1998 Mercury Tracer ticking engine sound and loss of power

Tiny
AIDAN_80
  • MEMBER
  • 1998 MERCURY TRACER
The engine has started making a ticking sound, just after I had the oil changed. The tick is constant and can be loud at times. It ticks at startup, ticks while driving and ticks at idle. Most of the time it ticks sometimes it'll stop at random then start up again? The ticking sound can and does vary in volume and can get quite loud. Someone once mentioned a stuck lifter?

On top of the ticking I have a loss of power at times, again random when it happens. I could be at idle and feel the car shudder and it'll sound like its going to stall then stop and pickup again. Does exactly the same thing while driving, shudder then almost a stall and a big loss in power then picks up again and all is well. This is not a fun feeling if you're going 60mph at rush hour or have it happen as your crossing traffic. Having the A/C on or off, lights, or other electrical items running has no impact.
The other issue I have and I understand these could be unrelated but they've all cropped up right after the oil change. The issue is the car hasn't got very much power moving between 2nd and 3rd gear. It's slow and sluggish moving up but once in 4th its fine, 1st and 2nd gears are sometimes a thump into gear.
I've checked the fluids, oil is golden still just changed, transmission is a pinkish clear color no real smell from it apart from engine not burnt that I can tell. Just had new tires installed, alignment done, oil done, battery replaced a few months ago, fuel filter replaced today, wires installed, plugs are good spark seems fine. There is no arcing that I could find.
I originally thought it was bad fuel, right after the oil change I stopped and the pump was empty I got a small amount of fuel then it cut out, I tried the next level up and it ran dry too after a few seconds I left and filled up at a known good place, dumped in some of that STP fuel cleaner.

I plan on selling this car next month but can't still it like that it's not running right! I left it into a place today and they said they can't get it to do what I'm saying and claimed the ticking is normal on all small engines they advised $70 worth of engine cleaner they'd put in the oil and gas I said no thanks. I also told them the ticking is not normal it just started which is why I'm here.

I won't be back to that place and I hope I can diagnose it myself then take it somewhere they have competent staff. The people at this place only wanted to read an error code and go from there I'm very far from a mechanic and I could do that myself for free at autozone!


I'd welcome any suggestions, I'm happy to do some trial and error but have little confidence in repairing this car it seems to hate me. Everything I've ever touched on this car I've broken which is why I just have someone else work on it in the end it costs less lol.
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Monday, October 12th, 2009 AT 4:37 PM

9 Replies

Tiny
JACOBANDNICKOLAS
  • EXPERT
It sounds like you have the same luck I have. Everything I touch anymore seems to break. But I don't think the car hates you. (LOL)

As far as the ticking, what weight oil did they put into the engine? Everything you described sounds like a lifter that is collapsing. If that happens, it will cause a loss of power because one of the valves isn't opening properly. If it's an intake valve, you won't get the right amount of fuel to that cylender causing a miss.

As far as the scan, I would take it to the Auto Zone and have them scan it. That way we can determine which cylender is the problem. I may have you pull the valve cover to check if there is too much play in one of the rocker arms, but I question that at this point because it didn't happen till after the oil change.

Another concern is the fuel. If I understand, you were getting gas and the tanks ran dry. God knows what was put into the tank, but I strongly feel it has nothing to do with the ticking.

One other thing. Check the catylatic converter to make sure pressure is flowing from the exhaust and not partially pluged. That can cause a power loss too, and condering the fuel problem, something may have happened to it.

So I leave you with this. First, have the computer scanned so we can identify if there is a "random missfire" and what cylender it is. I will have you remove the spark plug to check it if we can identify where the miss is. Next, check the converter to determine if there is free flow coming from the exhaust. Finally, let me know if you are sure the ticking is coming from the top of the engine and what weight oil they used in the car when they changed it.

Joe
PS: It sounds like the car may be possessed. Perhaps you may want to contact a priest. (LOL) Or, it's mad because it knows you want rid of it.
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Monday, October 12th, 2009 AT 8:55 PM
Tiny
AIDAN_80
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I'll call them and check the oil weight but if they mixed it up am sure they'll tell me they put in the right spec. I'm tempted to just stop at a tuffy and pay the $20 and have them replace the oil just to be sure. The brand of oil that went in was valvoline. The mechanic at the other place we used to go to did say to avoid synthetic oils on older cars said they were fine on new but not so great on older models?

The computer has been scanned and it's not stored any information on a miss. It did fell like it had missed a few times but I could be mistaken that for something else? I too am worried about the fuel I've heard of a few other people now that I had mentioned it that stopped at the same gas station and the tank was dry! They have had no issues with their cars.

I'd be happy to check the catalytic converter but I'm very much a novice still. I've read up a bit to check the basics but that's about it. If it's easy to do let me know what I need to do or read and I'll see what I can do.

I'm sure the ticking is coming from the top left, just to the left of where I'd add the oil. Right now it's not ticking anymore. I've filled it up with better than basic grade fuel in an attempt to make it happy with me lol So far its driving perfect just still has a slight issue going from 3rd to 4th but not bad. I still feel a minor loss in power at random but nothing major like before. I'll keep driving to see what else pops up.

