96 Escort, cracked head, stay or go?

My 96 Escort w/ 139K was diagnosed with a cracked head. As of right now, it’s still running and getting me 5 miles to and from work. I understand that this will get progressively worse and the day is coming to either fix or replace. This normally would be a no-brainer, but my wife has left her job to be a stay-at-home mom for our toddler so our finances our limited at the current time. So my question is this, am I better off putting a new motor in the Escort given the fact that I know what else is wrong with it rather than look for something newer (but still used) to replace it with that might be hiding someone elses problems?

How was it diagnosed with a cracked head? Is it leaking coolant or losing compression?

If it is indeed a cracked head, the cheapest way to do it would be to buy just a used head if possible. The labor on installing a whole used engine would likely approach the replacement value of your 96 Escort, so if that is necessary you should consider buying a preinstalled used engine, i.e. a used car.

steam coming out of oil cap, yellow sludge near vacuum hose, engine temp climbs high at first then settles into norm. I trust the mechanic’s opinon that looked at it. I consulted with my brother about this and his opnion was "To put it right might take $1500-2000. But you know what you have at that point. And you should get another 100k out of it with regular maintenance. And spend another $100 for a full detailing and it will look and feel like a new car.

Buying something cheap for the same $2,000 means you are taking a huge gamble that you aren’t gaining someone else’s headaches.

You also need to know if you buy a $2,000 car, you are going to need to put at least $1,000 into it (tires, brakes, belts, timing belt, other deferred maintenance) before you get it to a point it is safe and reliable.

So $3,000 for a mystery car that you have no idea how it has been treated/abused/wrecked, or hopefully half that to give your Escort another 100k miles. And 100k is all you would hope to get from a cheap used car.

Just one opinion"

Replacing a cracked head should be around $800. Get a hard estimate from a reliable mechanic.

I agree with above. Do not replace the engine. It would be more than the value of the car.

Consider it finished. The fix is around $1200 or slightly less. You are right on my limit for Escorts and Tempos which is 140,000 miles. You may not have cracked head. Just keep driving it and adding coolant. You could still go a long way with the car.

maybe the problem is a faulty head gasket. for the life of me i could never figure out how any mechanic on earth can diagnose a “cracked head” without physically taking it off and examining it.

as usual, color me skeptical on that diagnosis.