You will probably not be at a mechanic’s shop when your e250 cargo van won’t start but there are actions you can take without one.
If the engine won’t crank or start, check battery cables for corrosion, battery charge and finally the starter motor.
If it cranks, check the spark plugs, then coil pack.
Replace fuel pump’s fuse if the pump doesn’t make a noise when you turn on the ignition.
Inspect fuel lines, and fuel filter.
Finally connect to the onboard computer for more information.
There are different actions you should take depending on whether the engine cranks or not. The first thing you therefore need to do is determine if the engine is cranking or not when you try to start.
There are different actions you can take in either situation, not cranking is probably more easily dealt with without a mechanic’s assistance. I shall therefore show you those actions first.
E250 Cargo Van Won’t Start and Engine Not Cranking
Basically if the engine does not crank, it is not getting power, and so this can be attributed to corroded battery cables, low battery strength, or a faulty starter.
Remove any Corrosion from the Battery Cables
Corrosion on the connections of the battery cables will not allow current to pass from the battery thereby rendering the battery temporarily ineffective.
Disconnecting the cables and cleaning them may solve the problem, allowing the engine to once again turn over and start.
Full details on how to clean the battery cables can be found here (1) but these are the basics:
- Ensure the ignition is switched off
- Mix one tablespoon of baking soda in one cup of hot water
- Scrub the battery terminals and cable connections with an old toothbrush soaked in the baking soda mix
- Rinse the battery terminals and connections with cold water then dry them thoroughly before reconnecting
Tip: Pouring Coke or Pepsi on the battery terminal with the cables still connected may work. First make sure the ignition is off but if this does not work, follow the above cleaning instructions
Test the Battery in Case It Is Low
Even though a battery may not be totally dead, it may not have enough juice left to turn the engine.
To check the battery, you will need a multimeter.
The terminals on the battery should either be marked + or –, but if they are not, they will be colored red for positive and black for negative. Attach the red probe to the positive terminal and the black probe to the negative terminal.
The meter should read 12.6 volts, anything less means your battery needs to be recharged.
Note: If the meter gives a negative reading (-12.4v), the probes are connected to the wrong terminals.
If the battery will not accept a full charge, then it is time to get a new one.
If the battery does charge, then you may have an alternator problem.
A Working Battery Can Mean a Faulty Starter Motor
If you have determined that the connections and battery terminals are clean and the battery is good, the starter is probably the problem.
In this instance there is not much you can do other than replacing the starter.
However, it is not a myth that giving the starter a sharp knock may jolt it into action. This may work but not every time, and so you will still have to replace the starter as soon as possible.
If the Engine Cranks but Does Not Start
If your e250 cargo van cranks but does not start, then it is not getting a spark or fuel.
Often this is due to a problem which may need a professional mechanic, but there are still a few actions you can take even with a minimal of knowledge.
Look for Electrical Problems
Inspect the Spark Plugs
The spark plugs are what provide a spark to ignite the fuel being delivered to the engine. The spark plugs work in sync, referred to as their timing. If one or more spark plugs are not working or they are working out of sync, they will not ignite the fuel causing the engine not to start.
If you are not sure how to access your spark plugs this link (2) will give you full details.
If a spark plug is not working properly it will often be apparent from its corroded appearance. This is not always the case though but you can check them with a multimeter.
You should also check the gaps on the spark plugs. You can get the gaps from your owner’s manual or from Google.
If you do need to buy new plugs, ensure you get ones which have a number on them that is compatible with your old ones.
If the Spark Plugs Work, Then Check the Coil Pack
If you are convinced the no starting problem is a spark problem and not an issue with fuel supply, it is possible that part of the coil pack is the problem.
Old vehicles used to have a distributor to provide the spark plugs with power, but most modern vehicles use a coil pack instead. These are more efficient, and one coil goes to each plug, hence their name coil packs.
To check and change any coil packs requires more than just a basic mechanical knowledge. Whether you do the job yourself or get a mechanic, you may only need to replace a coil which is faulty, not all.
It is always advisable however, to change the spark plug on that particular coil at the same time.
When an engine turns over, cranks, but won’t start, it means the engine is getting no gas or there is an ignition problem.
Look for Fuel Problems
Replace the Fuse for the Fuel Pump
The first and easiest thing to check is the fuse for the fuel pump. It is located and marked in the fuse box. Remove the relevant fuse and check that there is no break in the metallic strip. If there is replace the correct amperage fuse and try to start again.
Fuel Pump Noise When You Turn the Ignition
If there is a problem with the fuel pump the fuel system will not be under pressure and so will not deliver fuel to the engine.
In an e250 cargo van the fuel pump is located at the rear of the vehicle. When you turn the ignition you should still be able to hear it purr even from the driving position.
If you do not hear it then the pump is the problem.
Check the Fuel Lines and Filter
If the pump appears to be working then the fuel may not be reaching the engine. The fuel lines on an e250 cargo van are located under the vehicle. Check under the vehicle for any signs of leaking fuel. Also check the fuel filter under the hood. You will find the filter by following the fuel lines coming up from the back of the van.
If there are signs of fuel leaking at the filter, often it is due to bad banjo bolts holding the fuel lines to the filter. If this is the case, you may only have to have the bolts changed, but this should be done by a professional.
If the fuel filter itself is the problem, it will have to be changed but should be changed every 30,000 miles regardless of whether it gives trouble or not.
Connect to the Computer with OBD Connector or App
An ignition problem can be caused by some of the issues we have already covered like, battery or coil problems, bad plug wires, or timing. An ignition problem however can also be caused by a computer problem.
It is easy to check computer problems if you have an OBD connector and app. All e250 cargo vans have an OBD port which is good for either OBD 1 or the newer OBD 11. By making use of this it can run diagnostics on your van.
This is a link (3) to Ford OBD trouble codes
If you connect the OBD and get no response, then check the fuse box. If it is not marked on the fuse box, check your vehicle manual. With most models of e250 cargo van the OBD connection shares the same fuse as the cigarette lighter so it may be quicker to check if that is working or not.
It is of course recommended that you have your vehicle serviced regularly to try and avoid these situations.
Regular servicing may avoid many of these potential problems, but some problems give no warning. During a regular service the battery may be charged and the connections cleaned, but a starter may not give any warning prior to becoming faulty.
Even though you may have solved the problem this time and your e250 cargo has started, always mention the incident to your mechanic the next time it is due a service. Sometimes whilst a problem is relatively easy to solve once, it may be due to a more complex underlying problem which makes it repetitive.