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2002 Ford Taurus overheated and engine won't start

Ok so by far worst New Years in my life… I drove 10 hours from VA to NY in my 02 Ford Taurus perfectly fine then a day later New Year’s Day car didn’t start for some reason I took it to the shop turns out I needed a new alternator, battery, new belt, made sure all wiring was good, and topped off all fluids (which were very low)for $600 … After that everything was fine for awhile then in the evening I drove bout 36-40 mins turns out my fan wasn’t on the whole drive and car started smoking bad (white smoke) when I got to a parking garage popped the hood water was trying to burst out of its compartment in a panic (I’m not car savy at all) I opened the dam thing shit spewed everywhere and burned my arm we let the car cool down started it again added water to the tank where it was lost everything seemed ok then not too long later I was getting off the highways car starts smoking yet again but this time the engine literally stop working I pull over looked under the hood white smoke is now coming from engine and when I try to restart it it’s starts and died couple seconds later and from the looks of it I was leaking some fluid as I was getting off the highway and still was leaking something when I pulled over can anyone help me??? I just got smacked for the alternator earlier in the day and now all this happens and I’m so confused

Thank you for your feedback in advance


Sounds like a head gasket failed and you cooked the motor. Once you saw the white smoke there was coolant getting into the cylinders and diluting the motor oil. Coolant makes a poor lubricant so the bearings and valve guides got destroyed. I would say that your motor is now a complete loss.

I think that this car is likely done for, or at least the engine is.
First, the OP tells us that “all fluids…were very low”.
At the least, that suggests poor maintenance habits, and at its worst, it suggests that the engine was already burning a lot of oil, and that the coolant was already low–which should have been a major red flag as a “healthy” engine does not consume coolant. Additionally, if one of the “very low” fluids was the trans fluid, this car may have already had an ailing transmission.

Then, the first overheating incident was exacerbated by apparently adding water, rather than coolant, and by adding it only to the overflow reservoir. That could have left the radiator at a dangerously low level of coolant, thus making it even more possible for the second overheating incident to take place.

Modern engines to not take well to overheating, and after apparently two of these incidents I would speculate that–at a minimum–a head gasket or two has been breached. However, there is also the possibility that the cylinder heads are now warped, that the cylinder liners are scored, and that the main bearings have been wiped out.

All of this spells a very large repair bill, whether the OP chooses to repair the engine or to install a used engine. And, then, there is the question of just how much repair money the OP wants to sink into a 13-14 year old car that appears to have suffered from poor maintenance and could well have other…issues…aside from the engine.

I can almost guarantee the engine is history.
One comment I feel I must respond to is the sentence that said all the fluids were very low when the car was checked prior to the trip. If you had been regularly monitoring your fluids and keeping them at the proper levels, you might never have had these problems. There are too many variables here to say for certain, but that sentence jumped out to me. Far too many engine expire just because people don’t monitor their fluids. I suggest that in the future you develop the habit of monitoring your fluids.

+1 as per @mountainbike

I agree that based on what was related the engine is likely somewhat damaged goods at best and scrap iron at worst. There are procedures for determining how bad the problem is.
The question is; are you willing to pay a shop to perform those tests?

That would include hydrocarbon test, compression test, and cooling system pressure test.

Even if up and running apparently fine again that does not mean there are no issues. Chronic overheating can ruin piston rings and cylinder walls with the end result being you have an oil burner and need a new engine.

What else can I say? Best to get it to a dealer with a lot of cars and make a deal on a different one. The thing is, you can’t both drive an older car and not be car savy. Well, you can, but just treat them as disposable then. If you are going to drive an older car, you have to pay attention to maintenance and any problems developing and then fix them yourself or have them repaired. Otherwise its best to go for a new or newer car that you don’t need to worry about it as much. OK, lecture over. No charge.

Scrap the Taurus and consider this “lesson learned.” The scrap yards are full of vehicles just like your Taurus. It’s unfortunate but the scenario should never have been allowed to play out.

Concur with above comments, sounds like the head gasket failed due to engine overheating. It’s possible you just need a head gasket job. But more likely you’ll need a replacement engine. Your shop can give you some guidance on this, as they’ll have experience with how well that engine responds to overheating incidents.

You mention the fans not coming on. Do you mean the fans in the engine compartment? Those usually come on when the engine coolant temperature reaches a certain level, so it is possible the shop that did the battery/alternator work forgot to connect a sensor up or something. That would almost always turn on the check engine light. Was it on?

Can’t speak to the Taurus, but on my Corolla the engine fan doesn’t come on when driving on the freeway. The natural airflow through the radiator is enough to keep the coolant cool. The engine fan only comes on in slow speed stop and go traffic. One time in stop and go driving the sensor failed that was supposed to turned the radiator fan on, and the radiator overheated and developed a leak, and I got a little steam coming out from under the hood, but I noticed it happening and immediately stopped, so the engine was saved.