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Old 07-22-2010, 09:16 AM   #1
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Help Identifying Issue: Fuel Pump or Ignition?

Hi guys,

I'll try to be as objective as possible. Few events are involved around this issue, so please bear with me.

This is for a 1988 Catalina, Ford Econoline E350 with a Ford 460 7.5L engine.

Recently the engine has occasionally been stalling, as if running out of gas. In one occasion, it actually died on the highway and at first attempt the engine came back on and the rest of the trip went fine (4 more hours driving it with not reoccurring issues).

As it seemed like a fuel issue, my first attempt was to replace the fuel filter. Fuel filter was replaced last weekend. I ran the engine few times at the driveway and everything seemed fine.

Well, yesterday I had to drive the camper to the gas station (tank was empty) and everything was working fine. Right after I completely top off the tank (29 gals), the engine dies few yards from the station: same symptoms, it died very slowly and progressively.

I had it towed to the garage show I repair my car, and told them I suspected it was the fuel pump. They said it could also been the fuel pressure regulator and they would check it today (this morning).


Well, today i get a call from the shop, and surprisingly, they tell me the engine is running fine.


The mechanic feels like it could be the ignition module, as he tells me they are very temperature sensitive and tend to fail if too hot.


So here I am, 4 weeks away from my cross country trip, with a running strong engine that occasionally coughs and dies for no apparent reason. Not a very reliable choice.


With my limited knowledge, I see the following possible issues:

- frame-mounted fuel pump [ $120 at Autozone for a bosh pump]
- Fuel pressure regulator
- Ignition Module (dealer could NOT locate exact part]


Any suggestions here? Any feedback is highly appreciated.


Thanks in advance,


BB
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Old 07-22-2010, 07:00 PM   #2
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Do you have one or two fuel tanks?
Lets start with the fuel pressure regulator, pull the small vacuum hose off the niple of the regulator and turn on the key. If fuel comes out of the regulator nipple it is bad if not it is more than likely OK.

Next is the Ignition Module, you should always carry a spare anyway as you never know when they will quit. You need the gray one that mounts remotely. Not sure where on an 88 460 but maybe on the radiator support. Any parts place will have one.
Ignition Control Module by BWD - Part CBE33Z - Advance Auto Parts

Next is the frame-mounted fuel pump could be but not likely acting that way. If bad they quit sooner than that hot or cold.

I take it you have one fuel tank. The in tank fuel pump, this could be the problem also but even if it quits you can run with a full tank most of the time.

That all said what it sounds like to me is a bad PIP sensor inside the distributor, that is one of the ways they go bad. If it is bad most just replace the distributor. Do not buy a rebuilt distributor as most of the time they have bad PIP sensors in them also. They just test them and do not replace the stator assy. The PIP sensor is mounted on the stator assy and the distributor has to be taken out and tore all the way down to replace it.
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Old 07-22-2010, 07:19 PM   #3
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Had an identical issue with a Thunderbird - bad (intermittant) connector to the ignition module - an absolute BEAR to locate!
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:48 AM   #4
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First of all, thanks for taking the time to share some knowledge.

Quote:
Originally Posted by subford View Post
Do you have one or two fuel tanks?
I do have one tank.

Quote:
Originally Posted by subford View Post
Lets start with the fuel pressure regulator, pull the small vacuum hose off the niple of the regulator and turn on the key. If fuel comes out of the regulator nipple it is bad if not it is more than likely OK.
I have to locate the fuel pressure regulator and read your comments above again and see it makes sense in the field. It seems pretty straight forward. Do I need a catch pan for the gas, in case it does spills off? How much gas are we talking about? Do I need to crank the engine OR just switch it ON?

Quote:
Originally Posted by subford View Post
Next is the Ignition Module, you should always carry a spare anyway as you never know when they will quit. You need the gray one that mounts remotely. Not sure where on an 88 460 but maybe on the radiator support. Any parts place will have one.
Ignition Control Module by BWD - Part CBE33Z - Advance Auto Parts

Quote:
Originally Posted by subford View Post
Next is the frame-mounted fuel pump could be but not likely acting that way. If bad they quit sooner than that hot or cold.

I take it you have one fuel tank. The in tank fuel pump, this could be the problem also but even if it quits you can run with a full tank most of the time.
The babies have two fuel pumps? I was hoping my only fuel pump would be the frame-mounted.. but it seems from your response there should be two pumps. Any way to test one against the other?


Quote:
Originally Posted by subford View Post
That all said what it sounds like to me is a bad PIP sensor inside the distributor, that is one of the ways they go bad. If it is bad most just replace the distributor. Do not buy a rebuilt distributor as most of the time they have bad PIP sensors in them also.
When I went to the dealer, they asked me if I know if I had electronic ignition or not. I am still not sure. I think I confirmed on the FI, but not sure about the ignition. Does that matter regarding your PIP comments or it holds true for either ignition type? How hard it is to swap the distributor?

