I have an 89 Festiva that wont keep running.


Asked by Jun 11, 2014 at 05:54 PM about the 1989 Ford Festiva L

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

One day my wife and I were sitting in the car talking. I started the car, and it was running fine, then quit. I tested for spark... getting a nicely timed spark from the coil, so I suspected the fuel pump. Replaced with new, tested good, also replaced fuel filter. After doing all this, it started up very nicely and ran for a while then quit as before. I tested spark and fuel pressure... both good. I sent the injectors out to be rebuilt, reinstalled them, and again the car ran fine for a while than quit. Each time it quits, cranking does nothing as if there were no spark or no fuel, but there is... I am totally at a loss. What is wrong with this car?

15 Answers


ooh, the rare 89 EFI.. I'm assuming your festiva has an idle air control valve but I'm not sure on the 89 EFI because it is complicated and different in some ways. Look behind the distributor, there should be a little device with 4 hoses going to it, 2 are large - for air - and the other 2 are small - for coolant. If it is sticking shut, it will cut off the car. I would suggest (but have not tried this before) taking off the fat air hose on the intake that comes from the idle air control and try starting it. You don't need to run it long and I'm only suggesting this as a test to see if everything is good. You could even see if it will start and then push that hose back on and see if it dies. Please get back with me here and let me know what you find. Since you have spark and fuel, I'm assuming it is not one of the safety sensors (like in a clutch switch) or a pump. I also don't think it is the switch in the vane air flow meter above your air filter because you have fuel. Keep me posted


I do not see the four hose device you described. However, lack of air could have the same effect. I have to let the car sit for a full day before it will start and run for a while. Otherwise, once it quits... nothing, not even a the slightest. Act a little like it's flooded. The longest I have been able to run the car is about 5 minutes but I have to nurse the accelerator and look for a sweet spot. Usually it quits after less than a minute. Since my initial question, I have read the trouble codes. The only code I got was a 15, O2 sensor. I replaced it and disconnected the battery to reset the computer. Now there are no codes. Got any other suggestions? Seems like it must be an emissions control thing, but the computer isn't helping me find it like I hoped.


Can you post a picture of the top of the engine? So, hypothetically, if it is rich it could be a bad (or misaligned) vaf, tps, bad coolant temp sensor or possibly a bad fuel regulator. I could also be wrong. You could pull a plug and see if the plugs are wet.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Any updates? Is this your clutch switch (mt) or neutral safety (at)? Bypass the switch by jumping the connector with a paperclip or wire and see if it runs.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

It's an automatic. When it quits, it runs real rough misfires then quits. It's not like a switch (on / off) If I nurse the accelerator I can keep it running longer, but it eventually quits after about 5 minutes. Attached is a picture under the hood. Could be air or fuel... I don't think it is ignition related. But, for sure, it's got me baffled.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

So I sent this to a friend and he was thinking ignition coil related but as long as your spark is good, guess it is okay. Next recommendation would be to check the VAF and clean it's connector. I would suggest a can of contact cleaner or electrical / electronic cleaner. It evaporates rapidly and is safe on the plastics, etc. I would try cleaning that connector first and see if it runs. The VAF deals with both air and fuel so hopefully you find it here. So it could be a weak connection or the VAF could be bad. So, in the 91 EVT manual it shows the fuel test connector (c107) and if you plug in a wire and spade and ground it, it will turn on the fuel pump. The '91 wire color is GN/R to this connector but idk if that's the same on the 89 EFI. In your pic, it may be in the 6 pin connector by the drivers strut tower or near it. But I know for a fact the 88-89 harnesses were different from 90+ and since yours is EFI it could be even more modified (or less). Because of that, I wouldn't just start plugging in those pins-to-ground. Just saying. I'm also going to post this for some festiva friends to look at


www.fordfestiva.com Join. Post in repair help section. This nags at me. There are some symptoms of head gasket. After it dies, pull the plugs out and see if one or two are really wet. Check the oil, see if it looks like,well, a milkshake in color. Same for the antifreeze, although that is rare for HG to release oil to coolant, I have seen it happen. Coolant temp sensor can do the same. Camshaft position sensor in the distributor? I think that goes like that on these as well. My experience with the 89 Unicorn is very limited. The main thing is to stop throwing money at it hoping to fix it. Diagnose, THEN replace the bad items. There are tests for all the components. A Haynes manual for the car is extremely helpful. Your local mechanic is not very likely to be much help, he/she will likely rely on OBD2 for their diagnosis, and these cars don't have that. Most can't even put front bearings in correctly. Join that forum I link to, it is active, full of friendly and helpful people, add your location to your profile, a close by member may be able to help you out.


