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Old 06-24-2010, 12:27   #1 (permalink)
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98 Windstar coolant leak

I have a 1998 Windstar with 3.8l engine and 170,000kms on it. About 1 month ago my son came home and I noticed that the van sounded loud, I checked the heat gauge and it was at about 3/4. The checked the reservoir bottle and it was empty. I didn't want to open the rad cap because it was hot so I put the proper amount of Prestone in the reservoir bottle. The next morning I checked and the bottle was empty and the rad was low enough that I couldn't see the level. I topped it off and got all the air out of it and all was good. At least it seemed to be. I checked it again the other day and same situation. So I topped it off with water. I ran the engine up to operating temperature and I see water/fluid leaking between the head and the upper intake. There is no coolant in the oil and it doesn't appear that there is steam out the tail pipe. The engine runs ok, no knocks or noises. Am I going to be lucky and just have to change the intake manifold gaskets or will I be in for head gaskets? If it's head gaskets, its going down the road. I can do intake gaskets myself in the driveway. Do I need any special tools for this? Should I check/replace anything else while I am in there?

Thanks in advance, Eric.
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Old 06-24-2010, 13:54   #2 (permalink)
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Re: 98 Windstar coolant leak

If you see it leaking there, that's probably all you need to do. If it overheated, it may need the head gaskets. They aren't hard to replace. I'd have the heads checked too. There's a tester to tell if there's exhaust in the cooling system that would inducate head gaskets.

If chipset comes in here, he might have some more ideas.
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Old 06-24-2010, 20:49   #3 (permalink)
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Re: 98 Windstar coolant leak

Thanks for the info rtg. I was fortunate that it did NOT overheat and it is parked in the driveway with explicit instructions not to drive it. I should probably disconnect the battery. Ever since we got the van back in 2000 it has always consistently run about half way, when I first noticed the low coolant, the highest it got was about 3/4 up the temp gauge. Is it wise to do the heads with 170,000 kms (110,000 miles) without doing the bottom end? I am afraid if I do the heads, the bottom end will go in it. As for checking the heads, I am assuming just for cracks and warps? Should the valves be done at the same time or just leave it? I don't want to sink a bunch of dough into this thing as it doesn't get driven much, a few hundred km's a month and 99% of it is all city driving.
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Old 06-24-2010, 21:32   #4 (permalink)
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Re: 98 Windstar coolant leak

It may not need the heads taken off. I hope chipset comes in with some ideas. He has a LOT of miles on his and he's very sharp on engines.
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Old 06-25-2010, 08:57   #5 (permalink)
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Re: 98 Windstar coolant leak

There is a special diy that goes into the cooling system. The leak shows up under black
light. The newer 3.8 after 95 didn't have the serious head gasket problem the older engines had. You are probably looking at manifold gaskets. You can r - r the heads if you want and the bottom end will not be affected. The cylinder block on those engines are almost bullet proof. I still have standard size pistons on my 3.8 on a complete rebuild.
345,032 miles. Anywere on the temp gauge AS LONG as the needle doesn't go into the red is normal. The head gasket almost never blows out the side. If it blows out it is
between the cylinders. I'd suggest doing the valves. Just lap them back in by hand if you
take the head off. That engine has a roller cam and some engines have different length
push rods. DO NOT MIX UP THE PUSH RODS. DO NOT turn them upside down either. Once
that engine is taken care of and put back together it will last longer than you want it to.
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Old 06-25-2010, 19:05   #6 (permalink)
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Re: 98 Windstar coolant leak

That is good news chipset, thanks for that. I am hoping that the weather will be nice on Monday so I can pull it apart. Once I get it apart I will go from there. I am a firm believer that if it aint broke don't screw with it. It does apart that my tensioner is ceased, so looks like that will need to be fixed, looks like a bypas tube of some sort coming out of the top of the water pump may also need replacing too as it has some rust on it. Any idea what the water pump expectancy is on the 3.8l?
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Old 06-26-2010, 11:27   #7 (permalink)
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Re: 98 Windstar coolant leak

Here is the thing. A water pump will last as long as it does. I've seen pumps go out in
less than a year and pumps last 10 years. Don't know what you mean by " bypass tube "
If it's the one that feeds the heater core and runs to the back of the engine chop it off
and replace it with hose. They all rust out. Mine let go and blew anti freeze out the hood on a brand new engine. Needless to say i was pissed. I'll let you in on a secret. If you take the heads off and have to change head gaskets remove ALL sharp edges on the outside of the head. Round them over. Just don't go nuts. The sharp edge on the
head where the gasket meets the block will cut the gasket. Those are torque to yield
head bolts and MUST be replaced. If you have to rebuild that engine or take it apart
you will look at it and say " Oh MY GOD " and slam the hood. I've done 11 of those engines in one year. Worse year of my life. Well not that bad but close. I've taken that
engine out and replaced it by myself in a driveway with a front end loader. Not that bad.
I hope to never do that again. Now if you need to do the transmission i can do those in
my sleep. Good luck
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Old 07-02-2010, 20:36   #8 (permalink)
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Re: 98 Windstar coolant leak

The bypass tube I was talking about goes in the front of the intake and runs down the inside of the intake to the thermostat. I pulled the bolt holding it in place not knowing that the tube was as long as it was. At any rate I replaced the o-ring on it and put the bolt back into place.

Last Monday I started the tear down and the intake was off by dinner time. Not that bad of a teardown really. I expected it to be worse. I had hoped to see the gasket disturbed along the top edge of the front (left) side of the engine, but I didn't. What I did see was a brittle gasket that had started to seperate on the blocked water jacket on the right hand side of the intake (towards the firewall) and a piece actually missing in the other jacket. I guess maybe the gasket got weak and brittle over time and it weakened and leaked while under pressure.

I decided against doing the heads and opted to just do the intake gaskets. I have never had much luck with exhaust manifold studs....

I ordered some parts and I cleaned up all the surfaces, replaced the injector o-rings at the head, installed new gaskets from the Fel-pro kit and replaced the thermostat and gasket. There is a night and day difference in the old gaskets and the new ones. The new gaskets are made of metal, alot better then the original gaskets that came off it.

I managed to get it all back together tonight and it fired right up. Before I tried to start, I turned the key to the on position 3 times, waiting for the fuel pump to quit between each. The heat gauge came up to mid range as it has since day one and was there while it was running for close to 45+ minutes. Took a run up the street for a bit and it is looking good. Doesn't appear to have any leaks.

I have almost no rear heat though unless I am moving at the speed limit in the city, I suspect I have an air lock in there somewhere and/or not enough coolant to supply the rear heat. So on Saturday I am going to get a new rad cap and top it off with some anti-freeze and give it an oil change.

I am hoping that these are good signs, it appears I may have fixed the problem. If I didn't fix it, I have to say this r and r of the intake was not that bad. Seeing I haven't done it since 1994 on my '88 Ranger with the 2.9l.

I hope this all makes sense, it has been a long day. Thanks for words of wisdom chipset, much appreciated. Eric.
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