96 Taurus DOHC misfires, low oil pressure
I am posting because I'm actually having trouble finding a trustworthy mechanic who wants to look at my car. It seems mechanics who are equipped to do diagnostic work are in short supply in Milwaukee.
I have a well maintained 96 Taurus 24v 3L DOHC. About two months ago I received an intermittent low oil pressure light. The oil was not especially low but I added some, just in case. I took the car into my regular shop, and they said there was nothing wrong it. I have monitored the oil level, and it is normal.
About three weeks ago I was coming to a red light and braked as normal. I put the car in park to fiddle around with something, and when the light turned green, I couldn't depress my brake to put it into drive again - the brake pedal was stuck in the up position. So, I turned the car off and back on again, and it struggled to start a bit, which was unusual.
I didn't think much of these oddities, so I got on the freeway. Five miles later, as I am exiting the freeway, my CEL begins to blink and my low oil pressure light comes on. There was very obvious shaking and the vehicle struggled, but I was in a rough stretch of town at night with no phone, so I pushed ahead another mile to my regular shop. There was a lot of engine noise - possibly from the valve train, but I'm not an expert. My battery light was also on by the time I got to the shop, which I guess is from reduced engine power.
My shop calls be back to tell me that I have a p0303, and that their opinion is the car isn't even worth further diagnosis - with the combination of engine noise, low oil pressure light, and misfire, the engine must be dead.
I took the car back - I drove it a block to store it off their property (it still starts and runs, although it has a lot of trouble starting, which is new with this most recent problem). The battery light has not come back but the other two lights remain. I borrowed a friend's cheapo code reader and it gave me p0303 and p0305. I don't know if my shop lied, but whatever the case, now I have misfires in the 3rd and 5th cylinders.
Can anyone advise on my next step? Does a low oil pressure light and misfire codes indicate a dead engine 100% of the time? Is the lack of vacuum to my brakes five miles before this happened a clue?
I don't want to give a shop $300 for diagnosis when they start out being convinced that I need a new engine. I have done some research, and I'm thinking about trying to get a vacuum gauge and hooking it up to the hose that runs from my engine to my brake booster - as I understand it, a bouncing needle would indicate a valve problem. Any problem that requires removing the engine probably means I need a new car.