2000 Ford Taurus Oil Problem

Over the last two years, I have had a couple of episodes where I had white smoke coming from my hood when my Taurus, after driving for a small (maybe 10-15 mile) distance. The original problem was thought to be a problem with the air compressor (which was smoking too) and a dripping oil pan. I repaired the former, but not the latter as the pan had dripped since my father purchased the car in 2000. The most recent episode led me to a Ford dealer, which was likely a mistake. Their diagnosis found that there was a large leak of the lower intake gasket head. When I agreed to have that fixed, they discovered that the upper intake gasket head was wet, though they could not confirm it was leaking. They also determined that some other head next to it was wet as well. After they quoted me $3200 to fix it, I argued down to just have the lower gasket head fixed. This was completed last week. They told me to monitor for large oil leaks and coolant leaks, neither of which have happened.

Last night, I had a small amount of white smoke coming out from under the hood of my car and the oil pressure light came on when I put the car in park. I checked the oil and it was not below the minimum line suggested.

I’m at a bit of a loss what to do/expect with this car. The dealership repairmen said that the car should last me at least six months, which is all I need her for as I will be moving to another state where I have no need for my car. I anticipate then that there is oil coming from some other location (maybe the upper gasket head?).

Have I been trying to make too much lemonade out of a lemon, or can this vehicle reasonably get me through six months with a daily commute of 5 miles?

Thanks for any help in advance!

If the oil pressure light came on then it won’t last 6 minutes, let alone 6 months - unless the pressure switch is bad which is always a possibility. Was the oil milky looking when you checked it?

Why are you taking this thing to a dealer? Often you just get charged more at places like that. Find a local, independent shop with a good reputation.

The first thing to find out is whether or not there is an actual oil pressure problem because if the is then there’s probably no point in doing anything else. The only real way to do that is with an actual gauge which will probably mean getting it to a shop. You could drive it if the light stays off - but not if the light is on or doing anything.

Sometimes an oil light issue is a matter of a defective sender. These are cheap and often not that hard to replace. They often leak, btw, and can make it appear that something else is leaking and can drip on stuff and make smoke.

So that’s another thing you need to find out if you want to make any progress at all - you need some idea of where the smoke is coming from and preferably what it smells like. Have you ever popped the hood and looked?

The oil light comes on because of lack of oil pressure. If the oil level is good, then the life of this engine is truely limited. If you need it to last 6 months, then you can nurse this car to that finish line, drive it to an auto recycler, and cash it out. You’ll likely get a few dollars more that way than call the ‘We Buy Cars’ people.

To nurse this car for 6 months, you will need to keep the fluids up and check on those fluids frequently. I’d start by checking fluids every other day until I could feel more comfortable with the consuption/leak rate. Then, adjust the check frequency accordingly. Because you know you have leaks, keeping an eye on fluids is really important.

I fill my car up every 2 weeks, and check fluids at that time. When I first got it, I had to add oil at every fill-up. Since then, most of the oil leaks have been addressed, and it only needs oil every 3 fill-ups. Of course, my car has 288,000 miles on it now.

At that mileage don’t put any more money into it! I’ve had cars like that and with one that used/leaked oil, I kept a case of the cheapest oil in the trunk and just topped up. The car lasted me another 2 years until I finished college.

Also, never let an older car overheat; top up the cooling system as needed.

You never mentioned how many miles you have on this car, but I agree with those that suggest that it’s just about used up its like. Oil pressure comes from the pump forcing oil through the spaces between the bearings and their corresponding surfaces. When wear gets too great and the spaces get too big, the oil flows through too readily and the pump has a hard time maintaining proper pressure at idle.

You might try an oil of a higher base weight. Might help, might not. It won’t fix the root cause of the problem, but it might keep the light off and allow you to squeeze a few more years out of the car. If you dump a lot of money into the car it’ll probably do little to extend the car’s life. Remember that the rest of the car’s systems have as many miles on them as the engine does.

You will not have any problem. Just keep the oil topped up and coolant topped up and check them every week. It sounds like a leaking engine that needs new seals, pretty common in old cars.

I realize the car’s not worth much

But it’s not that big of a deal to measure the oil pressure and replace the switch, if needed

For that matter, it’s also not that big of a deal to replace the oil pan gasket, if that’s the biggest leak.

However, if the oil pressure does indeed measure low, then this car is on borrowed time

Oil pressure switches can leak and fail. I would replace it and see if that’s the fix. It’s cheap and easy.

Interesting you said that going to the dealer was a big mistake. Did you get the oil light the first time after the dealer fixed it, or were you getting it before? Anyways 3200$ is too much to replace the seals, you can get a second hand engine for that price.

I appreciate the feedback from everyone! Thanks for taking the time to put in a response.

A couple of responses: the car has about 150 K in mileage on it. I would say that about half of the car is newer and half used up, as I have slowly replaced parts all over the car in the last two years.

The oil pressure light has only come on after somewhat longer drives and last night’s episode happened after some interstate driving. I drove about 5 miles to work and 5 miles home today and had no problems with the light, smoking, or the smell of burning oil.

I have opened the hood to investigate sources of the smoke. Unfortunately, the two recent episodes that it happened involved a day with 60 mile an hour winds, swirling anything coming up instantly, or last night after dark, I happened to see the smoke in my headlights. By the time that I got out of the car and checked, it was gone. I double checked the oil this morning and was probably one hash mark above the minimum line. It looked rather dark on this stick and was dark brown when I wiped the stick.

The dealer was more desperation than anything. They were only a block away from home, so I could drop it off and walk home. Interestingly, rather than pushing for the $3200 repair, the serviceman thought that for the time I needed it, the $700 lower gasket repair would be adequate. My wallet and my common sense are still both regretting the decision.

“The oil pressure light has only come on after somewhat longer drives and last night’s episode happened after some interstate driving”

That’s exactly what a well worn engine does. That confirms my suspicions.

I agree the oil light is brhabing like a well worn engine. Going to a thicker oil, like 20w-50, will buy you the 6 months you need.

As far as the smoke, I’ve seen any number of plastic, or fibre-resin, parts begin to fail by leaking pressurized steam intermittently until they ultimately fail. Mostly the plastic jugs on the radiator, but I’ve also seen similar slow failures in coolant crossovers and thermostat housings made of plastic.

Dealing with a Ford Exploder (mine) where a slow coolant leak I’ve been chasing for a few months decided to let go and completely open up. Plastic lower thermostat housing cracked right at the heater hose connection.

I have had some high mileage Chrysler products last for Years after the oil light started coming on at hot idle. As a matter of fact, I have never had one doing that seize up.

I had a 1971 Ford Maverick and on a vacation the oil pressure light would flicker on after I had been doing road driving on a vacation and would come to a stop. I checked the oil level and the oil was right up on the mark. I then took the oil fill cap off the top of the valve cover and started the engine. I could see oil spraying around the rocker arm shaft. I continued on the trip with no problems. I had a new pressure switch installed when I got home and that cured the problem. Apparently, when the engine was warmed up and the oil pressure switch had the hot oil flowing through it, it couldn’t hold the pressure.