08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ?? - Ford Forums - Mustang Forum, Ford Trucks, Ford Focus and Ford Cars
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-24-19, 06:56 PM Thread Starter
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08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ??

Now, let me tell you a story about a man named Fred, barely keeping his GM repair account FED..... (Hey, I'm in TN so I thought I would start this sad story with a laugh...Lord knows I need a few right now.)

I have work done on this GM at a shop that I trust as they stand behind their work more than fairly. The service manager is tops and the mechanic is great.

A couple of months ago were the latest repairs: a radiator replace (the OE corroded due to IL winters). thermostat replace, A/C compressor (old one locked up) and A/C dryer replace. A chunk of change but the A/C worked great around town and on several hours long freeway trips. I was a happy cool camper with outside temps of 100F in some areas.

Then, 3 weeks ago, (coming back from Port Canaveral, FL to Knoxville, TN) the air became warmish, even MAX A/C didn't help. Traffic slowed down in lower GA (and yes, it was quite warm and humid outside) and before I knew it, the warning chime for coolant overtemp went off. I look down and the coolant gauge is pegged. Turned off the A/C, pulled off to the side of road and shut the motor off. I was thinking maybe I sprung a leak but no steam, no liquids on the ground, coolant reservoir full, no gurging...nothing. Hot smelling but that's all. I wait 15 minutes. restart, turn on the heater full blast and the temp gauge starts dropping off. What the heck, maybe i can nurse it to the next exit as it seemed better. By the time I got to the exit (about a mile), the temp was nearly back to normal. Rather than get stuck in south GA on a Sunday night, I rolled on home (sans A/C). No further events occurred, temp gauge was normal.

I didn't drive the car for about a week and then ran a very short errand (engine up to normal temp). I tried the A/C and it worked somewhat but certainly not like it did. Starting at my errand point, I sat for a moment with the engine at idle and the A/C on. Temp gauge was normal. However, when the A/C compressor was engaged, the idle would drop off 400 rpm. It has never done that before. I drive it back home with the A/C off. I take it to the shop to diagnose the issue.

The shop changes out the A/C compressor under warranty and recharges the system. The A/C works as it is supposed to but the 400 rpm drop off issue continues to occur. They continue to run it and check on it. Eventually, it begins to overheat again. In the end, they diagnose the cooling fan is operating intermittently...not a cooling fan control module as that checked out OK many times. Still, they have concern that some of the overheating problem is a head gasket leaking combustion gases to the cooling system (they witnessed what appeared to be "boiling" in the coolant reservoir). A dye test of the coolant was performed (3 times to be sure), revealing the presence of combustion products in the coolant.

Head gasket replacement is about $3100. (I am not normally an emoticon user but ) Resolution of the 400 rpm drop off issue is still an unknown. The NADA clean retail value is only $4525. Not that I can afford to trade it in for another car with payments, the NADA clean trade-in is only $2750.

I am tempted replace the cooling fan (myself) to run it until it dies. Can these motors have a small head gasket leak and survive for a long time?

If I give the car to my (fictitious) shade tree wrench cousin Jake, WWJD (what would Jake do)? Is tearing into removing the heads worth it? I know it is a lot of work and the parts are not cheap as best as I can figure.

Thoughts ?

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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-25-19, 07:36 AM
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Re: 08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ??

It's almost cheaper to replace the engine with a remanufactured long block than to fool with replacing a head gasket in a high mileage engine. The head might be warped and you cannot reuse the old head bolts or engine gaskets, all expensive parts. I wouldn't pay too much attention to the car's NADA value. If it is a "keeper" and the rest of the car is in good condition, I would pop for the new engine, make sure the cooling system is in good condition and drive it another 200,000.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 07-12-19, 08:09 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ??

I found a used engine complete from a 2008 GM. It has just 6K. From LKQ parts who will warranty it for 24 months, 24,000 miles. About $1200 to my door. That makes it somewhat affordable and easier than unbolting a tremendous amount to swap parts onto a long block. I have gotten a $2000 quote from a shop for the R&R. Maybe I can find someone to do it for less (and not muck it up?). I can see putting $3000 into the car as I have so many other new parts on it. It's not in cherry condition and it has seen some rust belt weather. But at this point, I can't trade it in to have a new car loan. And I sure don't want to pass it off to an unsuspecting buyer...I have been in those shoes myself.

MAYBE I might consider doing the swap myself. The shop said it takes 18 hours. I figure it would take me about 4 times that long. That means I would be "making" $27 per hour. Not bad for a part time job! I can wait until fall till its cooler... Does anyone have a procedure lined out for engine R and R (besides unhook everything to the engine and jerk upwards?)
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 07-13-19, 07:43 AM
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Re: 08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ??

HAVE HELP, double check everything and lift slowly. Everything is straight forward and if you take your time you can do a better job than a shop which is always in a rush. Take before photos just in case. Also, with the engine out, you will have the opportunity to clean and inspect all components. The engine and trans will come out together and are easier to separate when on the floor. I would use this opportunity to replace all belts, hoses and anything else questionable. If unsure, check a shop manual for lifting points. I have also found that it is easier to roll the car backward as you lift the engine, rather than move the hoist, but everybody has their methods. You will gain knowledge, satisfaction and save money if you do it yourself.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 07-13-19, 09:11 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ??

Excellent points! I was wondering about pulling the tranny with it. I saw on the Mustang forum where they talked about this way being easier. Its has been 30+ years since i have pulled a motor....just more connections and stranger connectors. I can take my time as I have other vehicles to drive.

Thanks everyone! If I can remember, Ill take critical photos of the process to post.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 07-13-19, 01:48 PM
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Re: 08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ??

Hard to believe, but the biggest problem I seem to have is disconnecting the @#$#%%& Ford plastic electrical connectors when pulling the engine! Be patient, they are hard to replace. And yes, a CV engine pull is done the old school way, remove the hood and pull the eng and trans out through the top. Most late model Mustangs come out through the bottom by removing the "K" frame. Ugh! Good luck and let us know how it goes!
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 07-17-19, 08:21 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ??

About how far does one need to elevate the vehicle to accommodate the tail of the transmission as you rotate the engine/transmission assembly up and out? I'm guessing that is going to be a pretty high lift...might need at least a 10 foot lift attachment point?.... I am thinking about using a gin pole arrangement (I've done engine pulling that way in the past.)

I assume that pulling the radiator would be advisable (my is brand new). I think I can leave the A/C condenser in place (maybe put a piece of plywood on the engine side face to avoid accidental bumps.)
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 07-18-19, 07:10 AM
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Re: 08 GM (120K): Cooling fan fail results in head gasket leak? WWJD ??

After doing all work necessary under the car, I sit the cars flat on the ground to pull the eng. The tailshaft will drop down to the proper angle (about 45 degrees??) to pull the eng/trans. There will still be sufficient room to tilt the eng/trans and you won't have to lift as high. This also allows you to push the car back from under the hoist, which I find easier than trying to move the hoist with eng/trans attached. This is the time when you need to watch the firewall/eng clearance. I use a standard engine hoist, not sure how high it will lift, but it gets the job done (sorry, I'm not home or I would check). For safety, if not peace of mind, I use a large HD chain as a lifting sling. SAFETY is the key word in all this verbiage.
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