92 Taurus GL Wagon smoking, engine still warm after 4 hours

Hi all,
I've had a '92 Taurus GL Wagon for about 10 blissful years, but today after a quick trip to the store, white smoke started coming out from under the hood
after what sounded like a loud grinding along with a sparking/sizzling sound.
This happened while I was idling in the parking lot before heading home. The car had been running maybe three minutes, with the windshield defogger on. I turned the car off immediately, popped the hood and smelled something burning. There was an oily/wet look to the lower left hand corner of the engine, where the yellow P/S tank is (I say tank, I really have no idea what it is, the reservoir?). I checked the coolant and oil levels, tightened the P/S cap and took the chance to wait a while and drive home.
While the "spitting" and smoking didn't start again, the engine is still warm to the touch after four hours. The drive to and from the store is only about a mile and the car rarely gets that hot.
So what could this be? I've never been to any of my local garages other than for emissions inspections and am officially piss poor at the moment*, so I have to be careful what I'm doing here.
I fear getting my hands mangled in the belts, so I probably won't be doing any repairs myself, but I really would appreciate any ideas and help.
Also, in the past ten years I've only had the belts changed once, the oil changed every year (I don't drive much) and the transmission line was changed about two years ago. Nothing, other than the work done by Ford for the recalls, has been done to the car, so any ideas on what I should be getting changed would help too.
DW
*Since new years, I've had a water pipe freeze/burst in my laundry room, the fill line to our furnace deteriorated and had to be replaced, which meant an excavation in the yard, and only last week we spotted termites swarming around a window in the house. Plus I'm paying still off my pet's medical bills and my tuition, while being in a debt consolidation program and my tuition, I need something to go right here. :)
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3.8 L v-6 I'll bet....50 to 60k miles......tell us a little more....but did you check the fluid level in the radiator...not that damn coolant recovery bottle....the radiator itself...do this cold...should be full of anti-freeze/water to the very brim....sounds like over heat condition due to low coolant...could be intake manifold coolant leak...is oil milky...any sign of coolant in oil or oil in radiator...is white smoke coming out of tail pipe after engine runs for more than just a few minutes...and it'd be a real plume of white "smoke"....sorry I can't help anymore but we need a little more information...

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On Mon, 26 Apr 2004 23:59:00 GMT, Patrick Gilmore transmitted this:

3.0L v6.

While the odometer says 29k, I got a Carfax report a while back that had the car at 70k when it was turned in to the dealer I bought it from. The dealership was another interesting story, they've long since gone out of business.

Well, it was our second car up until two years ago, now it's the only car and while I only drive the car on short trips, it gets a beating on the NY roads. As a matter of fact, this past week one side street I have to drive down is getting repaved so it's ripped up at the moment. I'm hoping it might have bounced the P/S reservoir car loose, but I know nothing. :)
When the smoke/noise started yesterday, the check engine light didn't light (the light's working, though, it came on later when I tried to take the keys out while still in drive--I'm great in a crisis. :) )

I didn't last night because the engine was still warm, but today I checked and it was full to the top.

No, the oil's good, I checked that and the coolant looked clean. How do I spot oil in the coolant? I never had the radiator cap off before today, so excuse the newbie. :)

No, just the regular grayish exhaust.

No, you did help, thanks.
I had a friend start the car today while I watched the engine, of course nothing happened for five minutes so while I'm hoping it was only the loose P/S cap, I'll still have the garage check the hoses when I go in for the inspection next week.
DW

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Take it from a ford tech either a heater hose has blown or you've blown your headgaskets. hope for the heater hose if you're piss poor. J
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On Tue, 27 Apr 2004 12:02:37 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@sentco.net transmitted this:

Ouch. Okay, I do hope it's the hose. Would the smoking stop for a while if it was that? Because I ran the car today and didn't see anything leaking or smoking and was able to drive home last night without any problem.
Just making sure, because I'll have the garage look at it, but I want to make sure I tell them the right thing. How long do heater hoses usually have before needing a replacement? This one's been in the car from day one (12 years now).
Thanks, DW
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Hi Dylan, I almost agreed with all of the other posters about possible head gaskets, timing cover gaskets,cooling system blowouts, etc. It,s easy to jump to these conclusions on early 90's Tauri. But your description of the noise, the "smoke", full cooling system and lack of being able to reproduce the problem caused me to think of another distinct possibility. The car was parked , idling, with the defroster running, after driving x miles to the store. There is an oily area in the left front of the engine compartment. If the cooling fan is not functioning the AC system, which runs in Defrost mode, may have over pressured and vented, thus the horrible noise, smoke (oil vapor), and oily area. Cars after about 2002-03 had R134A refrigerant and no atmospheric vent. Your 92 has R-12 and a relief valve in the compressor. Check to see if your cooling fan is operating correctly. It should come on before the engine overheats while idling or ANY time the AC is running. IIRC the fan will cycle with the compressor (it's been a while since I worked on a 92, so it may run all of the time). The cataclysm you saw may have been only the AC system protecting itself, and for all of it's noise and smoke is harmless, although if the fan is not working you need to find out why ASAP. That can lead to all of the other problems previously mentioned.                 Good Luck, Tom

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On Thu, 29 Apr 2004 04:11:24 GMT, Ohio Tom transmitted this:

Thanks Tom, the air coming from the A/C was warm before I switched it over to the defogger, I know I even checked to see if the temp. dial was over to the heating side. Makes sense, and I didn't run the car with the A/C or defogger on after that.
I'll see if I can run the A/C, if it happens again I may get a better idea of what's up.
DW

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On Thu, 29 Apr 2004 04:11:24 GMT, Ohio Tom transmitted this:

Hi Tom,
Just wanted to let you know that it is the Air Conditioning system, it happened again today and I went straight to the garage with it. They said it was letting off pressure and that the cooling fan itself was okay. Only problem is that my local garage doesn't service the pre-1994 Taurus systems anymore.
So my new question is about how much should a repair cost, I know it could be a range of things, but I'm just trying to get an idea. Also, would I be better off upgrading to the R134 system now rather than fixing the R12? I know either way I'll be driving around with the windows down for a while until I save up for it.
Thanks again, DW
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