My Ford Probe

02/01/2006 Update

First thing, credit where credit is due. My thanks to ProbeTalk and all of their posters, especially 'Chris' and 'hudek' for replying to my posts. And Joe Bialy who came up with this wonderful upgrade/fix and Kuki who's plan I most closely followed.

(Click any image to get a bigger version)

I got my Probe on Halloween, 1994 off the showroom floor. It's a great car, not the fastest in the world, but it accelerates nicely, handles great and is just fun to drive. It has a few issues, but has been mostly trouble free.

Until Nov. 10th, 2004 that is. Exactly 10 years and 10 days later(weird huh?) at 63,378 miles. On that day I was cruising along at 40mph when the engine suddenly died, I coasted to a stop. One of the issues the car has is a slow oil leak from the head gaskets that eventually gets in the spark plug wells and wrecks the plug wires. I had replaced them about 3 years ago.

So I get out and wiggle them around a bit. Get back in, try to start it a few times and it eventually starts. I go about 1/2 mile and it happens again. Repeat same procedure 1 more time before I get home.

I assume it's time for new plugs and wires. For $60 I replaced them all.

Feeling good about another DIY fix on the cheap, I take it out for a test drive. I get to my sister Jeans house(about a five minute drive) and all is well. Knowing that I need to make a 3 hour road trip soon, I decide to do a longer test. And of course it dies again and again and again.

Crap, this is not good. Well, maybe it's time for new sports car. About $25k-30k for a new comparable one. But maybe I'll upgrade and finally get that Porsche Deb is always telling me to get, ~$100k.

Nah, I love this car and there has to be an easy fix for this. It runs great 99% of the time. So I do the web search and find ProbeTalk. The solution sounds a little wacky, but it could work. And it's cheap, $20. Basically it involves bypassing the Ford/Mazda part that is failing with a GM Part... Kinda like an alien infusion.

I talked to my cousin Rob, who is a real mechanic(I don't even play one on TV or the Internet). He agreed that this could be the fix. As he said, "it's either a spark problem or a fuel problem". So I recruit my mom to do the test. I drive around for a few minutes until it fails. I jump out and pull the plug wire, put in one that I just replaced and hold it against the block while she tries to start it. No Spark.

(heavy sigh) Not really wanting to deal with this, I call the local Ford dealer. The Probe engines were made by Mazda so he doesn't really have an answer right away. A few minutes later he explains all that to me and says the parts alone will cost $854!!! Before labor!! And by his tone, I knew he did not have them in stock. I need this car running now.

Ok, time to try the ProbeTalk fix. I go down to AutoZone and get the Wells DR100 Control Module(this is the key) for $13. Get some 14 Ga. wire and some wire taps to hook it up.

The DR100 has these little 'mounting nubs' on it. Some of the ProbeTalk posts mention you need a heatsink to keep the thing cool. They were interferring with it, so I cut them off.

I like to take a picture of the thing I am about to disassemble/modify to help me remember how to put it back together again. Here is the engine compartment before I started.

I thought I might need to get under the air intake, so I removed that(easy) and started splicing in and cutting wires(scary) per Kuki's schematic. The part thats failing is located down in this block.

I got it all wired up. Since I was still rather skeptical about this fix(I just cut off the thing that produces spark and makes the engine run), I needed to test it first. Note the Chassis Ground and that the blue wire is 14 Ga. The rest is 16 Ga.

To my mild suprise and Bons complete amazment, it started!
Woohoo! Time to finish up.

I found a heatsink in my collection(I really do have a collection, I know it's sad) that fit perfectly. I had to cut off a few fins. I applied the included heatsink grease to ensure a good thermal contact and scraped the surface with an emory board to ensure a good electrical contact.

I had to drill a hole(the one on the right) through the mounting bracket and move the battery ground wire over to the left(There was a pre-drilled hole there already). Otherwise it was a perfect fit.

I added some heat shrink to the spliced and cut wires and cleaned up the wire runs with some 'split flex tubing'.
Here is a closeup of the final mounting of the new part.


Saved at least $1000 counting labor.
Maybe $24,980 or even $99,980, if I had bought a new sports car.
For 2 hours of research. 1 hour to get the parts, get ready and cleanup.
And 2 hours to actually do the install.

So far it runs great(50 miles later). Here is the final bill.

As a final note of approval, Bon says "If a non-mechanic took a quick look, s/he wouldn't even know it was a 'fudge job'...

A few notes to the ProbeTalk community.
I choose Kuki's method because it was reversable. If it did not work, I could just re-attach the wires and take it to the dealer or try a re-manufactured option. And it did not invlolve opening up the distributor and applying some 'persuasive force', which for me always means 'Catastophic failure'. I will report back on this site if the whole thing fails or if it makes it for another year or 2. Thanks again.

Other useful links for Probe Ignitor problems