1990 Mercury Sable



November, 21, 2008 AT 9:47 AM

Engine Mechanical problem
1990 Mercury Sable 6 cyl Front Wheel Drive Automatic 127000 miles

i recently treated my engine for a blown head gasket. The result as follows.
had the heads tested and serviced, new top end gasket set installed, new thermostat. Set #1 TDC on compression, set rotor to #1, set FO. Now the problem is the motor either rotates and will not start unless I use ether, but fails to run on its own or when gas petal is press it shuts off. I replaced the fuel pump, now I have 39-40 psi at the rail. Got it to start but will not idle or run on its own. Replaced battery but now it is acting like it is having a hard time turning over, almost like it has too much compression. Took all the plugs out and it turns over freely. I am at my whitsend please help!

19 Answers



November, 21, 2008 AT 10:16 AM

Hello -

Do you have a 3.0L or a 3.8L engine?

I need to ask a few questions so you and I are saying the same thing and on the same path.

Did you do all the work yourself or did someone else?

When you treated it for a blown head gasket - you removed both heads, took them to a machine shop - they resurfaced the heads, worked the valves, new valve seals etc?

You put the heads back on - rods - lifters etc. What did you torque or how much did you tighten the rocker nut?

When the engine rotates - does it sound like it is spinning nice a easy.

Check the compression on each cylinder and let me know what that is.

Explain to me how you tightened the rockers.

When you say it starts with either. It trys for a second then just turns over but no spark?

Did you bleed the fuel rail to ensure all air was out?

So when you say fails to run on its own. It will idle or it won't.

If it does idle. Then the second you hit the gas it dies?

If I understand what you are saying. You either have air in the fuel system or you may not have any compression - that is why I want to know how you adjusted the rockers.



November, 21, 2008 AT 12:55 PM

I have a 3.0L

i did all the work myself

Yes, a shop reworked the valves, resurfaced and checked the heads for leaks.

I used the torque specifications in my hanes manual to set the torque for all head, intake and rocker arms.
(i can have the specs for you later if need exect #s)

yes, the rotates nice and smooth with out spark plugs in. With plugs in it starts out smooth and then get to a point that acts like the battery is dead, but it isnt 12.3V

i can not get the compression of the cylinders until a later time, the car is 20 miles away.

I tightend the rocker arms with a torque wrench set per the hanes manual. They were a bolt not a nut, and did not appear to have any type of adjustment possible.

Okay let me start here; after the inital completion of assembling the motor top end. The motor would start easily 1-2 cranks and it would run rough with slight messaging of the throttle. Slow increase in throttle and the engine would excellerate, quick throttle adjustment the engine would bog and stall.
At this point I was trying to get the engine warmed up to set the timing. Sounds rigth? I noticed on the rotor that the more I turned it clockwise from #1 toward #6 the easier it would start and the lower it would idle (stay running). At this point I figured the timing is way out, so I took out all the spark plug except #1 and hand turned the engine until I felt compression on #1 then I slowly turned it to 0-TDC. I pulled the rotor cap and the rotor was 180 from where the manual said #1 is. So I pulled the distribtor and rotated the rotor 180 to point to #1 and put it all back together. Since this it has been difficult to turn over and will not start except with ether, but will not idel or run as before.

I felt good compression when turning it by hand - although I know that is not a reliable answer. I can get the compression but I willl be a couple of days. Also, I do I bleed the air from the rail, I assumed with the amount of turning over and tring to start the car that any air would have passed by now. Please advise



November, 22, 2008 AT 1:25 AM

Hello -

If it was running before even though the quick throttle would kill, I think you have the distributor 180 out or really off anyway. Let's put it back the way it was - at least it was running. I had a truck off like this and it would try to start with the starting add to didn't run on fuel, it ran on propane....did I say what a fire looks like with starting fluid and propane mixed???????? Okay, I got the fire out but this isn't about me.

I would start at the beginning. First.....great job on performing a head job.....not an easy task to accomplish by anyone.....great job and you should be proud of your accomplishment.

This is what I do just as a note for the next time. Everyone has their own way so here is another. Before I tear anything apart, I remove the plugs and put the rotor on number one plug. Now I know the distributor and other things are sitting where they should be. Once the head are off I verify #1 piston is at the top of the stroke. Remember it will be there twice, compression and exhaust. With the heads on you can make sure your valves are correct.....closed. Below is the valve order. If you are 180 out then on the right side, the 2nd valve is going to be pushed up.


Right Side I-E-I-E-I-E

Left Side E-I-E-I-E-I

If it were me, I would remove the right valve cover - pull all the plugs - put a long thin piece of something sturdy so it doesn't brake off inside, into #1 plug hole and let it sit on top of the piston. Someone should kind of hold it steady so it doesn't rub the side of the piston wall. Then slowly rotate the engine to where it shows TDC.

Then make sure your distributor is on #1. I have had to cut the side of mine before just to see if it is lined up correctly. Of course that means a new cap but that is okay. If rotor is not lined up exactly to number one, keep pulling it out and moving to the next tooth. One tooth off is not good enough.

Then do your timing light and I show 10 degrees that what you show?

Let's get it running then figure out why it dies with a quick throttle input. Sound okay to you?



