1997 Ford Escort Wagon. Engine size = 4 cyl. 2.0 L.
Warning lights: SES
Repairs for this problem: Just inspected, new fuel filter & "industrial strength" fuel cleaner
Question: Hard to start, when it does it wants to stall out unless I give it gas. About 2 miles down
the road it clears itself out. SES light flashes then remains solid.

Once in a while bucks during travel. Under the hood, a clicking noise increases simultaneously
as I accelerate. Sounds like it's coming from the fuel injectors/fuel rod/manifold area. I appreciate
any advice.
Sounds to me like your problem is the idle air controller. Among other things it is supposed to
open causing a high idle on start up by allowing more air into the engine. It is also supposed
to control your idle speed after the car is warm so that would also explain why you need to
give it some gas to keep it running. Carbon in this valve and throttle bore, or a faulty valve
may be the cause.

May also be a leaking injector causing a very rick fuel condition. That may explain why it
clears it self up after driving a little. For your SES light go to Autozone and they will read the
codes for you for free. A flashing light means the computer is seeing a solid misfire that has
the potential of causing catalytic converter damage. A scan will probably find a misfire code sometheing like P0300, and maybe others. Replacement of a fuel injector would be needed if fuel system cleaner did not help the condition on your Ford.

As for the clicking noise I would imagine it is a lifter. Try changing the oil and perhaps an oil
conditioner like power punch or STP. If a fuel injector is sticking wide open causing your misfire and hesitation, This could have contaminated the oil and cause an engine tick. Changing the oil is very important so as not cause an internal engine damage on top of the problem you are already having. Fuel injectors also click (they are supposed to) but
aren't really noisy enough to notice.

Another possibility is that the timing belt has stretched. This can cause the cold start problems on your Ford Escort as well as some other issues. There is no real easy way to checck that unless you have a mechanic take off the front timing cover, turn the engine by hand to get to top dead center, and then see how close the timing marks are. If the marks do not line up properly, then the timing belt is worn and needs to be replaced.
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Ford Escort Hard To Start