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94 Villager Overheating

1994 Mercury Villager, driving about 10 miles to work this morning I noticed the temp gauge sitting just under the H at about the 8.5ish mile mark. All driving is on city streets from 25-35mph. When I noticed the temp I turned on the heater hoping to assist with bringing the temperature down. The air coming out was mostly cold occasionally pushing out slightly warm for a few seconds.

I got to work and checked the hoses for a leak, squeezing both the upper and lower hoses they felt empty. I added about 1-2 cups of water to the radiator and it would take no more. Started the car up and the supply hose firmed up while the return hose still felt empty. Left it like that until the end of my shift.

Started the car up and checked for any leaks, all fluids appeared to me to be topped off and I could see no leaks. Started to make the trip home and at about the 7 mile mark the temp gauge drifted out of normal. Turned on the heater and the air came out cold. About a mile later I pulled over and shut the engine off for 15-20 minutes. Started it back up and it was sitting in the normal range again, but only for about a half mile and then it started going back up. I finally got it home with the needle between normal and H, maybe closer to H than that. Opened the hood and checked for any leaks. Noticed some anti freeze had come up through the cap on the reservoir. Checked and it was cracked open around the top. The two hoses on the other hand had pressure and were fairly firm/squishy.

Just checked the oil and around the cap on the valve cover and and the oil just looks a little old. (was told by a friend to look for chocolate milk color).

Any help would be tremendously appreciated.

What’s cooling system maintenance history of the vehicle?


I added some coolant to it back in January when I noticed the heater not getting hot when idling at a stop. But it would get hot as soon as I stepped on the gas. Adding the fluid corrected the issue.

Has it ever been drained and filled? New thermostat or radiator cap at any time?

Never a new thermostat or cap, but that will change tomorrow. Getting new thermostat, hoses, radiator cap and reservoir cap. Will start with that and go from there. Any recommendations on anything else I should consider while I am under the hood doing all that? I was considering looking into getting the system flushed if the new thermostat did the trick. Any advice here would be most welcome.


Take a good luck at your belts

If they’re cracked or glazed, replace them

Carefully inspect the radiator itself. The plastic side tanks tend to develop cracks as they age. If you’re still on the original, it could go at any time

I will do that thanks. Need to use someone else’s garage to have access to tools and what not, so I will post back sometime this evening after I am done, with how it went.

Make sure you bleed out the air. My Dodge had a bleed valve on the thermostat housing. Don’t know if yours does.

I replaced the thermostat, upper hose, radiator cap, and reservoir cap. I must admit I have never seen a thermostat so well tucked away before. It took me well longer than I was expecting, but I got it done. Drove it around today and it never once went above the middle of normal. Replacing the thermostat cured the overheating.

When I got home I noticed a wet spot about 8-10 inches in diameter sitting about a couple inches in from where the front passenger side tire was. I dipped my finger into it and it smelled like oil and looked really dirty. A lot dirtier than the oil that was on my dipstick yesterday. I am going to let the engine cool, add some more coolant and check the oil again.

I know I have to be losing coolant from somewhere. Is it possible the coolant is leaking from the water pump and mixing with something else on the way down to give it the ultra dirty oil look and smell? Because other than that leak, I have seen no other spots under my vehicle.


Congratulations on fixing your overheating!

As for that wet spot, how about this?

Jack up the front end and let the van warm up
Turn off the air conditioning, so that you won’t get any condensation dripping in your eyes
Crawl underneath and carefully look to see if any drops of oil and/or coolant are forming