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Old 04-29-2009, 12:34   #1 (permalink)
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confused 2002 Taurus-cutting off, no pick-up, bad gas mileage

Help! Car's in the shop right now!!

If I were your daughter, what would be your advice (other than you probably would have bought me a better car! LOL) in the following situation: Read the whole thing, though, because it's 3 different days/issues)

!. Just bought used 2002 Taurus ses - 134k miles - turned on AC while stopped at light & the car cut off but started back up. But then it cuts off while idling too though, but not every time. Also "Low coolant" light is on but fluid level is actually okay. Today I was "flooring" it while getting on the expressway and it wouldn't go faster than 50 - has no pickup. It eventually sped up after I let my foot up off gas and it sounded like it "changed" gears. Has no pickup. Mostly, it is "drinking" gas!

2. I took my car to my mechanic who says I have a "bad vacuum leak" and it's causing my troubles - the lack of pick up, cutting off, drinking gas, running rough - once the hose is replaced and he checks for any other tiny leaks (by running some dye or something through it???) I should be good to go.

3. NOT! After I picked it up, it was okay for about 30 minutes! Then it started making a horrible noise and was letting off some awful fumes - I took it right back! Now they say it's the catalytic converter - They said not only were there tiny vacuum leaks but the ETR (?) is melting - they tried to replace it and it was so hot that it started melting that one. So now they say the "emissions tube" may be severely clogged and it would be best to replace the catalytic converter. (To the tune of about $500!)

Does this sound right or logical? I looked up catalytic converters on the "How stuff Works" website, as well as a few prices - they seem to run from $230 to $476 online. (Before they order one - if that's what they're gonna do - I want the best price!)

The best I can tell is - shouldn't they check to see if it's clogged? Can't they just unclog it? I realize it's underneath the car and somewhere between the engine and the muffler on the passenger side - if some tube or hose is getting so hot that it's melting stuff under the hood, why don't they just replace the part that's clogged?

I am trying to learn all I can so I am not taken advantage of! Please help! Please "school me"
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Old 04-29-2009, 18:15   #2 (permalink)
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Re: 2002 Taurus-cutting off, no pick-up, bad gas mileage

1. Replace the TPS & IAC sensors (throttle position sensor and idle air controller) They're located around the throttle body. This should smooth out on road and idle performance.

2. I imagine he fixed the vac leaks. UV dye is used a lot to check for leaks. However, this is mostly used for fluids, not for vac leaks. Vac leaks can be checked by either a propane torch (the engine will race if there's a leak).

3. EGR valve is emission related. "Exhaust Gas Recirculation" meaning it allows combustion of exhaust gas that still contained some fuel, which therefor lowers emissions. The cat converter generally lasts 120K. So it's a good possibility yours is shot. A lot of times the exhaust will smell like rotten eggs, or worse.

The cat converter reduces NOx emissions. Inside is a tightly woven honeycomb mesh that is electrically charged (not with direct current). Once the mesh clogs up (generally this will happen fairly fast, in about 1K) the converter has to be replaced. Depending on emissions testing in your area, if they don't test tailpipe emissions directly, you can cut off the cat, cut a hole in the top and pull the crap out and then reinstall with the cut-out facing up so no one sees that you gutted the converter. Another way to tell (doesn't always work) is to hit the converter firmly. If you hear anything rattling around, then it needs to be replaced.

The EGR is a somewhat of a complicated piece of equipment and replacement costs can vary. A clog isn't totally uncommon if dirt enters the vacuum system. Replacing the PCV valve would be another recommendation. It'll only run about $20 installed (It's a $6 part).

The mechanics seem to be right. I'm no mechanic by any means, shade-tree at best. However, you don't have to go with the parts they want to sell you either. You can shop around elsewhere for the parts and get them, or someone else to install them at a lower price.

Car-Part.com--Used Auto Parts Market is a good resource tool to find salvage parts in your area. With any luck you'll be able to find a crashed car with 30K on it and the shop may be willing to sell the cat for as little as $100 plus installation.
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Old 05-02-2009, 19:42   #3 (permalink)
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cool Re: 2002 Taurus-cutting off, no pick-up, bad gas mileage

A bad cat will cause a hissing noise similar to a vacuum leak, but a little different. When a cat. gets clogged, it's like trying to breath through a straw. It's as if you can't exhale. You can't un-clog cats, you have to replace them. The cats. can also meltdown internally, the catalyst breaks apart, and depending how it breaks down can potentialy get loose and block off the outlet that goes to the muffler. Cats. typically break down from an underlying engine performance issue. Got a skip or misfire??? This can dump unburned fuel into the cat in excessive amounts (a cat is designed to convert unburned fuel into clean emissions, but too much can cause the cat to overheat and meltdown). If the cat is plugged, the rest of the exhaust system heats up, and can cause the DPFE EGR sensor (EGR pressure sensor)to potentialy melt as described.
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