How To Diagnose A No-Start Problem (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 Ford E150, E250, E350)

Quite a few things can cause the engine in your Ford E150 (E250, E350) van not to start, which could make you think that troubleshooting a no-start problem is something best left to the professionals.

But nothing could be further from the truth! In this tutorial, I will show you that there is a method to the madness of troubleshooting an engine no-start problem.

APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles:

  1. Ford E150: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996.
  2. Ford E250: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996.
  3. Ford E350: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996.

Difference Between A No-Start And A No-Crank Condition

Before we get going, it's essential to know the difference between a 'cranks but does not start problem' and a no-crank problem.

In an engine no-start problem, the starter motor functions perfectly. Specifically, when you turn the key to start the engine, it cranks, but it doesn't start.

In an engine no-crank problem, the starter motor does not function at all.

This tutorial only focuses on troubleshooting a no-start problem. If your Ford E150 (E250, E350) van is suffering a no-crank problem, you should start by troubleshooting the starter motor.

The following tutorial will help you troubleshoot the starter motor: How To Test The Starter Motor (Ford E150, E250, E350).

Engine No-Start Diagnostic Basics

What's going to help you successfully troubleshoot and solve the engine no-start problem plaguing your Ford E150 (E250, E350) is to know that the engine needs three things to start. These three things are:

  • Air (compression).
  • Fuel.
  • Spark.

When the engine does not start, it's usually because one of these three is missing.

We can perform four basic tests to find out which of these three are missing:

  • A spark test.
  • A fuel pressure test.
  • An engine compression test.
  • A blown head gasket test.

These four essential tests will help you determine what's behind your Ford E150 (E250, E350)'s no-start problem.

What Tools Do I Need?

To troubleshoot the engine no-start problem of your Ford E150 (E250, E350), you're going to need a few essential testing tools.

Here's a list of the tools you'll need:

  • A spark tester.
  • A fuel pressure tester.
  • An engine compression tester.
  • A multimeter.
  • A code reader.

For the ignition system spark tests, I recommend that you use an HEI spark tester.

The HEI spark tester is the most accurate spark tester that you can buy and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. You can find out more about it and where to buy it here: HEI Spark Tester (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).

You'll notice that I didn't include a scan tool in the list. But if you have one, it will come in handy. Why? Because some of the components that cause a no-start condition can leave a specific trouble code (when they fail).

In this tutorial, all of the tests do not require a scan tool. So I haven't included it in any of the suggested tests.

STEP 1: Testing The Ignition System For Spark

Testing For Spark At The Spark Plug Wires. How To Diagnose A No-Start Problem (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 Ford E150, E250, E350)

I recommend that the first test you do is test the ignition system for spark.

Specifically, test all six or eight spark plug wires for spark with a dedicated spark tester.

Why use a dedicated spark tester? Because it'll guarantee that you'll get the correct spark test result.

Using any other method to test for spark that does not involve a dedicated spark tester will usually end up giving you a false test result that'll have you wasting time and money.

The ignition system is NOT causing the no-start problem if:

  • Spark is present at all spark plug wires.

With all spark plug wires delivering spark to the cylinders (spark plugs), you can conclude that the ignition system is NOT causing the engine no-start problem.

You can also conclude that:

  1. The profile ignition pickup (PIP) sensor is good.
  2. The ignition control module (ICM) is good.
  3. The ignition coil is good.

Since the ignition system is creating and feeding spark to the engine cylinders, the next test steps are to test the fuel pump's pressure. Go to: STEP 2: Testing The Fuel Pump's Pressure.

The ignition system IS THE CAUSE of the no-start problem if:

  • You got NO spark at all spark plug wires.

The components that can cause this no-spark problem are:

  1. A bad profile ignition pickup (PIP) sensor.
  2. A bad ignition control module (ICM).
  3. A bad ignition coil.

Your next steps are to:

  • Test the profile ignition pickup (PIP) sensor (to make sure that the ignition control module is receiving a PIP signal).
  • Test the ignition control module (ICM).

Ford Vehicles:

  • E-150
    • 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996
  • E-250
    • 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996
  • E-350
    • 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996