I have read your Q&A in the Houston Chronicle and I am very intrigued with your answers. I am not very mechanically inclined yet I know when there is something wrong with our vehicles. I have a 2000 Ford Contour that has already had the fuel line replaced twice and the fuel pump replaced once. About two months ago, I was headed home from Sugarland on Highway 90 and I pulled over to put gas in the car at a Shell. I filled up the tank and headed home on the Beltway. Right as I was getting off the beltway, I noticed that the car started to drag as I was slowing down off the exit ramp. I thought maybe that I accidentally moved the gear down but I hadn’t. As I started to go from the stop light, I felt the engine revving but the car didn’t seem to want to go. It moved very slowly so I thought it might be the transmission or simply the fuel pump again. As I got home, I put it in park and revved the engine. It seemed fine then but then the engine light came on. I took it to a mechanic and was told that it might have been bad gas and that I needed to change the spark plugs. My husband changed the plugs and then proceeded to detach the battery to reset the engine light. When they reconnected the battery, the light turned off but after a test drive, it came back on. Another mechanic told us it was the timing belt. It still ran for about another month tugging at times but it always turned on. After going to the Auto parts to get a part for our other vehicle, it died on my husband. It would not turn on anymore. He towed it to a mechanic nearby and was told that it was not only the timing belt but it was also bent valves. The cost for the repair would run us $1500. I have a mechanic friend and he said that the timing was off but how could we tell if the valves were bent if the motor/engine, had not been opened. He tried to crank the car but the engine would not turn over. Could this be the problem and can I get it fixed for less since I need it fixed but I don’t have the funds?
Number one: The guy that said that you had gotten some bad gas needs to go back to school and I would have liked to have seen you keep your car at the mechanic that said it was your timing belt and to have let him fix it right then.
The best way to tell if your timing belt is broken is to pull the top cover off to see if the belt is broken off and this is actually pretty simple to do on the Contour.
The best way to tell if you have bent valves which is keeping your motor from turning over is to get a hold of the crank pulley to see if it will turn in one direction and not the other hence your belt being wadded up around the crank which is why it is not turning over. You will be able to tell the difference if you are hitting rubber verses metal when you are turning it. If you are hitting rubber it will feel a little cushy verses if you are hitting metal you will feel it being a little clankity and you will be able to actually hear it hit a valve, which means your valves are bent.
In your case I know you must be analyzing that old saying about throwing good money at bad but not knowing your whole financial situation it might be the only option you have is to fix your Contour and get it fixed right.
I wish I could wave a magic wand for you and fix this at no cost but you are definitely looking at about $500.00 for a whole timing belt kit if you did not bend any valves. I have seen a bunch of these motors “twin overhead cam engines” having the timing belt broke without bending any valves.
I would suggest finding a good shop to do this repair and not trying to do it on your own.
Thanks for the great question but sorry that you are having these problems. I have a great friend in Colorado that always reminds me when things seem gloomy that “this too shall pass” which it always does and things do get better.