One mechanic says I need a new head gasket, another doesn't think so.
What's your advice?
Situation: 99 Taurus wagon, 3.0 type u engine, 173000 miles. Engine
consumes about 12 oz of coolant daily though no leaks are observed.
There are no bubbles in the coolant tank. The manifold vacuum reads
steady 17+ at idle. Besides using coolant, the engine smells hot,
like buning oil, after a short drive. The engine runs good but,
recently, has bugun to miss a little when first started. Check engine
light was on yesterday and the code indicated missfire on cylinder
one. About 80k since tune-up.
Find a mechanic that has the equipment to test for exhaust gases in
Find a mechanic that knows how to use a coolant system pressure
Look for white residue around all the hose fittings.
Any chance the water pump is leaking? Check the weep hole for
The misfire when cold is a bad sign.
How much do you love the car and how much are you willing to put in
it, how much have you recently put in it. It does sound a bit like a
leaking head gasket that might be sealing up when it's warmed up. It
could also be weak plugs/wires but lets assume your mechanic has
already ruled out the simple stuff.
If I was hoping to avoid major expense and just see how long I could
keep it on the road I would do what I did last time I had a car like
this (Toyota Tercel with bad head gasket)... get a can of the magic
head gasket repair stuff from the auto parts store. The kind where
the instructions say to THROUGHLY flush out all the old antifreeze
first. I used that stuff in a Toyota and halfway thru the treatment
the engine, that had been running like crap continually for months,
smoothed out like a new engine. The transmission went belly up a
couple months later. Maybe it was a fluke for a Toyota but at 113K
miles to have the engine and tranny both give out so soon did not
endear me to the legendary Toyota quality but the performance of the
head gasket repair in a can did convince me that at least sometimes
the stuff can actually work. For how long, ????? At the price, you
can always do a second treatment in 6 months.
I like your answer the best... a 12 year old car with 173,000 miles on it.
This car has every chance of turning into a money pit....
For a DIYer that doesn't mind getting stranded the odd time, it's probably
OK.... but for me to suggest a repair from a professional standpoint? There
just isn't anything attractive to say. Patch fixing something like this
could have a shop "marrying" the car...
Actually... our shop is in a smallish town... I've lived here since the
early 80s and I know many of my customers as friends and neighbours.
It isn't about turning a customer into a money pit... it IS about either
fixing it right today... or fixing it for free next week.
Always amusing is the mental picture you Americans paint - you make it seem
like the US is a land where everyone is busy bending everyone else over a
desk - ass raping each others wallets in the process.
Actually, I was implying that the person with the 12-year old car will
need a lot of repairs. The repairs will generate enough honest profits
for the shop to pay for some boat payments.
However, there are a lot of dishonest repair shops and a lot of honest
ones, too, in the states.
Well, the wifes car is14 now and any mechanic would strarve on it's
repairs. It needs some ABS work right now, and it needed a vacuum hose
replaced along with intake manifold gaskets about 6 years ago. It had
a engine mount problem and lower control arms about 5? years ago, as
well as a A/C accumulator/drier and a couple of brake lines - all over
3 years ago. It's a miserable heap to work on - but a lot less trouble
than some much newer cars I know of. And its a FORD.
Other than that it's had it's share of electrical gremlins - bad
connections that I just solder up now instead of trying to get the
connectors repaired.. Over the last 10 years I've likely spent 5 0r
six months payments on a new cheap car in maintenance and repairs.
It's not the kind of thing I'd expect a shop to recommend for a lot of
reasons and I don't blame them. Some of these kind of DIY shortcuts
are fun experiments as long as you can live with the car breaking down
again at some unknown place and time.
Gen 3 Taurus have a known problem with this. I will bet your degass
bottle has brown crud in it. There is a Factory TSB on flushing out
I would pull the heads off and take them to a machine shop and have
them redone and checked for cracks. You might want to do the chemical
flush before pulling the old heads off. get new head bolts too.
Now, its not uncommon to have the heater core bypass hose spring a leak
also. Mine was leaking at the T fitting on passenger side. Get the car
good and hot and turn it off. Then open the head and listen carefully
for any hissing noises or such. Thats how i found my leak.
While your at it, change the water pump. You can also flush out the
block pretty good by sticking a garden hose with nosel inside the water
pump passages with the water pump off. Run water into both holes until
its all clear. back flush the heater core too while your at it.
The #1 cylinder is the one most commonly affected by a leaky
head gasket. The plug may appear to be unusually clean
because of the coolant.
You should know that they start as a small problem like you
describe but, usually fail near catastrophically if allow to
continue. You are probably already getting cool;ant into
the oil which results in eventual bearing failure if allowed
to continue. The O2 sensor is another frequent failure.
The O2 sensor and bearing damage is not always apparent
until the head gasgets are replaced and the vehicle driven a
If you suspect head gasket failure, you should get it
checked properly and pronto by a good shop. An pre-emptive
repair may allow you to continue driving the car for many
miles without further problems. The longer you wait, the
greater the chance it will not be successfully repaired for
the long term. If it is a high mileage beater with little
value, drive it til it croaks.
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