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OT - Car experts, she's runnin' hot?

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I drove my mom's '96 Ford Taurus. Forever, the 'check engine' light has been stuck ON... repairman said it wouldn't go off. I mean, for years it's been ON. Anyway, I noticed the engine was kind of missing. And the Check Engine light blinked off and on. It finally just stayed ON.


I noticed the temp gauga ran slightly hotter than it usually does. I watched it closely. It did not remain steady, it wavered slowly in a range. Occasionally, it spiked up a bit.


I drove 30 miles, checked the water. Where you add water/coolant, it was kind of cycling, letting a tiny bit of steam escape off and on. In other words, it appeared to be running a tad hot to me. Not bad, but a little bit.


The fluid in the container had a green tint to it, so, I guess it had enough coolant in it.


Couple of years ago, she had a radiator problem and they did a radiator repair of some sort. This past winter, she had a heater coil repair. I think they had to put new coolant in then?


Any idea what could this be? I don't trust it. I added about 2/3 gal water to it. I also note it's low a quart of oil. She does change oil regularly but the car does have 120k miles.

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Yeah but I don't trust that light as it's been screwball for years. Although, I do think something 'happened' because the car seemed to running a bit rough from startup when that light began blinking. Just wondering if anyone had an idea. In the old days, a thermostat would go bad. Water pump. Someone who knows a lot might have a good idea. Or not.

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Any steam in the exhaust, or maple syrup smell?


Any chocolate milkshake on the dipstick?


Top off the fluids, first, including the oil. Oil is a lubricant, but it's also a coolant. Topping off the engine coolant may take a few warmup/cooldowns to do, due to the reclaimation system and closed cooling system.


Check the usuals... belts, hoses, radiator cap, etc. Pressure loss allows the water to boil and it doesn't pull the heat out of the engine as efficiently. Check or replace the thermostat if it's handy.


Sometimes when it's running hot, turn on the heater. Does it blow hot air, or lukewarm air? If it's likewarm then either there's a blockage somewhere (thermostat is first bet) or it is otherwise just not cycling. Does it return to a more normal temperature if you let the heater run for a lil bit?



Dr. Seuss: The Original White Rapper



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my money says the radiator core is failing or in need of repair. this happens. on a 9 year old car it could happen easily enough especially if the coolant wasnt changed every couple years.


you say it had a greenish tint, thats the old school coolant and it lasts a year or 2. the new stuff is orange and it lasts five years. you should not mix them although nothing horribloe will happen - most likely.


when you have a proper mixture of coolant it will look quite green, not a just tint of green. same with the orange.


common belief is 50/50 mix is best, but around my climate its not uncommon for 70/30 or 60/40. it gets damn cold here, and improper coolant will freeze.


reverse-flush the rad or have it done by someone who know what to look for. if brown stuff comes out, or the water doesnt gush out quickly, you got problems.


it could also be a water pump beginning to fail, but i doubt it from what you deacribe.

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They can check the "computer" to see what is triggering the light. Dealers have this capability. Sometimes it can be a simple ECR valve. It can also be a dirty air filter. Or a marginal plug wire.


It's best to start looking for things after a tune-up. Change the plugs, oil, and all of the filters. And verify the timings and such are checked.

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Ford automobiles, change the thermostat (sp) every two years whether it needs it or not. Two things can be causing the "Check Engine Light". One is the MAF, or Mass air Flow" sensor. It has a funny screw in it, but if you break off the little tit in the middle, a standard torx will fit. You can clean the MAF sensor, you will see it when you remove the assembly. The wires are tinyier than any wire I ever seen and look quite easy to break, so be extra, extra careful. Just use any standard non corrsive solvent to clean all the soot off. Again, don't brake the wires or you will be really sorry. If you have to replace the MAF you have to hook the car up to a computer that the dealer will charge something like $400.00 bucks or more plus the cost of a new MAF which is in the neighborhood of around $100.00. The other reason the light could be on the the gas cap. Replace the gas cap with a new one, if the light don't go out within two days then go after the MAF cleaning. Slowly

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I think you have to look at it. Even then, it's hard to tell if it is working. I would just replace it. In most domestic cars, it is housed in a bubble- shaped fitting, about 2" in diameter with a hose attached. I think it is usually on top, or near the top of the radiator. The ones I've seen look like a little miniature flying saucer...
Yes, there's bass in the caR-R-R-R-R
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Take the thing to a qualified auto repair shop and have them do the diagnostics on it, including the check engine light problem. There ain't a shade tree'er out there that can diagnose electronic problems, they by get lucky with the first part they replace, but not often.

There are a miriad reasons why the check engine light comes on. They don't just come on, they come on because something failed, at least temporarily.

You should be able to get the thing diagnosed for about an hour's worth of labor and then if you have the thing repaired by that same shop on the same day, they will usually discount the diagnosis or even throw it in, depending on how much time is involved in the diagnosis.