Well, I finally got it running. Not sure exactly what fixed it. I started by opening up the airflow meter VAF and discovered the fuel pump switch was not making and breaking as it should, so I cleaned and adjusted it. Still wouldn't stay running. But did run a bit longer. All indications (after playing with it for hours) seemed to point to it being flooded. Instead of waiting a whole day to try starting it again, I decided I could flush out any gasoline in the cylinders by disconnecting the injectors and the VAF. Turn the engine over (heard a few fires in the cylinders), reconnect everything, and then it would run again. Each time it seemed to run longer, but the timing seemed off. Can cleaning the injectors and replacing the fuel pump and filter actually change the timing? I adjusted the distributor several times, and finally settled for full clockwise, where it is sitting right now and running great. Still would be nice to know exactly what happened. Any educated guesses?


Are there any cracks, splits or holes in the two hoses to your vacuum advance on the disty? I doubt full tilt is where it runs optimally so there must be something still getting you. While I think it would be beneficial to check your timing with a gun, I don't think what you have done would mess with your timing belt. It is easy to line up your timing on the crank and check the cam gear against the valve cover. Iirc it is 12 & 3. You might need new plugs after running rich for so long but I might ask for a second opinion on that.


Did you guys figure this out? Any updates?


All of the vacuum hoses are in good condition, no leaks anywhere. Spark plugs are also in good condition. The car seems to be running fine, although it did have a bit more pep before all the problems back in July. I haven't checked timing with a timing gun.

Hi Festiva lovers! Went to visit my mom yesterday morning in my 93 Festiva. She lives about 5 miles away. My Lil car started like a champ like everyday. Well I left mom's & got about a mile away when my Festy DIED! so I coasted to a stop. I tried to to restart it but no go. The engine would crank over but not fire at all. So there I sat for the next half hour or so looking under the hood attempting different things to try as much as I could with no tools! I have moved some items to the rear of the car & slammed the back hatch shut. I made another attempt to start the the car & YeeHaa! it fired right up & kept running, so I took off again. Well got about another mile & it died again. Same thing, different scenery. Called the tow truck after attempts to get started again. So I have spent the last day reading forums & trying different tests ect. I know my issue was intermittent with the car. Well here is the cure. It turns out to be the ignition switch. After removing the plastic cosmetic cover & aggressively tapping on the backside of the switch while turning over the key the car started right up & so far has kept running. I only took it on a short test run but pretty sure that the ignition switch is the culprit. I hope this helps folks dealing with this frustrating issue& can save you some time in diagnosis. :)


MDX, hope you found your issue. It seems like a rare / unlikely issue though. So if you continue to have issues, I would investigate if your fuel pump is intermittently failing. When they fail, they tend to work, not work, work, not work, etc. Then completely die. They always prime when you turn the key to on/acc (I don't recall which circuit) but you can stoop down and listen under the car for it to prime. You can also use a multimeter at the pump plug to make sure it is getting power. I had my clutch switch get a little misaligned internally and it stopped working, fixed it and it was fine again. I'd also recommend a electrical, vacuum, troubleshooting manual (EVTM) for the festiva. Very useful!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

What's up festy fanatics I have an 88 and yes ignition switch is a little demon when I fire her up I have to make sure everything powers up before I knew about the problem I had her runnin went in the house came back out she was boilin over gotta jiggle the ignition switch Or the electric fan gets no power


Hi Timmy, that's a bummer. You might have a loose contact in the back of the ignition switch. You might buy another and replace. Take off the shroud and then the single screw and undo the three? Main plugs hidden just behind the dash. You could alternatively run a switch in to the car to turn the fan on.

Your Answer


Looking for a Used Festiva in your area?

CarGurus has 3 nationwide Festiva listings and the tools to find you a great deal.


Ford Festiva Experts

  • #1
  • #2
    Tom Demyan
  • #3
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used Ford Fiesta
157 Great Deals out of 16,433 listings starting at $2,500
Used Volkswagen Jetta
594 Great Deals out of 36,423 listings starting at $1,100
Used Ford Escort
312 listings starting at $1,697
Used Chevrolet Cavalier
918 listings starting at $1,250

Used Cars For Sale

Content submitted by Users is not endorsed by CarGurus, does not express the opinions of CarGurus, and should not be considered reviewed, screened, or approved by CarGurus. Please refer to CarGurus Terms of Use.