weeks ago normal than there is no reason for it to not work now......unless a mouse chewed a fuel pump wire or something.
 

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I don't know who or what to answer first!

If the vehicle turns over but doesn't start we can assume the battery/starter system is OK. The fuel pump is electric as no matter what engine size it is they are all port fuel injected. When you first turn the key from off to on without turning the engine over the fuell pump should run to prime the fuel system, it will run for approximately 15 seconds timed by the PCM. This should be very noticeable in a quiet garage with the fuel cap removed, although most Fords are noisey enough to hear all the time. If you do not hear the pump run I would say you are on the track of a lack of fuel. Sometimes you can bang the bottom of the tank while someone cycles the key on and off slowly to jar the pump and make it run. If this makes the pump run it is a sign the pump needs replacing even though it will allow the truck to start.
All fuel injected gas powered engines have a throttle body to control the air flow. Some are throttle body injected where others are port injected. The throttle body on a Ford is where the accellerator cable attaches to the engine. It is in the top frt. of the engine where the long black rubber hose attaches to the engine from the air filter box. Air filter is in the black box at the left fender and is accessed by removing the 4 screw holding the box together.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Whew. Ok. Thanks, Everybody, for all your input! I really appreciate it. I did try to follow up on the different things, as much as I can make sense of what the view under the hood is like and what the different sounds (or lack thereof) might mean. Turns out that I really just don't know what the heck I'm looking at, and rather than mess things up worse on my own, I caved in and called my neighbor to find out who around here works on cars. She volunteered her heavy equipment diesel husband to come over and take a quick look, he found out that there's no spark, read the posts of this thread and agrees with Agmantoo about the ignition control module as the most likely culprit, and said he'd call the local car-fixin' guy later this afternoon and explain to him what he found and to see if he can fix it.

I watched and tried to learn... will watch the next guy and try to learn more... it's pitiful when you look under the hood of your own vehicle and go "uh, what air filter??" At least now I know where the spark plugs are, and the air filter thingy, and the distributor. Kewl :) We'll see what comes next.
 
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