Thanks again,

BB
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:50 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary - K7GLD View Post
Had an identical issue with a Thunderbird - bad (intermittant) connector to the ignition module - an absolute BEAR to locate!

Good thing is, you did located the culprit and fixed it! My car is running again, so it could be a little guess work trying to figure out what is wrong...

And the part does not seem to be expensive (about $50) but I only need to find out where is located!

Thanks mate!

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Old 07-23-2010, 11:46 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
I have to locate the fuel pressure regulator and read your comments above again and see it makes sense in the field. It seems pretty straight forward.
The FPR:



Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
Do I need a catch pan for the gas, in case it does spills off?
No you should not have to just have a rag handy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
How much gas are we talking about?
A one second squirt if it is bad, if it is a good one no fuel at all.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
Do I need to crank the engine OR just switch it ON?
Just switch it on and off. If you do not see any fuel turn it off and on a few more times to be sure.





Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
The babies have two fuel pumps?
Yes they do.



Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
Any way to test one against the other?
You can pull the hair pin and take the supply hose from the tank off at the fuel reservoir and stick it in a bucket and turn on the key and it should squirt fuel for one second.



Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
When I went to the dealer, they asked me if I know if I had electronic ignition or not. I am still not sure. I think I confirmed on the FI, but not sure about the ignition.
If you have a factory pump and filter on the frame then it is FI. If it is FI then you have
EEC-IV Ignition system. And yes that is an electronic ignition. It does not sound like you dealer has any body the knows how to work on your RV so you might have to fix it yourself.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
Does that matter regarding your PIP comments or it holds true for either ignition type?
It holds true for your type of Ignition System. The older DuraSpark II had a pick-up coil and when it opened the engine would stop and not start again but you do not have the pick-up coil. You do have the PIP sensor.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
How hard it is to swap the distributor?
Not easy but doable.
You would remove all the air tubs that are in the way.
Then find #1 plug wire on the cap. (there is a 1 mod;ed in the cap)
Crank the engine around until the rotor points at the spot were Number 1 was on the cap.
Look at the timing mark on the damper. Put a socket on the crank bolt and turn the engine until the pointer points at TDC.
Do not move the engine at all until the distributor is back in.
If you are just going to replace the stator assy. Mark the base of the distributor to its position and also the spot the pointer is pointing at.
Now remove the distributor hold down bolt and its distributor holder.
Now turn the distributor brake the O ring free and lift it out.
As you lift it out take note how far the rotor turned as you lifted it up and mark that spot also.


Now take the new distributor and move the rotor to the same position as to where it was pointing to after it came out.
Drop the distributor in and the rotor should move to a position pointing at #1 position of the cap.
Replace the hold down and bolt but just snug the bolt so you can still turn the distributor.
Remove the SPOUT shorting bar.
Put the cap on.
Hook a timing light to #1 plug wire.
Start the engine and turn the distributor until the pointer points at 10* BTDC and tighten the hold down bolt.
Recheck to make sure it is still at 10* BTDC, if so put the SPOUT back in and check to make sure the timing mark moved.
If it did shut off the engine and remove the timing light and put the intake air tubes back on.
You are done.
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Old 07-25-2010, 07:23 PM   #7
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Hi Subford,

I think the best approach in my situation would be to swap the ignition control module and distributor.

I was investigating the engine bay this weekend, and actually does not seem like i can remove the ignition control module without loosing up the distributor, and after your recommendation then i am set on replacing both.

Here are some pictures of the components:





Now regarding parts, Advanced Auto didnt have any parts in stock. I asked about the recon-distributor x new and they did not elaborate too much about it. Do you think it is safe to purchase the distributor at these 3rd party stores?

Thanks again,

BB


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Old 07-26-2010, 06:24 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
Now regarding parts, Advanced Auto didnt have any parts in stock. I asked about the recon-distributor x new and they did not elaborate too much about it. Do you think it is safe to purchase the distributor at these 3rd party stores?
As I said above you can and very often do get a distributor from the "3rd party stores" with a bad PIP sensor inside but not always.

Most of the time if the distributor is changed out is because of a bad PIP sensor. The store sends the distributor to the rebuiltder and they replace the bushings and test the distributor and if it tests good they say it is good and send it back for resale. The problem is most of the bad PIP sensors will test good and after the engine runs for about 30 miles (sometimes less) the PIP sensor quits working and the engine dies. We had a member of another forum replace three distributors from a "3rd party stores" and still did not get a good one and then on the last one he replaced the stator (the part with the PIP sensor) in the distributor himself and has had no more problems.

