I rather stiupidly bought as '95 Ford Windstar 3.8 without doing my homework
on theis vehicle.
About 1000 miles later, the engine self-destructed,
and I learned too late that the 3.8 engine has a history of head gaskets
allowing coolant to leak
into the engine oil.
I figure that selling the vehicle "as is" won't get me much more than junk
price, although the Windstar is is good condition other than that wretched
I'd like to replace the bad engine with a used one, but I'm afraid I'll get
one not much better than the original. Wrecking yards generally offer a
30-60 day warranty, but I'd still be stuck for the labor involved in the
I'm considering that. My original purpose had been to get myself home from
Amarillo, Tx to San Antonio about 500 miles away . I planned to use the
vehicle a while because I couldn't use my left leg very well to operate the
clutch on my stick-shift truck, since I had broken my hip on the visit to
Amarillo. Then I planned to sell the Windstar with the hope of recovering
most of what I had spent.
It got me home with no trouble at all - no overheating, no problem with oil
pressure, no oil consumption or any evidence of water in the oil.
Then three days later, I got a godawful knocking in the engine that seems
to be bearing trouble as far as I or anyone else can figure out.
They're 500 miles away and the vehicle was sold with no warranty ot
Well look on the bright side: If you get a rebuilt engine that is rebuilt
properly, you should be able to use the van for about 50,000 mi without any
major engine problems until it dies a happy death. I am guessing that there
are lots of miles on this van (like 100,00), so you might run into
electronic, electrical or transmission problems.
The other thing I would wonder is if you can write this off as a loss on
your taxes You might be able to sell the van, subtract the depreciation for
the age of the van (e.g., 10 years 4 weeks versus 10 year 3 weeks) and the
thousand miles you put on the van. If you can do this, this might be the
easiet way out. Then this would count as a capital loss. This would be
easiest if you are a dealer (i.e, have a dealer's license). Then you could
even sell it when you get a new or rebuilt engine, and deduct any loss from
Or maybe if you "accidently" let it run down the hill behind your house into
the woods (where there is no one around)... Oh nevermind.
You did not heed the warnings signs did you?
Sweet smell of exhaust? white vapor out of exhaust?
Check engine light? Low coolant? temp gauge fluctuating?
With a 3.8, these were the warning signs. Then you could have
just got a head job rather than a different motor.
A junkyard motor is a crap shoot any way you look at it.
Even if they start it and it runs, there is no guarantee that
the head gaskets are 100%. Plus they have no past engine history
when they buy them from the salvage pool. Assuming its a lower mileage
unit, about all you can do is check the oil for contamination and check
the plugs to see if any of them are clean from water leakage from a
bad head gasket. Or look for a rebuilder tag and hope for the best.
Or do a preemptive strike and have new gaskets put on before your
You could buy a crate motor, but with installation that would cost more
than your van is worth.
Actually, on a 3.8 by the time you see, much less recognise the
warning signs, it can already be too late.
As little as a couple ounces of coolant inthe oil can destroy that
And after replacing the head gaskets etc, the engine has a knock in it
and you STILL need to replace it.
Or you find the front cover gasket is leaking, in which case there is
NO sweet smelling exhaust, no steam, no check engine light, and no
And so little antifreeze in the oil it is easy to miss - yet enough
glycol to have damaged the bearings.
The only route that makes sense
Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and get out while the
getting is good------.
As Phil Edmunston so elequently put the question - "Can Ford survive
Well, if it was knocking at the point you pulled the heads it would be
a moot point. Bottom end failing. But if you caught the symptoms early
enough and had no knock, its worth a shot. Guarantees? none.
All very possible
I like windstars. Its sad that the whole 3.8 issues trashes a lot
if them. ITs too bas that there is not a antifreeze sensor that can be
put in with the oil pressure sensor to give an instant indication of
You are right - absolutely no guarantees, because the bearings can
start knocking anytime from a couple hours to a couple weeks after the
glycol contaminates them. Changing the oil, or flushing the engine
does not seem to be an effective prevention. Once the glycol has hit
the bearings there is a very high probability of engine failure - and
replacing rod bearings and mains does not fix the knock - not sure if
it takes out the wrist pin bushings as well, or cam bearings, - but
once it starts to knock anything short of a total overhaul is just
throwing good money after bad.
Apparently Ford has bearings available that are less succeptible to
glycol damage - but I wouldn't put much stock in them either.
Possibly running synthetic oil would be advantageous, along with
silicate free antifreeze. But putting it in after the fact is like
locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.
They did use 3.0's on some latter model windstars.
But all the plumbing is different as well as the computer.
Unfortunately, not a practical swap. If you had a complete donor
windstar with all wiring, plumbing and computer it might be possible.
You would have to be a glutton for punishment to do it.
Hi I had the same problem. Just get the original rebuilt. You will get a 1
year warranty and peace of mind. These motors also like to leak antifreeze
from the front timing cover. The motor from the wrekers will not tell untill
you put it in. By tyhe time you do these you could of spent enough money for
rebuild. Make sure when you put the motor in you have the trans main seal
renewed. Also when your done the rebuid take out your Mass air unit and
clean it. That will stop most of your pinging. Hope this helps. If you
scrimp on money you pay later. These are a very good van other than the
motor and trans. Also the trans has two sensors which can go bad when
changing the motor get a new VSS sensor on trans replaced.
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