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
If there's not enough coolant, what little there is down in the engine will
as there's not enough circulating to cool the engine properly, and the gauge
show that (usually).
Since the heater core is basically a very small radiator inside the dashboard
a fan blowing through it, when the coolant gets very low, the heater will be
air instead of hot coolant, and your frost-bitten fingers will show that too
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
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
around town, and/or to the mechanic, who will hopefully find just a small leak
somewhere, and not the head gaskets blown yet again.
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.
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