Temperature gauge on high - cold air from vents - likely cause?

OK, let me start by saying I know little about cars and am hoping I can get an answer here tonight before taking my wife's car to the mechanic in the morning.
My wife has a 1993 Ford Taurus wagon (3.8L V6). She mentioned that when she was driving it this morning (for about 20 minutes round-trip on local roads in 15 degree weather), the temperature gauge went up to high. Yesterday when I was driving the car, I noticed that I was getting cold air out of the vents even though the temperature was at the mid-point. Only after driving the car for several more minutes did I get warm air coming out (I will confess, I did not notice the temperature gauge at this point). And my wife did not try the heat today when the reading was on high (I wonder if running the fan would have helped alleviate the heat reading?).
Several years ago, the head gasket on this car blew, and the temperature gauge reading had obviously been high before that as well. I'm assuming that the lack of warm air out of the vents is probably related to the temperature reading this time, but I know so little about cars that I don't know what the problem is. My main question is, how safe is the car to drive for 10-15 minute trips until we can get it fixed? The last thing I want to do is blow the head gasket again. I did not get to check the coolant so I don't know if that is an issue or not, but I'm thinking the cold air out of the vents was somehow related and not the coolant (but of course my knowledge of such things is very limited).
Thanks.. Bill
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that sucker up and fill the leak before you need another head gasket.
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"Bill Rubin" wrote

If there's not enough coolant, what little there is down in the engine will overheat, as there's not enough circulating to cool the engine properly, and the gauge will show that (usually).
Since the heater core is basically a very small radiator inside the dashboard with a fan blowing through it, when the coolant gets very low, the heater will be full of air instead of hot coolant, and your frost-bitten fingers will show that too (usually).
With the engine cool, open the radiator cap, look inside, say "Gee, the coolant sure is low... I can't even see it!", then fill it up, put the cap back on, and put some more coolant in the reservoir on the right fender. Run it for a few minutes, turn it off, let it cool a bit, then check the coolant level again. You may need to do this a few times to work the air out of the system to a point where you can safely drive it around town, and/or to the mechanic, who will hopefully find just a small leak somewhere, and not the head gaskets blown yet again.
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to late. you already have a blown head gasket. the warning signs are high temp, low cooolant level,rough running , and no heat
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Falcoon wrote:

Well, my wife took it to the mechanic this morning (whose first comment was "are you still driving that POS"), and he checked the coolant and he said it looked ok. He didn't have time to put it up on the lift, told her to come back tomorrow if it happens again. Also, while I did not have heat at the point I expected to, I did have it eventually (although she didn't try it yesterday). She's only going to be driving 5 minutes each way to and from work today, so I'm sure it will be ok for now.
I found out after having the head gasket repaired the first time that this is apparently a known problem on the 1993 3.8L V6 engine, and on the 94 models (which I was told were the same engine) they actually covered this repair out of warranty. Fortunately, I have an unlimited mileage extended warranty with Geico ($250 ded) so it wasn't all that painful the first time (other than all the white smoke coming out from the hood while I drove it home). They've also paid for a new transmission and various other things.
Bill
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My '98 did the same thing; caused by a failed water pump, which circulates the water, leading to a blown head gasket. A failed thermostat will also cause the water not to circulate.

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