Yes the car is possessed I'll have it "cleaned" before I sell it so the next person won't have this issue! Lol
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Monday, October 12th, 2009 AT 10:07 PM
Tiny
JACOBANDNICKOLAS
  • EXPERT
If the sound has gone away, let it go. If you have the same luck as I do, it will start again if you change the oil. As far as the converter, take a rubber mallot and tap on the converter. Listen for ratteling sounds that may indicate the converter may be loose inside. Also, with the engine running, just feel how much pressure is coming from the exhaust. Don't touch it with your hand. It could burn you. Also, listen for any strange sounds from the exhaust like whisteling.

Let me know what you find. If the car is running good, now may be the time to get rid of it.

Honestly, Valvoline oil is good. For some reason, a lifter may have collapsed while the pressure was rebuilding in the engine. Now, it may have pumped back up and be fine.

If you have other questions, let me know.
Joe
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Monday, October 12th, 2009 AT 10:30 PM
Tiny
AIDAN_80
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I've no doubt when I go out this morning it will start making that sound again it does seem to like to start making that sound first thing in the morning. Now I have heard a whistling sound tried to have it diagnosed but again told we can't make it do that for us which is frustrating since that's why I take it in! I get into the car, put the key in and before I turn it on press on the break to release the shifter and I hear a whistle/whine. It does that at random, car on or off but normally always when I press on the break. I did check youtube for stuck lifter and have heard quite a few cars making the exact same sound as mine, rapid ticking in tune with the engine.

I agree now really is the time to move this car along, I've spent as much in maintenance and repairs as I have when I bought it. I wouldn't mind if I wanted a project but I need back and forth to work without any weird sounds. Although it's never not started and never left me stranded.

I did read that valvoline is good oil which is good, the mechanic we had before I think was talking about the Saturn my wife had. It was burning oil and had started to leak he recommended a slightly thicker oil to help keep it inside the engine lol

Thanks! :-)
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Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 AT 6:11 AM
Tiny
AIDAN_80
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Fresh fuel filter and almost two tanks of fuel later and the car is back to normal. Still thumps between 1st and 2nd gear when it's cold. Once it's warm it's fine, I do remember it did this before and I left it back to the place that did the mounts and they did something to make it stop?

The car is in great shape now to sell but I do have another issue which is unrelated to my first issue and that is. The car has a rough idle and it's had it ever since I had the A/C compressor replaced, before that smooth and very solid. To cut a long story short I had the following done over the past two years:

" Timing belt + tensioner Dec 08 about 12,000 miles ago
" Plugs + wires two weeks ago
" Battery august 09
" Checked for and fixed one vacuum leak
" New air filter two weeks ago
" New IAC about a year ago
" PCV+ hoses few months back
" 3 new motor mounts

When I left it in almost a year ago to have the timing belt done at the time they didn't know it was the belt and checked everything else including, fuel pump, compression test, exhaust. I think they checked everything but the belt then found it was the belt that wouldn't make the car run again!

So I'm thinking after some reading that I should clean my throttle body as it could be the reason for my rough idle? I pulled the IAC and it was new on about a year ago and it's covered in black residue again just the same as when I replaced it last year. How should I clean the throttle body? I should admit that I'm worried I'll do more damage to the car than fix if I do it myself. What might be the average cost to have it cleaned out? That black stuff seems to be coming up from the second hole where the IAC would sit and I assume inside must be caked in that stuff inside?
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Monday, October 19th, 2009 AT 6:34 PM
Tiny
AIDAN_80
  • MEMBER
The car died. Was driving along going about 40mph and I heard a very loud BANG from the engine. Started to lose power dropped down to 30mph and rolled onto a side road. The engine was making not a ticking anymore but bang bang bang sound. Like metal on metal or something on something inside it.

Stopped at a garage and the guy listened for a few minutes revved it up and said. Sorry man something is beating on your head or your head is beating on something either way something is inside the engine and it's goina take a some work and time to inspect and repair. Their advice was to trade it, buy a used engine or pay to have repaired either way repair wise it was close to the cost of the car.

So I ended up having to get rid of the car. Luckily I've been shopping around for a new car so I knew what to get and where.
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Friday, October 23rd, 2009 AT 11:00 PM
Tiny
DOCFIXIT
  • EXPERT
Seems may have spun a rod bearing but I believe it was possesed and messing with you. Got your hopes up and dash them on the rocks. Machinery Rules Whatch Out Humans
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Saturday, October 24th, 2009 AT 2:07 PM
Tiny
AIDAN_80
  • MEMBER
I think your right that car was possessed! It was playing me the whole time getting me to spend money on maintenance and new tires then just dying a few weeks later! I suppose these things happen I'll actually miss the car as I got very used to how it drove and felt and how to handle it in tight spaces. Plus it had a head unit that could play MP3's via USB or SD card. Had to downgrade to CD's again lol

The new car likes me, would like me more if I'd get used to the clutch again lol it's bigger and has a lot more power well feels like a lot more power than that old ford lol. I ended up with a nice new Versa S 1.8 ah the smell of new car. I won't smell that again for quite a few years. Unless this car ends up hating me too!
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Saturday, October 24th, 2009 AT 4:45 PM
Tiny
DOCFIXIT
  • EXPERT
Enjoy new car and they have new car smell spray so you may smell new for awile
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Monday, October 26th, 2009 AT 9:27 AM

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