Ford Countour 1998 Spark Plug problem

Hello everyone! I have a 1998 Ford Contour SE. A while back I had a timing belt replaced and it SEEMS to me that ever since it does not run properly.
Sometimes it idles kind of rough. Also, when I go to take off from a stop it sometimes hesitates like it really doesn't want to. Around 45 or so when it gets ready to shift it tends to resist and almost feels like the car is "bucking and jumping" but not THAT hard. It is definitely not running correctly and I think it has been like this since the timing belt was replaced. I have taken it back to the mechanic who worked on it time and again and it runs fine while it is there and runs like crap any other time. I have gotten fed up by this routine and taken it to Ford where I bought it and they said that they ran every test that they can and if anything was wrong it would have come up on thier tests. They claim nothing is wrong with the car. Can anyone help me out? Do you think this is timing belt related?
Oh yes, another symptom is that since we replaced the timing belt we have had to replace the same spark plug 2 or 3 times as it keeps getting cracked. We replace the plug and it runs better, not like it should but better for a little while then runs like crap again only to find out that it has cracked another spark plug. Any ideas would be much appreciated. On days that it rains, it runs worse. Thanks in advance!!
ps. I am no mechanic and do not intend to sound like I know SQUAT about mechanic work. I just would like to do what I can to assist my mechanic in solving my problem. They really are good mechanics.
Thanks again!
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Things like this happen to my Wife's cars. After we sell them the new owners never complain about the problems, and usually think they are great running and trouble free. Moral of the story, when SWMBO says there is something wrong, she is not going to change her mind.
Happy modeming, Bill
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I still owe too much on the car to trade it or sell it. I do not know what SWMBO is. Ultimately, I would like to get this problem fixed so that she can run like she used to. The car really did run very nicely until this problem. Any insight into what is probably going on and what to do to diagnose for sure and fix would be very much appreciated.
Thanks once again!!
Freddyb
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SWMBO = She Who Must Be Obeyed

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[This followup was posted to alt.autos.ford and a copy was sent to the cited author.]
snipped-for-privacy@adelphia.net says...

First, check out the forums on www.contour.org. Very knowledgeable people.
Did you replace the belt as preventative maintenance, or did it break?
Since you mention a timing belt, you must have the 4-cylinder Zetec? All I can think of is the camshaft/crankshaft are not properly timed together. That is what the timing belt does, and it could be off a notch or two. If the timing is off, that screws up everything.
Other more remote could be a damaged valve. I'm not certain if the Zetec is an interference engine (meaning a valve and piston could hit each other), but if so, a valve could have gotten bent.
Another possibility is a damaged fuel injector or it's wiring on that one cylinder that damages the spark plug.
The last very remote possibility I can think of is a damaged crankshaft position sensor (or wiring), which is what tells the computer where Top Dead Center of cylinder 1 is. If it's giving a bad signal, that can screw up the spark timing.
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???
Can anybody help me? I would like to be able get this car running properly!
Thanks in advance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Freddyb wrote:

better chance of getting an answer there than here......
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Thanks a bunch, I will search there. I did not know such a place existed.
:)
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