0-35 MPH extremely sluggish w/'97 Escort Wagon (long)

All,
I was going to originally post this in alt.autos.ford.escort but when I saw the amount of SPAM and nearly zero activity... I thought I'd pose my question(s) here. Hopefully someone here can shed some light
on my problem(s).
First off, my subject line pretty much describes my problem. From a standstill and if having to accelerate briskly... my '97 Escort Wagon is lacking severe power from 0-35MPH. Once I hit 40MPH the car runs like a champ with zero hesitation.
Shortly after this symptom developed... a P0303 code fired which AutoZone told me was a misfire on cylinder #3. I later brought the vehicle over to a friendly mechanic who hooked his $3K Snap-On diagnostic tool to the ODB-II connector and ran a suite of tests and checked every sensor. Every sensor reported within spec.
He then tried the old trick of removing each plug wire individually. Each removed wire caused the engine to run like crap. He removed the vacuum hose from the Fuel Pressure Regulator and we heard a sucking sound so I guess there was proper vacuum. I'm told that if there was a problem with the Fuel Pressue Regulator gas would pour out from it. The mechanic then checked every connector on each fuel injector. I later drove the car in order to "test" it and it still ran like crap.
In checking the plugs it appeared that the #3 plug was half tan and half (slightly) black. He replaced the plug and the car "seemed" to run a little better. I couldn't be sure so he took a ride with me. Seeing he was unable to diagnose my problem he gave me a freebie for his diagnostic services. This is a guy I need to stick with. :-)
Anyway... when got home I went ahead and changed the other 3 plugs. Later that afternoon... the car appeared to run normal again. Now, before anyone thinks it was the plugs let me say that a few days earlier I poured a bottle of Techron down the tank. Is it possible that a clogged fuel injector (specifically #3) finally got cleared?
Last week the alternator on this same vehicle went out. Since I had to disconnect the battery and the computer got cleared... the car has been running like crap again but this time the lack of acceleration seems more severe... almost dangerous. A "service engine soon" light has already appeared and it appears to be firing quite regularly since every now and then it starts to flash which I believe another code has fired while one has been previously stored.
Again, going to AutoZone I see that the code is still a P0303, a misfire on cylinder #3.
I've since bought wires which didn't fix the problem. I bought a coil pack but haven't installed it yet as I don't want to be throwing darts at an elusive problem. Correct me if I'm wrong... but my feeling is that if the coil pack is bad... wouldn't I be getting random cylinder misfires?
I'm also convinced that I've got a bad fuel injector. I was thinking of swapping the #2 and #3 fuel injector to see if the problem follows the fuel injector by possibly getting a P0302 reading. Good idea?
Last night I dumped another bottle of Techron down the tank. Who knows... maybe in another day or two this will be a non-issue. :-)
If any of you are still reading this post... thank you for your patience. :-)
I'd appreciate any help in this matter.
Thank you.
Greg remove "rider" to respond directly
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I had a similar problem with my 99 escort. Changed the plugs and wires. Drove fine for a week, then started again. Turned out I needed " di-electric" grease in the spark plug boots. The spark was escaping thru the end of the boot to the motor and never got a chance to fire. Good luck.
--
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
Version: 6.0.511 / Virus Database: 308 - Release Date: 8/18/2003
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
How many miles do you have on this car?
Have you checked for vacuum leaks and air leaks? Not just the vacuum hoses, the devices that use vacuum can be leaking. Have you cleaned your MAF? Have you checked your EGR valve?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 21 Aug 2003 06:47:30 -0700, scott snipped-for-privacy@my-deja.com (Childfree Scott) wrote:

95K.
Just by listening.

I'll try to dig deeper.

Not yet. Would cleaning this solve the problem of the same cylinder misfiring? I figured if the MAF was dirty/clogged... the cylinder misfires would be random. Every code thus far that has been retrieved has been a P0303. And there have been many firings of this code lately. :-(

No, but seeing there are some vacuum hoses attached to it I'll check it out.
BTW, if these sensors (the MAF and EGR valve) were marginally within spec... wouldn't the Snap-On diagnostic tool have flagged them? I watched the mechanic as he was checking out every onboard function of the car. There was nothing that appeared to be out of spec yet the car still ran like crap.
Lastly, I just went ahead and replaced the coil pack. As expected... there was no change in the operation of the vehicle. :-(
Thanks for your reply.
Greg remove "rider" to respond directly
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Dunno, sounds either fuel or timing related. Most likely fuel. Did he actually check fuel pressure when this happens? The techron could well be cleaning out some carbon and the injectors are gumming up. The more "hot" soaks you do, the better the techron will work. Just driving alone, does very little if anything. The car has to sit while it's hot for the stuff to do any good. The only problem I have with fuel being the problem, is it runs ok at high speeds.... If the timing advance was goofing up, and giving a weird timing at slower speeds, that could be one reason for a drastic loss of power. Verify the advance is fuctioning smoothly with an advance of the throttle. It's possible the injectors are gumming on the hot soaks, and it takes a call for mucho throttle to blow the varnish out of the holes...Just a theory...Once it runs ok, will it stay ok at all speeds, or does it turn back to crap when you dip below 40 mph? Or does it just do this at first after a hot soak? BTW, it's the hot soaks that gums them up in the first place, except that gas deposits are left. The cleaner works best at the hot soak because it can sit there and melt the cheese instead of just flying through the system doing little. I'd do as many hot soaks as you can, and give it a week or two to see if it will clean out if it does turn out fuel is the likely problem. If you want to speeds things up, get a solvent fuel rail cleaner that comes in a can and subs for fuel supply for a short time while it's cleaning. Or take it somewhere to have it done...It could be high voltage leakage, but usually that happens mostly in damp foggy wx, etc..I sort of doubt it, being it seems to run ok at high speed. MK
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 21 Aug 2003 06:17:54 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@wt.net (Mark Keith) wrote:

The car is certainly due for a timing belt. Any chance a nub/tooth came off the belt?

No. I'll probably end up scheduling an appointment with him for this as I don't have a way to check the fuel pressure.

You mean just put the techron in, let it circulate and then let the car sit after it has been running awhile?

This might be my answer. :-)

The car runs great/normal at high(er) speeds.

This is beyond my capabilites. :-(

Below 40MPH it goes back to running like crap.

Good description. :-)

I think I can handle this one.

Mark, thanks for responding to my questions. So far I haven't found any vacuum type leaks and things look clean. Worst case scenario is that I'm going to have to bite the bullet and let the mechanic hook up his Snap-On diag tool and drive the car. Something *has* to get flagged the way the car drives.
Regards,
Greg remove "rider" to respond directly =remove "rider" to respond directly http://v65.freeshell.org/sabmag
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
All,
For anyone interested... the problem turned out to be a bad injector. The car runs like new now.
Thanks for your help.
Greg remove "rider" to respond directly =remove "rider" to respond directly http://v65.freeshell.org/sabmag
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.