Q: My 2012 Escape has two problems that are making me crazy because no one can fix them. First is the "check fuel filler" message and the other is a message about a low tire even though all the tires are fine. The low-tire message happens mostly after I've drive for a while.
Can you help with this?
A: Your "check fuel filler" message seems to be a common issue with Ford vehicles using the "easy fill" capless fuel system. Dirt and grime can build up within the sealing area of the spring-loaded ball, resulting in a detectable EVAP system vapor leak.
You didn't mention an illuminated "check engine" light, which is a likely companion symptom. Try irrigating the ball/seal area with perhaps a teaspoon of WD-40 and work the mechanism about 20 times by inserting your emergency fill spout (stored near the spare tire) or a similar round object, then do one more light irrigation. This should help release any debris, restoring proper sealing.
If this fails to do the trick, perhaps repeat the procedure one more time, and then consider having the EVAP system leak-tested by a pro. The EVAP purge valve is another possible culprit and it's an easy DIY test. Follow directions of this YouTube video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ss00nvQKZkQ
The low-tire message is a bit more challenging to figure out. I'd begin by second-guessing the tire pressure gauge used to confirm the tires are OK. Accuracy can vary quite a bit with inexpensive tire gauges. It's odd you receive the low-tire message after driving a while because tire pressure typically increases about 1 psi per 10 degrees rise in tire temperature, and an incorrect sensor reading should be picked up soon after they report in, upon vehicle movement.
Your tire pressure sensors contain batteries which are supposed to last approximately 10 years or 150,000 miles. Ford's commendably thorough TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) service information indicates erratic sensor operation can occur as the internal batteries begin to wear out. Conversely, it's unfortunate that the Escape's instrument panel message center doesn't indicate which tire is the culprit!
Additional causes include possible radio frequency interference from an aftermarket security system or cell phone charger. The phone charger angle sounds interesting, as the RFI emitted can vary with phone battery status. Perhaps you can try driving for several days with no charger attached, as a test.
Detailed TPMS testing can be performed using a professional grade scan tool, at either the dealer or a heads-up independent repair shop, which may be the needed tack if the above suggestions don't pan out.
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Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Monterey Peninsula College. Readers can contact him by email at email@example.com. Personal replies are attempted. An archive of past columns and additional consumer automotive information can be found at www.bradsautoadvice.com.
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