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04 Taurus issues after 3 mechanics

Hello everybody

I have a learning disability so please forgive me if I do not make sense. It is difficult to really understand what is going on. I have been to 3 mechanics and none of them have been able to help me.

I drive a 2004 Taurus and it has always done fine until about three weeks ago.

Around that time it became really slow going uphill and this got progressively worse over the course of a few days. I could not figure it out so I bought some Techron fuel cleaner to see if it would help. It did not.

My car would also shift really hard, and, if I had to stop (like at a stop sign), when I got going again it would jerk.

Two days later the “CHECK TRANSMISSION” light light came on so I took the car to a mechanic right away.

The mechanic said that I had almost no transmission fluid and that there must be a very tiny leak because he looked everywhere and could not find it. He refilled my car with transmission fluid and sent me on my way.

However, that did not help. I had to go out of state for a couple weeks so I did not drive the car for this time period.

When I came back, the problem was the same so I took it to a second mechanic. He said that the dipstick area for the transmission fluid was bubbling out air which meant that I did not actually have a leak, but it was coming out of the dipstick area. He cleaned a little breather cap of some sort and the car did get somewhat better for a couple of days.

However, three days ago the car began releasing lots of thick, white, smoke out of the exhaust. The transmission light had not been on for a couple of days, but an “ENGINE OVERHEATING” light came on. I put more coolant in the car right away and I have not driven it since.

I asked a mobile mechanic to come look at it and she said that she could not figure out what was wrong. She apologized and did not charge me anything, but this is pretty frustrating because I do not know what to do next.

I have a low income and I drive this car to get to work. I have only about $600 in savings to get it fixed if I need to. I would really like to know what is wrong, but I don’t understand how to figure it out if three mechanics cannot help me. In the meantime I’m taking Uber to work and depleting my savings.

Do you have any advice for me? I am sorry to bug you. But this is making me a little bit crazy.

Thick, white smog coming out of the exhaust is never good. Could be as bad as a blown head gasket.

Make sure you have sufficient coolant in the radiator.

I will second the head gasket problem.

You may have lost the transmission fluid slowly and never noticed. This is why you should be checking your fluids once a month.
With the transmission fluid full you should have been good, but coincidently you blew a head gasket …and that could be that the coolant was slowly going down and because you didn’t check fluids…the engine overheated. This overheated the tranny again and blew the head gasket.
Plan on using that $600 toward the head gasket, It may even cost more!!!


This car has a cooler for the automatic transmission built into the radiator. I think that has developed a leak and your transmission fluid and coolant are mixing together. That may have caused a blown head gasket, it may have just overwhelmed the crankcase system causing coolant and transmission fluid to be forced into the intake. The upshot of all this is the transmission is probably junk - water is NOT a good trans fluid - and needs to be rebuilt. The radiator needs replacement, too, but maybe the engine is OK. Maybe.

All this will cost several times that $600. Sorry for the bad news.


The failed radiator was my first thought also, Proper diagnosis for a proper cure, I am sorry to say $600 is probably not going to cover it.

Are these things that a mechanic would be able to diagnose?

Three different mechanics have seen my car and none of them mentioned any of these things.

The issues recently raised are easily diagnosed by the right mechanic, Perhaps another mechanic opinion would be helpful, we are on the internet, not looking at your car first hand, but hope for you it is a simple easy fix,

Yes, a mechanic should be able to diagnose your issue. At a minimum rule in or out a leaking radiator. You might want to take a peek yourself and check the radiator fluid. Is the radiator full, fluid nice yellow/greenish? If it’s a mix of pinkish, yellow,green then Mustangman is probably correct that transmission fluid and coolant are mixing together.

Also check transmission fluid level.

Thank you. I will try to look for the radiator fluid later. I have no help so it is difficult knowing exactly what I am looking at/ or so I really appreciate your advice.

Make sure the engine is off AND COLD. You NEVER want to open the radiator cap when the engine is hot. Open it and see what the coolant level is. It should be almost flush with the neck of the filler tube, maybe an inch below. If below that, add coolant.

These are basic preventive maintenance steps any car owner should/must know how to perform… or have a large wallet to pay for the subsequent repairs when things fail due to low fluid levels.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but odds are your transmission is also on its last legs.It only takes a few minutes to damage an automatic when the fluid level gets low.
That would also explain the slow going uphill. The transmission was slipping badly.

Odds are if the transmission pan was to be dropped one would find it full of brownish-black sludge. That sludge is the friction material and oxidized fluid caused by transmission slippage and the resulting overheating.
Cleaning the pan won’t help much if any at all. Pan removal only verifies a major problem.

Thank you all. I don’t know what most of this information means, but I really do appreciate it.

If I take the car back to a fourth mechanic, what, specifically, should I ask him or her to inspect?

Well, I think you should tell the mechanic the same things that you told us in your original post. Telling a mechanic what to inspect would assume you already know what is wrong. Let him/her do the work, you are paying for it.

You may want to add that previous maintenance was neglected and fluids never changed or properly maintained.

You may want to try to find a shop that does engine as well as transmission work.

By the way, since you added the coolant after getting the car overheated, have you started or driven it?

Don’t fix it. The cause of the trouble may have been a severely misaligned front end due to worn tie rod ends or ball joints. Now the most expensive parts of the car are failing and the car is not worth keeping.

How did you figure this diagnosis?

Yes I drove it a few hundred yards to see if it helped in any way but I gave up because I’m not sure what I’m looking for.

Doesn’t a “check transmission”, “engine overheating”, loss of power and thick white exhaust almost always mean there is a fatal suspension/alignment problem ??? :imp:

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Do you mean fatal for the car or the driver? I’ve been asked to drive it 0.75 miles to the shop this morning.

Sorry @Jack.402084 it was a sarcastic remark at pleasedodge van2’s comment about alignment and suspension. None of you problems remotely relate to that.

Auto shop 101. Yes maybe. It’s just one possibility. Engine and transmission have to work harder when the drive wheels point toward each other when you accelerate. Over time an engine and transmission can fail even if there is nothing wrong.

Old cars, old age, whatever. Determining what causes failures isn’t 100 % but it could be too expensive to save the car at this point.