2002 Ford Taurus Wagon

Hi Car Talk!

I have a 2002 Ford Taurus Wagon (6 cylinder Vulcan engine) with 97,000. My mechanic recently told me that although the car is currently in pretty good condition (no rust, engine runs well), that once it passes 100,000 miles that it will probably need several expensive repairs. Two problems that it does have are 1) the heater core is clogged, and 2) a coolant seal or gasket is leaking.

He recommends that we replace the car rather than fix these two things and the problems that could be coming up. What do you think? I was hoping to keep it another 3-4 years, but I don’t want to feed a money pit.

I appreciate your help.

Hmm, a creative repair might unblock the heater core. The problem is it can be tough to get to for a new replacement. You can “blow out” the core first with air and then with water. Do not do water first it might just break the pipes. Several products can help once you get some flow. There are radiator flush products that will remove crud if water can flow somewhat through the core. At this milage it is worth a try. Then follow up with a good leak sealant for your seal issues. On a good day you may be out less than 200 to find out if it will work.

  1. the heater core is clogged.
    I have had success many times by cleaning out a clogged Taurus heater core with a garden hose and a hose clamp. Just push the water through under pressure. It will be higher pressure than the water pump puts out and should push any gunk through. If THAT doesn’t work, I have used a 50% solution of CLR (available at your grocery store). For either method I unhook both hoses a ways from the firewall. That way I can bring the outlet hose high enough to make the CLR stay in the core for a few minutes. I put a funnel into the other hose, and fill 'er up. It’s also much easier to hook your garden hose to the heater hose than it is to hook it to the heater core’s inlet or outlet.

  2. a coolant seal or gasket is leaking.
    We need to know which seal or gasket is leaking. If it’s just a seal that may be no big issue. If it’s the cylinder head gasket, or impossible to reach soft plug, that’s another matter.

At 97K, assuming it has had good care, frequent fluid changes, etc, it should still have a lot of good miles left. The top Taurus that I know of finally gave up to a fire inside the steering column at 275K. That could probably have been avoided had it had the factory’s recall. It never had a transmission failure in all that time.

If you do have to have the heater core replaced, be sure your mechanic has seen this on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsZoFoiJsdw

I disagree with your mechanic that these cars are dead meat after 100k miles. If it’s maintained well they will go a lot further than that. No idea on the coolant leak and maybe it’s possible that because replacing the heater core is a royal pain in the neck, your mechanic is using the car trade scenario as a diplomatic (rightly or wrongly) way of telling you he either does not want to tackle the job or doesn’t really know how.

A neighbor of mine had a 96 sedan that had about 200k miles on it with very few problems, and considering the type of driver the guy’s wife is it’s a miracle that car made 40k miles, much less 200k.
Another neighbor had a 91 wagon that got about 300k miles put on it before being unloaded for something else and this car did not receive near the maintenance that it should have.

My old Sable wagon was still running and driving well when sold a few years back and that car had about 420k miles on it. (one transmission at about 130k miles; other than that all normal maintenance, wear and tear stuff)

Some good tips here. I’ll add that you should change the transmission fluid at the recommended intervals. Perhaps someone could talk about the life expectancy of a tranny in one of these cars? I have heard they are in the 100-140kmi range.

Believe me, on average nearly all drivers will save money by keeping what they have than by buying new. Just how many new car payments would the cost of the currently needed repairs pay for?

Most all cars today will make it to 200,000 miles if given proper maintenance and a few repairs.

97K is barely broken in. Unless the car has been generally neglected.

Thank you to everyone for your advice. I’ll check back with my mechanic for more details about the coolant seal problem and other maintenance he thinks should be done. If he still balks, I’ll try another mechanic.

They’ll make it WELL past 100-140k miles, if given proper maintenance.

These transmissions got a bad rap because they were horrid transmissions (relatively) up through the middle of the 1995 model year. A 2002 is almost guaranteed to have an AX4N, which is considerably more reliable than an AX4S, which is light years better than the old AXOD-E that gave the Taurus a bad name.