November, 22, 2008 AT 7:31 PM

Okay I am going to try your suggestions, although it might take me some time, sorry about that.
Also whay in the world are oyu useing propane. Lol

Anyway here are the torque specs I used; cylinder head bolts 70ftlbs (63 to 80) per manual
exhaust manifold 20ftlbs (15 to 20) per manual
intake manifold to cylindr head bolts 21 ftlbs (21) per manual
rocker arms 25ftlbs (20 to 28) per manual

let me know your thought's



November, 23, 2008 AT 12:31 AM

Hello -

The only reason I suggest that is it was running until you went 180 (or what you thought was 180) to see how that did. You could have been a tooth or two off. Setting the distributor is to me, very pain staking and takes a little time. But it was running so I am trying to get back to that point.

Time. Take what time you need. Some things you can't rush. Better to do it now than be stranded later.

Propane - Well, it was on a farmer's wheat truck and this model runs on propane only. No liquid fuel. Wild huh. Did you know the main reason you wear a thick pull over in the winter is to be able to pull in off over your head like a hockey player fighting someone and put over the top of the carb to put a fire out. Plus, that warms it up for when you put it back on



November, 23, 2008 AT 4:07 PM

I followed your recommendations and set TDC both Intake and exhaust valves are closed, set distrubtor and rotor to #1. Assembled everything, and got somewhat back to where it was running. Here is the scoop now.

I could only get the motor to barely stay running with rapid jerks of the throttle. Nothinng near what I would consider idling or running on its own. Next I checked the the psi in the fuel rail got 39-40 psi. I also checked the spark of each plug wire and found that #5, #2 and #3 are not getting spark. So I am going to get a new rotor cap. The rotor is new and the wires I just replaced so I supect the rotor cap. Sound right? I also have a new ICM that mounts on the distributor. What do you think, aslo how do I bleed the air from the fuel rail?
Thanks again.



November, 26, 2008 AT 7:26 PM

Hello -

Great. At least it's starting.I agree. Do the cap first and see what happens. Then if still nothing on those plugs, do the ICM. If you replace both you won't know what fixed it.

Since you have it, if the cap does fix it, then I would still replace the ICM since you can't take it back.

I went back over the installation of the fuel rail and it doesn't speak of bleed the air. So probably good there. The spark may be the problem.

Let's get that fixed and see what it does from there.

You are doing a great job by the way. Providing excellent info back to review. Many times we get "car doesn't work." That is a little. Vague.

Why is the car so far away? Just being nosey



November, 26, 2008 AT 9:24 PM


thank you for the support, I must say that I was feeling pretty good about the job until I ran into all these " little" things. Thanks for your vote of confidence, I surely need it.

The car belongs to my soon to be father-in-law so it is at his house, this situation challenges me because I can only see it once or twice a week otherwise I would have in done by now. Lol

i have no new news yet as I am waiting until thanksgiving dinner " at his house" so I can get the rotor cap installed and see where we are at that point. I will keep you posted on any progress.

Thanks agian for all you support!



November, 26, 2008 AT 9:56 PM

Hello -

It is normal to feel a little down - okay - at times just down right bad. But do your best to always see the positive. Keeping positive keeps your mind open to more thoughts and ways to fix instead of giving up.

There have been times I have worked on something all day. After the shower - in bed. Then it has come to me. People will seek you out if you are positive in negative situations.

The fall isn't the problem. It's the recovery. There will always be bumps in the road. The good Lord allows those to make us stronger. And wiser.

Believe me, your father-in-law I am sure is watching. If you are steady. Calm as possible and do your best, which gives him a peace you will do the same with his daughter. You and her will have problems too. Are you to give up? Of course not. You buckle down harder!

Every watched Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks? If not watch it. If so - remember in the one scene where they were going to die due to the lack of breathable air. Meanwhile at Houston the engineers kind of gave up. The main controller told them they had no option period. They gathered all of the things they would have in the space craft and guess what. Came up with a way! Will it always be that way. No, but give it your best. That is the only thing anyone can ask of you.

Now I take it that is where your soon to be bride is too? When is the big day? How long have you been dating? Is he helping you?

Yes - please keep me posted.

Last thought

"A long while ago, a great warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own. He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy's country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, and then gave the order to burn the ships that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, "You see the boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice" we win, or we perish! They won. Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to burn his ships and cut all sources of retreat. Only by so doing can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a BURNING DESIRE TO WIN, essential to success"

No problem for the support.I'll say a big prayer for ya also.I didn't realize you had the pressure of it being at the future father -in -laws house!

I hope you and your family have a nice Thanksgiving.



November, 28, 2008 AT 2:01 PM

First thank you for the encouraging words. It is always good to revieve words of the soul from a brother in christ, greatly appreciated and accepted.

We are getting marride febuaury 21st 2009, not that far away!

Forgive me if missed replying to your response, I am at the Father-in-laws house for Thanksgiving at 5 today so of course I had some time with the car. Here is how it went.

Checked the spark for each cylinder. #1, #2, & #5 no spark. Replaced the spark plug wires, still no spark at #1, #2, #5. Replaced the rotor cap & Rotor still no spark at #1, #2, & #5. Next I installed new ICM, still not spark at #1, #2, & #5. Okay at this point I marked and pulled the distributor and looked at the insides, looked like the little blak thingy had some buildup so I lightly scraped the gunk off. Well that seemed to really do it, now I have no spark on any of the cylinders.
I checked the coil for spark and good news is it seems to snap a spark quite religously. I was thinking of pulling a distributor from the local junk yard, and seeing if we get spark with it. What are your recommendations?
Thank you very much

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