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
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!