Ask Sarah: Troubleshooting fuel pump issues, console lighting, and removing tar from clear coat

sarah forst

Ask Sarah: Troubleshooting fuel pump issues, console lighting, and removing tar from clear coat

By Sarah Forst

Hi Sarah, I have a 2001 Ford Focus that I bought used 3 years ago.  It only has 73,000 miles.  At first, it seemed to drive fine though occasionally it would stutter and feel like the engine would cut out. The problem seems to be getting worse now and it actually stalled out on me when I was getting on the freeway the other day- not the best time to lose power!  I was able to get to pull over to the side of the road and start it again but it's still spitting and feels like it's not getting any power.  Is the engine toast?

Thanks, Derrick S.

My experiences with Ford have been somewhat similar- Found On Road Dead.  My first car (1992 Tempo- don't laugh) stalled out in the middle of the ghetto somewhere in San Bernardino, CA. Luckily, I managed to get it going before getting jacked, though I'm more inclined to think those gangbangers just felt sorry for my ride.  My sister had a Focus and it died on her way to Vegas- talk about ruining your gambling luck!  

Ford Focus Fuel Delivery Module
Here's the culprit to your hesitation and stalling problems- the Fuel Delivery Module of your Ford Focus is well known for having issues.

Alas, there is hope!  Your car is most likely experiencing the dreaded but well-documented fuel pump failure of certain models of the 2000-2001 Ford Focus.  Because there were so many issues, there is a “safety campaign” 03V-482 that will take care of the problem.  What happens is that the fuel pump filter becomes contaminated over time, causing the engine to hesitate, surge, or sputter. Eventually, the contamination blocks the fuel supply completely and the engine stalls out.  This typically happens when you have less than a quarter tank of gas or when you're trying to accelerate quickly, uphill, or while turning right.  The solution is to completely replace the FDM, or Fuel Delivery Module.  You probably never received a letter for this because you are not the original owner.  Take it to a Ford dealership – they should be able to handle this for you au gratis.  And it's probably not an issue anymore, but my sister needed her fuel pump replaced twice since they installed the original design again after the first one died.  I doubt (hope) any of the first (or second) designs are still hanging around a Ford dealership so you shouldn't have that issue.


Sarah, please help me!  There is tar or something gooey and black all over the front and bottom half of my car.  How can I get this off my paint?

Tar remover detailing products
Pick your detailing poison, from Cleaner Wax and a clay bar to peanut butter and shortening.

I always love it when DOT fixes a road the half-assed way.  Those signs go up advertising fresh chips and oil on the road, as if it's the Daily Special.  It almost sounds appetizing right?  After the loose gravel spray with some oil, those geniuses seal joints and cracks with lines of “road glue,” or tar.  Afterwards, your car is chipped and looks like it got peppered.  Get a good bug and tar remover such as Stoner's Tarminator, Meguiars' Gold Class, or PoorBoy's World.  You can also use WD-40, Goo Gone, or even peanut butter- just don't go nuts with it if you catch my pun.  In fact, anything that is edible oil based can work, so bust out the Crisco, butter, or mayo and have a food fight with your paint.  Let it sit for about 30 seconds before wiping clean with a soft microfiber towel.  You can also use a clay bar such as Meguirs or Mothers, though a large volume of tar will tear the clay bar apart. A clay bar will also make your paint smooth and glossy, but you should wash the car first and keep the spot wet.  All of these treatments work on sap as well.  Always polish and apply some wax or paint sealant to the spot you scrubbed afterwards for protection.  


Hi Sarah, I bought a 2009 370z and I love it!!!  My question is about the internal illumination.  It is the standard auto version so no navigation system, etc. The temperature controls (aside from the little yellow LED in the center), gear control (*auto), steering wheel controls and even all the buttons around the stereo do not illuminate, which makes it a little cumbersome during night driving.  Is this a design flaw or are the electrics in my car faulty?

Regards, Jim

Nissan 370Z dashboardInstrumentation brightness control
The 370Z dashboard is configured a little like a cockpit.  I really like the orange!The instrument brightness control switches are located on the right side of the dashboard, near the speedometer.

The instrument brightness control switch is located on the top right of the dashboard gauge panel. It controls the brightness when the headlights are ON or in AUTO mode.  You can push the upper (A) or lower (B) switches to brighten or dim the instrument panel lights. If that's not it, check the fuses in the fuse box located next to your left knee when sitting in the driver's seat.  There is a diagram on the fuse box cover.  Make sure none of them are blown and they're all installed correctly.  And if that's also not the problem, you can pull out the console and check that all the pins on the wiring harness are connected correctly and getting a signal.  I didn't see any TSB related to this problem, but some of these wiring harnesses in Nissans have been known to have a short in the wiring that causes the controls to no longer light up.  You didn't say whether you've installed a new head unit, in which case you might need to troubleshoot yourself.  But if it's still equipped with the stock radio, this type of thing should be covered by your warranty so you can have the dealership do the dirty work.


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