Water In Spark Plug Wells!

Last Friday morning, I started up my 200 Focus (SE - Zetec) for my short morning commute and noted that the engine seemed to be running rough. The car had been driven the night before and ran normally. The night was cool
and misty and during the night, the temperature dropped to below freezing, so the grass was white and there was a thin layer of frost on the car when I started it. After cleaning off the frost, I took off down the street and noted the engine wasn't running quite right, but I arrived at the office without significant trouble. I guessed that there might have been some moisture that had gotten into something (sensor or ignition module) and figured that maybe in the daytime heating, the problem would clear itself. After work, I got back in the car and, to my chagrin, the rough performance persisted.
The next time I got in the car was to drive to the airport to drop off my daughter. I took the Focus because I thought the longer ride might clear out whatever was causing the problem, or would trigger the computer to record a diagnostic code. Well, about half way to the airport, the condition got significantly worse. Now the engine felt like it was running only on three cylinders. The check engine light started flashing furiously. At this point, I was committed to completing the trip, so I pushed on to the airport. When I arrived and parked the car, there was a smell coming from the engine . . . it wasn't oil and it wasn't antifreeze. I popped the hood and noticed steam whisping from one of the spark plug boots.
I pulled out the spark plug boot and, to my surprise, there was water on the head that was deep enough to fill each spark plug well and bridge from cylinder to cylinder!
I let the car cool for a while and then went about trying to wick out the water with paper towel. I couldn't get the paper towel down into the spark plug wells, so I used the pump from a window cleaner spray bottle to pump out the last of the rusty water. When all of the water was out, I reconnected the spark plug boots and the engine started and ran perfectly.
When I got back from the airport, I once again pulled a spark plug boot and looked inside. I found what I expected to see, a completely dry head. But I also noticed that the spark plug boot was fully covered in rust from the water that had been standing inside.
Has anyone else experienced a problem like this? I can't imaging where so much water could have come from or how long it could have been there. I would have thought that the head gets hot enough to drive off any moisture that might condense in this area!
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Using the window cleaner spray bottle pump was a great idea. Well done.
As to how the water had got there, I can only come up with recently rained or car wash that was over done.

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Once when I was driwing an old Peugeot 403 in the early eighties I hit a deep water puddle in a cloudburst and water was thrown up in the engine compartment filling the spark plug wells. The car started to run bad at once though. And the plugs didn't have wery tight rubber seals around them on the old Peugeot. The Focus has never shown anything like it during a couple of years driving in summer and winter or rain and snow. No such deep water passages at speed though. /per

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Well, I have no idea but I'm going to remember your spray bottle technique. What a great idea! jor

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Epilogue (I hope) to the water in the spark plug story.
After having pumped out the water from the spark plug wells and re-installing the spark plug boots, the car ran well for the most part, but it started intermittently hesitating and missing again in the next two days. Last night, I removed all of the spark plug wires/boots, cleaned the area of excessive rust (yeah, I knowingly poured water back in there), pumped the water and rust back out and then dried the area. I pulled the spark plugs and took the plugs and wires inside for a thorough cleaning.
Conductive rust had coated both the boots (inside and out) and the exterior of the spark plugs and that was apparently providing an alternate path for the current to flow, instead of jumping the plug gap.
I removed the rust, dried everything, installed the plugs, put silicone on the boots and installed them, and then drove off for about a half-hour. The engine ran as smooth as can be.
Now if I can only figure out where that water came from . . .
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At first I was going to suggest a head gasket leak, because I have had cars like Alfa Romeo that did that very easily. But the Focus does not have head studs in the vally between the cams, so that can not be it. Besides, you have not had a repetition.
So my best guess is that you actually hit a deep puddle of something, and the fan blew it up to the top of the compartment.
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I have the identical problem with my 2000 SE (Sony).
There was no water there in October 2003 last inspection.
Here in NC we have had some really weird weather lately.
Today 70's last friday Ice and Snow.
Had the car at the dealer, they said that they could $$$ fix the problem, but had no idea where thewater came from.
I'm sure it isn't a gasket as the design of the head does not allow this. Will be removing the valve cover to try and discover the issue.
Will report back.
Oh Yea, thanks for teh spray bottle tip. I wasn't sure how to get the last bit of water out.
Cheers,
Ray...
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