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Old 12-26-2008, 12:46   #1 (permalink)
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2001 Ford Taurus SE - Coolant Leak/Engine Steaming/Overheating

Greetings Ford Owners/Enthusiasts,

I have an 01 Ford Taurus SE with ~90,500 miles. For the past month and a half I've had heating issues where the heat will only be hot once in a while (usually when running the car on the highway or after extended driving). Last week I began to notice the smell of antifreeze and steam coming off of the engine in the proximity of the coolant reservoir, as well as excessive exhaust coming out of the tailpipe...this was after about 20 minutes of driving in stop and go traffic over the course of 5 miles on a cold morning. The same issue arose at night driving home from work the same day - I made it about two miles and the same problem occurred - engine overheating while steam comes off of the passenger's side of the engine. I checked my coolant tank and the level was low, so I added a 50/50 mix. I noticed that some coolant appeared to be leaking under the car.

My question is this - could my problem be stemming from a blown head gasket, damaged heater core, or simply a leak in or near the coolant reservoir? I know that there are several possibilities here, but what seems most likely given my situation? Also, on 2 or 3 occasions, I have accelerated and felt somewhat of a skip in my engine - I have read that coolant leaking into a cylinder could cause this.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated - feel free to email me if you have experience with this problem. (nicholas.facchiano@gmail.com)
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Old 12-27-2008, 19:56   #2 (permalink)
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Re: 2001 Ford Taurus SE - Coolant Leak/Engine Steaming/Overheating

First, lets start cheap and easy. Change your thermostat, you can purchase fail safe units that will fail in the closed position, so it'll allow coolant to circulate all the time. I would bet you'd be in need of a head gasket, unfortunately. I had a similar occurance with an older Dodge Spirit. You could hear coolant boiling, but yet the rad was barely warm. The rad cap and T-stat were both good.

Before you start shouting and cursing over the cost of replacing the head gasket, keep an eye on your fluid levels after you change out the T-stat. If you notice coolant in the oil, or oil in the coolant it's a definite sign the head gasket is shot. Also, allowing the engine to overheat for prolonged periods will warp the head. Also, if you have the means, get underneath, clean the car really good and add some infared dye to the coolant. If it leaks, get a UV light and check under and around the engine and you'll know for sure if a leak does exist. If no leak exists, and you have to keep adding fluid, then the engine is burning it up.
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