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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2010 Ford Explorer, P2104 and P2111 Codes

I finally had a motor vehicle case to blog about that might help someone. Two weeks ago in the morning a young woman in her late twenties drove in a 2010 Ford Explorer. I went to greet her from the back room, where the sequel to Rick Cantelli, P.I. was in production on my laptop. The woman popped out of the driver’s side, and marched up in my face. I had halted to see where she was going. I will refer to her as Ellie Explorer for the blog. Ellie stopped before she ran me over, with folded arms over chest stare. 
“Good morning. Can I help you?” I tried pleasant.
Ellie pointed at the Explorer. “Can you fix this or not?!”
Uh oh. Since I had never seen her or the Explorer before, I assumed that was a rhetorical question. I’ve had customers come in angry and ask if I could fix something, but they usually don’t tack on ‘or not’. “I do work on Ford Explorers. Perhaps if I…”
“I’ve had three shops work on this already!” Ellie jabs her finger at the recalcitrant Explorer. “I want to know if you can fix it! I don’t want to pay again to have it worked on without it being fixed!”
This is where being an old geezer helps. I took on my stern, no nonsense look, since my pleasant face was getting me abused. “First off, young lady, let’s use our inside voices. I can understand you being upset if you’ve paid to have your Explorer fixed at three shops without success, but if you plan on taking it out on me, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
“Sorry…” Ellie went back into folded arms position with a more resigned look. “I don’t know what to do with this thing. I took it to Ford first. They nicked me for a $125, did their computer scan, cleared the codes, and test drove it. The codes didn’t reappear, so they gave it back to me. A day later it jerked on the freeway, and the check engine light came back on. Ford agreed to retest it, which they did. They gave it back to me, saying it was an intermittent problem, but they installed an updated TPS sensor under warranty. They had already changed the throttle body the first year I had it under warranty. A week later, the light was back on.”
Ellie paused waiting for me to say something. “Okay, did you have Ford retest it?”
“No, I took it downtown to an electronics shop (she named the place, but I was unfamiliar with it) because I was worried I’d get stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I drive this up in the mountains all the time, especially during ski season. I showed the guy over there my invoices from Ford after he came up with the same two codes Ford did, having to do with the throttle. That stopped him, because he had been about to recommend replacing the throttle and TPS sensor. They tried rerouting the harness from those… ah… coil on plug things, thinking maybe there was interference causing it. That didn’t work and I was out another $110. The electronics shop looked at it again, and thought maybe the computer needed reflashed, but I showed them the Ford invoice where they updated the TPS, and pointed out that Ford had done a reflash. He said this may be a case where the problem will have to get more consistent. Jesus… I mean… with all the gadgets you people have, why can’t they tell you what’s wrong?”
I didn’t have an answer for her on that, but I did know it happens occasionally. “You took it to a third shop. What did they do?”
“They didn’t charge me for the computer scan. When they looked over my other work, and the fact I already had over 80,000 miles on it, they suggested doing a complete maintenance tune up, including replacing the coil on plug things. They were honest about not knowing if it would solve the problem or not, but that I was nearing the time when it would need to be done anyway. That made sense, because they said it might be a misfire the computer wasn’t detecting causing feedback into the throttle sensor circuit. I gave them the go ahead on the damn expensive maintenance tune up and the light came back on three days later. It did seem to start and run better though. That shop rescanned it for free, and told me the same thing as the second shop – wait for the problem to get worse.”
Oh boy. I looked longingly at the backroom where my laptop awaited with Rick Cantelli and his fictional adventures calling to me. My publishing partner and agent, RJ Parker, keeps telling me I have to give up the ‘Bennie’ work, and concentrate on writing exclusively. (Bennie is my humorous name when the r on my nametag gets smudged into an n I have written about) I pointed out to him when I finish the Rick Cantelli sequel, I’ll have written six full length novels this year, and still kept my day job. Ellie and her Explorer were making ‘Bennie’ think maybe it was time to start considering it though. Maybe like my fictional Cantelli, a good deed would be just the thing here to improve the karma of ‘Bennie’ work.
I took a deep breath. “I’ll tell you what. Leave it with me. I’ll look it over and if I can’t find anything there will be no charge. If I do find something related to the codes I believe will fix it, I’ll charge you my $75 diagnostic fee plus the cost of the fix, which I will get your okay on the repair first over the phone. I’ll give you a six month money back warranty on the code problem. I want you to understand the warranty will not have anything to do with other problems that crop up. Since you’ve never gone more than a week without the codes coming back, we should know quickly whether it’s fixed. That’s the best I can do.”
She thought about it while staring death rays at me, trying to see if I’d break down and start blubbering. When I didn’t, she handed me her keys. “I’ll call for a ride. I hope you can fix it.”
Me too.
After she left, I set up my laptop computer used only for ‘Bennie’ business with the latest programming and diagnostic software on it. I came up with the same old codes of P2104 (Forced Idle) and P2111 (Throttle Stuck Open). There were no indicators of fuel or misfires in the digital data. I took it through the more specific Mode 6 testing, and only came up with fails having to do with the throttle. There were no indicators of misfire. At that moment, the ‘Bennie’ retirement song was playing in my head (Bennie and the Jets).  :)
I opened the hood then with my CSI mini Maglite, looking for clues rather than DNA samples. A half hour later, going over grounds, power leads, and problem areas for wiring harness I had read about and found on Expeditions and other Fords, I found the problem. The harness was chaffed by the EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) tube and valve. It was tiny, but allowing what I found out was a TPS signal wire to contact ground intermittently. I repaired the wiring, and rerouted the harness. I only charged her the diagnostic fee, but she warned me she’d be back in days with the same thing wrong. I didn’t blame her for thinking that, but I had the guarantee written on the invoice.
She called this morning after two weeks and two trips to the mountains. It looks like ‘Bennie’ is back in business.

I will be at 60,000 words for the Rick Cantelli sequel by Halloween also.  :)


Charles Gramlich said...

Damn man, you're a machine! six novels is amazing.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

The secret is I only write what I love to read, Charles. I had a good year for ideas. I don't know if I can keep it up at that pace every year. Like we've discussed - riding the wave into the rocks, my friend. :)