97 Taurus running like crap

My wife's 97 Taurus is running like total crap. Right after we bought it, it would overheat at idle, so flushed out the system, (and, I guess, the stop
leak as well), replaced the thermostat and hoses and the radiator sprang a leak, so I replaced that too. Then the transmission went and it spent two weeks in the shop getting fixed under warranty. Then, it acted like it was starving for fuel. I found an O2 sensor connector that the trans shop didn't re-connect, but that didn't fix it. So, based on the codes and some advice, I replaced the fuel filter and the pressure regulator and ran fuel injector cleaner through it. That not only didn't fix it, but the car started chugging like a steam locomotive. So, I replaced the plugs and wires and that not only didn't fix it, but it started backfiring out the exhaust like a shotgun. So, I cleaned up all the ground points and connectors (more advice) and it not only didn't fix it, but the speedometer stopped working and the transmission wouldn't come out of first gear, so (kicking the car hard enough to put several dents in it) I replaced the VSS which did actually fix the speedo and tranny.
I am at a loss. Can anyone help me? My only thought is to kick the car some more. After all, it worked before.
All of my symptoms are: Hesitation & stumbling when you hit the gas Misfire like a cylinder's gone. Severe misfiring and exhaust backfire on acceleration or while under load. Sometimes surging idle, sometimes loping like a dragster, never smooth Car surges unexpectedly under acceleration (power output flucuates)
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CEL on ???????
If not, it's usually dirt related, clean MAF sensor
Spray water on coil pack with squirt bottle, if possible at night in dark ,and look for leaking coil pack
Did you cross-wire it ???
Check for vacuum leaks
Double check grounds
good luck

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I'll try cleaning the MAF sensor, thanks.
I have already sprayed the whole ignition system down with water and didn't see any shorts, but I'm planning on pulling the plugs Sunday morning and pulling the codes again to see if there is anything new.
Yes, the CEL is on and flashing, but the codes are only O2 sensor codes (which can be caused by almost anything) and are contradicting each other. I get a code for an O2 sensor being rich and a code for the same sensor being lean. All the codes deal with the rear bank of cylinders.
The last time I pulled the codes the CEL wasn't flashing, so I'm hoping there is something new to point me in the right direction. I also found Ford shop CD's available for free. I'll put that in a new post.
johanb wrote:

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check all plug wires & plugs if broke or cracked will cause a direct short but from what you said it sounds like electric as in bad / cracked dist.cap or coil . all electric connections
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It no longer matters.
I limped it to a Dodge dealer and traded it for a Neon.
They gave me $500 for it.
Good Riddance
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Russell King wrote:

You could have got at least a $1000 for it as is if you would have tried to sell it "as is" private party. But i guess your pain is over now......... Just say Hemi three times and take a aspirin.
Bob
-
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Bob Urz wrote:

The $500.00 difference isn't really a big deal in order to avoid the hassle of selling, the huge problem now is that he's stuck w/ one of those buzzy little Neons.
Rob
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