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03 Escape XLT Overheat/Dies

I just got a 2003 Ford Escape XLT from a family friend who had told me that her brother drove it for 4 months without maintaining proper fluid levels now that includes oil coolant and gasoline. Then she said that because he had let it overheat a few times, prior to her taking back the vehicle and parking it for about a month or so until she said that I could come and take it because it did startup and ran fine well it was just sitting. So I went to check it out turn the car over started up just fine let it run for about 20 minutes to 30 minutes checked all the fluid levels and everything was okay from what I could see. So from there I determined that I would try to take home so I hopped in the car and headed out. After about not even a full 5 minutes driving and having stopped at the third set of traffic lights, it’s suddenly overheated and died instantaneously. And after it cooled down a bit and I could get it started again, I hit rush hour traffic and once again overheated and died. Having had to abandon the car on the side of the road until I could get home and get my tools and my father to come help me figure out if I can drive it the rest of the way home or not. Upon arrival the car started and took to open Highway perfectly no overheating no stalling and sputtering nothing, until I hit city limits and traffic lights once more and the overheating once again was the issue with the coolant light illuminated then check engine light illuminated after stalling out twice in the city limit I decided it was time to call a tow truck and had it towed the remainder of the way home. Upon further inspection I realized water pump was leaking what appeared to be water rather than coolant. My greatest fear Is the obvious, head gasket. However, I noted that the coolant in the reservoir boiled over the Overflow but not into the radiator there’s a blockage but does that blockage indicate a bad head or perhaps something not as severe? Ideally I would like to keep the car it’s very nice overall with 156000 miles on it I could not go wrong with this vehicle being given to me for free. But what they say about something that is usually too good to be true probably is well I feel like it probably is at this point but have nowhere else to turn for advice or suggestion I’m hoping I can find some kind of answer good or bad Within these topics these forums. Any information pertaining to cause of or advise as to what to do with said vehicle now would greatly be appreciated.

It sounds like your cooling fans are not coming on. The first thing you should do is have the cooling system pressure tested and also tested for exhaust gasses in the coolant to rule out a bad head gasket.

You don’t need the fans running at highway speed because there is plenty of air going through the radiator.

{t may be my personal prejudice but don’t go to a national, tire ,oil change, or auto repair shop. Chose a local independent repair or radiator shop with a good reputation.

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Modern vehicles don’t take well to overheating, and if this engine was overheated as many times as the OP states–in addition to being run with insufficient oil in the crankcase–I think it is entirely possible that the engine is toast at this point. I would not invest even 10 cents on diagnosing and repairing the overheating problem until it is determined whether the engine has normal compression.

In addition to the likelihood of a warped cylinder head, it is entirely possible that the cylinders are scored, and there could even be bearing damage as a result of insufficient oil and many instances of overheating. If, as I suspect, the engine is very badly damaged, then the OP might want to investigate getting a used engine and a new radiator. That approach would be cheaper than repairing a trashed engine, and would provide a clean slate in terms of cooling that engine. Obviously, whoever installs that engine and radiator would also need to verify that the cooling fans are functioning properly.

Oh YES, it could and has gone wrong. Quite wrong. Dead engine wrong. Spend a pile of money replacing the engine wrong.

Sell it for scrap at the local junkyard. At least then you’ll get a couple of bucks to pay for the tow.

I’m inclined to agree.

I share your prejudice.

It is possible that the repeated overheating has caused serious damage. But IMHO since checking for a blown headgasket (or warped head, which also causes cylinder pressure leakage) is so cheap and easy, you’d be foolish to assume that’s the case without testing for it. I’d be inclined to want to do a pressure leakdown test rather than “lab test” of the coolant for hydrocarbons simply because I think it’ll provide a better look at the possibility of head warpage.

If there’s no excessive cylinder leakage, I’d change the water pump (and the timing belt if the pump is TB driven) and get the cooling fan working (that may be the fan or temp sensor), change the fluids, and try it out… monitoring everything carefully.

In short, I would not assume it’s hopeless without checking it out to see.

If you live in a location where it gets below freezing temperatures, make sure as first priority to have it tested so you know the coolant has enough anti-freeze in it. Otherwise you could turn what may be a minor problem into a major one. That’s something any shop will do for a small fee. Or you can buy a gadget from the local auto parts store and do it yourself.