You normally don't save money shade treeing it on computer controlled car engine problems. When you figure in your time screwing with the car, making calls, asking for help here, driving to the parts store and back, installing the part, finding out it was not the problem and then going through the whole damned thing again, over and over, you'll easily spend more than a qualified shop will charge to diagnose and repair the thing in the first place.



Oh, that's probably the 3.0 liter standard v-6 in it. There are no real issues with them as far as the cooling system goes, though if I remember right, there was a hose recall, but that was much to long ago to still be in effect because the hoses should have been replace on that car at least twice since it was new, along with a correct coolant fill and serpentine belts. I belive that had two...


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"When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it." The Duke...

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Get your own little computer reader thingie for cars..




Yuo coudl also install a simple temp guage and answer the 'is it really running hot' question.


If it is the head gasket, you will likely see foam or white residue in the oil when you check it. It the head warped as a result of overheating, it ain't a cheap repair. The head has to be milled or replaced ( basically, flattened, ala' a truss rod /neck straigtening type of thing), then the gaskter have to be replaced to seal the pressure, which keeps the coolant in, and the coolant disaapates heat and keeps the motor happy. If you have the white residue/foam and it is NOT a head gasket related thing, yuo may have a cracked engine block. Bad news, not worth repalcing based on the resale value of Fords..


or, scratch all above and take it to a dealer for $100 and find out the real poop before mom ends up in B.F.E. S.O.L. from her SON not fixing the CAR when it was runnign HOT.



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The appearance of white sludge does not automatically mean that the head/head gasket is toast especially in a Ford. My car, a 92 Tempo, has this problem every winter. Its common in these cars and I believe the same holds true for the Taurus as well.


Your MAF sensor being coated with carbon could definitely cause the "service engine light" to come on intermittently. Ive had that problem: Q-Tips and isopropyl alcohol work wonderfully to correct this. The light could also come on due to a faulty temp or oxygen sensor.


Per your overheating issue, Id start with testing the electric fan (had that problem, too). First thing to do: with the engine cold, turn the fan by hand to make sure it rotates freely and that there are no strange noises coming from the fan motor housing.


Next, take the car out for a drive on a hot day, bring it home, pop the hood & let it idle. Turn on your air conditioner (if so equipped) & pay close attention to your temp gauge, while monitoring the fan. The fan should come on within 5 to 10 minutes. If it doesnt, check your fuses. If fuses are good, trace the wiring coming out of the fan to make sure there are no broken connections.


If everything looks okay, enlist the services of a mechanically/electronically inclined friend to help you hook the fan directly to the battery. If the fan is dead, replace it.


The radiator could be the culprit, but it really does sound like a fan issue to me. As far as the water pump is concerned, when Ford water pumps go bad, they tend to spew coolant everywhere.


As far as the motor being low on oil, check the underside of the motor for leaks. A properly cared for engine shouldn't be using that much oil at 120,000 (and it sounds like the car IS well taken care of). I have 150,000 on my car and it uses no oil between changes.



Hope this helps. :wave:

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On my Taurus, after putting in a new radiator & water pump, it took a MONTH of topping off the antifreeze before the temperature readings would stay stable. I suspect the engine has a lot of air pockets in the water jacket.


If your Taurus is anything like mine, it is a mess electrically. My 'check engine' light goes on and off sporadically all the time. The 'Air Bag' light flashes codes at me each time it rains (3 flashes, 5 flashes, pause, repeat). The oil pressure light flickers whenever it's idling and in gear.


The local Ford dealer looked at it, charged me $78

for vacuuming the interior, and said the computer codes did not indicate any faults. But they said they'd be happy to make it all better for a $650 'tune up'. Seems like a lot of money to fix a problem I supposedly don't have....


Anyway, I came up with a workable solution: Get some black plastic electricians tape, and use it to cover up all the lights that bother you. May not work for everybody, but it's been doing just fine for my problems for the last 3 years. And it cost a lot less than $650.

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I just went through the same thing with an S-10 Blazer. Same temp guage problem; wavering all over; readings above 212, then pegged, then back to normal(140). You could actually see the needle move. I did all the above things, and it turned out to be the oxygen sensor. Normal engine heat had bared the connecting wire, allowing it to short intermittantly. Replaced the sensor($25), and no problem since. A repair shop diagnosed it, and the whole job was around $100. Good luck, Paul
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Thermostat valve, it's there to keep circulation from happening as an engine warms up.


It's a tempered spring with a rubber and metal valve, which expands to open as the engine tempertaure rises. If it's old and stiuck, in can cause poor flow of coolant.


Also check the hoses to see if either or some are collapsed inside, many are double walled.


If you've many bugs in the area and drive at night, it's possible you have too many stuck in the radiator, you can remove them by using an air nozzle and blowing them out from the engine compartment side of the radiator.


Also, depending on the age of the engine (motors use electricity), you might consider a backflush of the radiator and fluid.


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Everthing I know about cars, I learned from Guitar Player magazine....

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