sweet smell of antifreeze, yumm!

the other freezing cold day I started the 99 windstar 110k miles and stood behind it loading grocerys and smelt the delicous odor of antifreeze. The
coolant level was below the line on the resevoir and it never has been before. I'm going to mark where its at with a sharpee and keep an eye on it.
Assuming it does go down is head gasket the only option or could there be a less expensive failure somewhere? How big of a job is the head gasket on this van? I've done a head gasket on a 1.5 liter VW diesel and just recently did this
http://redcatmedia.com/pete/stuff/web/Jan%2007%20001s.jpg to my chrysler 318 for new cam/timing chain and a bunch of other crap as I said well since I've already got this off....
And I was thinking if I was going to do the head gasket maybe I'd be best off just rebuilding it? And since the van runs just fine still maybe even get a salvage yard 3.8 rebuild it and cut down on down time. I'm guessing this is the same engine thats in the v6 Mustang but looking at Fords specs the Windstars actually has a higher HP and torque rating so I'd be better off with another Windstar engine and maybe the yards charge less because the Windstar dosnt have any cool factor.
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I had a buddy that bought a Windstar (99 I think as well). It had been parked for almost a year when he picked it up. The original owner thought the head gaskets had gone due to antifreeze getting low, but my buddy found out that the intake manifold gaskets are well known for leaking coolant into the intake, thus burning it, and hence you smell it at the tailpipe.
I will tell you, FIX THIS FAST, antifreeze does nice things to 02 sensors and you dont want to have to replace all of them. I have heard, but not checked, that there are 4 of them on the Windstars.
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is there any external sign of a leaking intake? if not the only thing to do would be replace it right?

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Nope no external signs of leaking because the vacuum on the intake will pull any seepage down into the cylinders. Something you might be able to do is pull the breather hose off the intake, open the throttle body (engine off), and see if you can smell antifreeze in the intake. I say might, because the reason you can smell it readily out the tailpipe is because its vaporized, but it wont be in the intake.
Look at it this way, if you think you have a bad head gasket, then you have to pull the intake anyway right? So I would pull the intake, GENTLY, and do a very careful inspection of the gaskets (need good lighting from flourescent lamps if possible). If you can find the water leaking in there, then hey you dont have to pull heads and your job just got alot easier and cheaper.
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do I need to pull both the metal and plastic intake to inspect? and if I do the intake gasket do I need the kit to do upper and lower gaskets? I did the oil leak TSB so I have replaced the uppers gasket and if I remember it was a rubber gasket that should still be fine.

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Yes to both, the one that leaks is the lower one, cause it mates with the heads. You might be able to re-use the upper intakes rubber gaskets, just depends on how long ago the repair was performed and whether or not the gaskets have taken the shape of the manifolds meshing together..
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