Most of the time it is the Ignition Control Module (ICM) that is bad on the 1988 with the distributor mounted ICM like yours. The gray ICM (TFI Module) on your MH is the same one used on all the F-series trucks (1986-1991 other than the 460) and is very common, most say buy it From a Ford dealer.


I think you have the only year that Ford put the ICM on the Distributor of a 460 engine. The 1987 had the DuraSpark II ignition system with a Carb and the 1989 460 had the ICM mounted off the engine to a remote mounting to keep it cool.

This distributor may be hard to find and you may have to take yours to a place that works on cars and have them replace the Stator Assy (PIP sensor). You need a press to take the gear off the bottom and to put it back on as you have to tear the distributor all the way down to replace it.



The stator:


Your ICM is the second one down:

/
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Old 07-26-2010, 08:02 AM   #9
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Hi Subford,

It seems from your response that I should try first the ICM replacement, drive for a while and see if the problem returns. It is tough, because it happens very sporadically.

I will buy the part directly from Ford, though those guys were having a hard time finding the correct part last weekend.


One thing I did mention, and I think I was too embarrassed to actually post here, is that after I replaced the temp sensor (you've helped me located it too) I had a small amount of antifreeze around the engine block, so I took a bucket of water and splashed all over the region, which is RIGHT THERE at the distributor and ICM... So yeah, I suspected I phuked this up myself...


One quick question regarding ICM replacement: how do I reach the far away screw? Do I need to "loosed up" and rotate the distributor towards me? Any risk in doing that and screwing up the angles/timing? Or I should not touch the distributor housing and just somehow manage to reach the rear bolt?

Thanks again mate, and out of curiosity, where are you located?


Cheers,

BB
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Old 07-26-2010, 09:24 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBear View Post
One quick question regarding ICM replacement: how do I reach the far away screw? Do I need to "loosed up" and rotate the distributor towards me? Any risk in doing that and screwing up the angles/timing? Or I should not touch the distributor housing and just somehow manage to reach the rear bolt?

Thanks again mate, and out of curiosity, where are you located?
You will have to turn the distributor to get to the screws more than likely. You can buy a tool at a auto parts store for the screws. When you replace the ICM make sure you put plenty of white Thermal Compound between the ICM and the distributor. Do not use the Dielectric grease that you use in the plug connection, it is not for heat transfer.

You can clean and put a small line of paint between the distributor and the block before you move it so you can move it back to the same position.
If you scribe a line you may not be able to see it.

I am located near Leavenworth, Kansas.
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Old 07-26-2010, 09:38 AM   #11
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Use a screwdriver or something sharp to mark the base of the distributor and engine to help relocate the distributor, loosen the hold down bolt and turn the distributor to remove the TFI module. When the new one is one turn the distributor back and line up your the marks and it should be good. But i'd check the timing as stated above anyways.
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Old 07-26-2010, 10:03 AM   #12
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Quote:
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You will have to turn the distributor to get to the screws more than likely. You can buy a tool at a auto parts store for the screws. When you replace the ICM make sure you put plenty of white Thermal Compound between the ICM and the distributor.

I am located near Leavenworth, Kansas.
Thanks again mate, it is just a a matter of choosing which part to purchase, the prices are all over the place:


Motorcraft: $190
Parts supplier: $130 (third party)
Advanced Auto Parts: $50



And mate, let me know if you are carnivore, steak is my specialty and it seems like you are near our route. Me and my roommate would like to thank you for the help and grill some meat!

Here is our route:

Road Trip to Burning Man: 3,376 Miles
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Old 07-26-2010, 10:04 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Use a screwdriver or something sharp to mark the base of the distributor and engine to help relocate the distributor, loosen the hold down bolt and turn the distributor to remove the TFI module. When the new one is one turn the distributor back and line up your the marks and it should be good. But i'd check the timing as stated above anyways.



Thanks for the reminder! I know how important it is to NOT screw up the timing!

Cheers,


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Old 07-26-2010, 07:24 PM   #14
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I hate to throw a different suggestion to this problem, especially with all of the excellent info everyone is providing but,

I have a 1989 winnebago w/ a 460 FI eng. At around 28,000 miles on it, I was driving on the freeway and all of a sudden I loss power, and the motor died. I pulled over, waited a few minutes and crank it over and it started right up. Drove for about 3 miles and it did the same thing over and over until it finally would crank but would not start . Being a experience mechanic I knew it was fuel related, it would bog down in power before dying.

Ford and many other manufactures have a 2 sec prime to energize their fuel pumps anytime you turn the key from off to start. I could not hear if this was happening due to the freeway noise , so I decided to take a rubber hammer and bang on the bottom tank . This was enough to jar the pump and the motor started and I was able to get to my destination and replace the pump.

Bad news is this pump is not cheap from Ford as it comes with the sender. $400.00 or so

Your pump maybe on it's way out.

Good news it is very easy to replace .

Hope this helps and good luck.
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