96 Taurus -- Should I replace the engine



I have a '96 Taurus with about 153,000 miles on it. About a 1 1/2 years ago it started consuming oil. After numerous trips to my garage, with many parts replaced and the consumption still under way, my mechanic has told me the oil must be leaking into the engine below the valves. I can continue to put in oil at the rate of 2 quarts every 800 miles, or I can replace the engine. The trade in value of the car is about $640. A new engine would cost me about $3500.

Any sage advice you guys can offer me about whether to scrap the car, or replace the engine. When replacing it, am I just buying a whole new set of problems?




How big of a cloud of smoke follows the Taurus around? Are you sure its not leaking? Might be time to find a new mechanic.



No smoke, mechanic says compression is good, and this is a sign that it’s leaking below the valves into the engine (if I’m quoting him correctly). I’ve been pondering a second opinion. I have used this mechanic for years, they’ve been honest, and took good care of my wife when I was in Iraq…

All signs of leakage below the car have disappeared as they’ve replaced the oil pan gasket, oil plug and other assorted things…



FORGET replacing the engine. Switch to 10-40 oil and see if that improves things a little. Add a can of STP to the fresh 10-40 maybe, then just nurse it along until something else kills it. Start shopping for a replacement vehicle at your leisure. The market is FLOODED with clean used cars at bargain prices. Check craigslist in your area, you will be amazed…


What you describe sounds like oil leaking past the valve guides. If the Compression is OK then the rings and valves must be OK. The mileage on this car is not excessive; many Taurus models go twice that far without conssuming oil.


  1. Scrap your mechanic first; there are easy ways to find out where the oil is going. Did he do a compression test? What “numerous repairs” did he do? Your mechanic falls in the “sincere but incompetent” category. Believe me, there are more incompetent than dishonest mechanics. Advising you to install a NEW engine is also rather dumb.

  2. Have a good shop do a compression test; During your tour in Iraq, the rings or valves may have become stuck. You could have bad valve guides, if you are lucky. Replacing valve guides cost only a fraction of $3500. Your mechanicshould also know that there are thousands of good used Taurus engines avalable for very little money, as stated by other posters.

  3. If the car has little or no rust, and the transmission is good, I would go for a used engine, if the problem is more than leaking valve guides. If the body is bad, scrap the car.


Why would you want to put a NEW engine in a 12 year old car with 153K miles? What you need is a good used engine that will not burn oil with less than 153K on it. Actually I’ve seen MANY pushing 200K still not using enough oil to add any between charges. Is yours the standard 3.0L pushrod (AKA OHV) regular gasoline engine? If so, salvage yards are full of used examples. See www.car-part.com and search your area. See what your favorite shop would charge to install one, if he will. I pay $300 for a straight Taurus swap here. If my installer has to remove the used engine, not carefully, he charges $100 extra, and removes the tranny at the same time.


With an oil consumption problem the item below is the first thing that should be inspected. Have they not done this?

The 3.0, which I assume you have, is a near bullet-proof engine if it has not been abused. A 153k miles is nothing for one of these motors.

As to the compression that can depend. Many times people post on here and claim good compression readings and once they’re known it appears they do have a problem and the readings are not as good as claimed. Good on this engine should be 175 or better PSI on all cylinders.

The second part of this is that an engine can have good compression and still lose oil if the oil wiper rings are not doing their job. Over time the oil rings can sludge up and seize in the piston ring lands or may seize due to an overheating spell in the past. Either way, they do not expand and contract as they should.

I would think if the engine was burning this much oil the spark plugs should show signs of it.
Any chance this mechanic gave you the compression readings? They SHOULD be written down as only a careless person would perform this test and rely on memory later. And check the PCV valve; it’s dirt cheap, easy to change, and can cause multiple oil leaks and oil consumption.



Thanks for the info. To be fair, he did not advise me to replace the engine, but when I asked what my options were, he said that was the only way to fix it. The $3500 figure was a “SWAG” estimate he gave me when I asked for a ball park figure. The mech replaced the oil pan gasket, oil drain plug, and fixed some sort of leak into the tranny. I’ll have to dig up the paperwork. I don’t remember what all they have done so far.

He has done a compression test, and stated that the compression was fine.



I will inquire on the compression readings. I was not given the readings, only told the compression was fine. I would have thought I would be getting some smoke or something if the engine was burning oil.

Thanks for all the suggestions. Any more are welcome…


Are the oil wiper guides things that can be fixed?


The catalytic converter will catch a lot of oil smoke so often it is not noticeable. The downside is that eventually the converter will clog up.

The oil wiper rings are not an easy fix. This basically means an engine overhaul, although an additive could be tried if that is the suspected problem.
The pistons have 3 rings each. The two top ones are compression rings and the lower one is the oil control, or wiper ring. The oil wiper ring’s sole job is to scrape the oil off of the cylinder walls when the piston is on the downstroke. This ring must be free to move in the piston groove (or land as it’s called) and conform to the cylinder wall. If they stick then of course a lot of oil remains on the cylinder wall and some of this gets forced past the upper 2 compression rings where it is then burnt.

As I mentioned, I would verify the PCV part of this first as a clogged PCV can cause all sorts of problems that are not as serious as they might appear to be.
Hope that explains it some anyway.


If the diagnosis is correct replacement of engine leaves another expensive ticking time bomb, the automatic transmission if never replaced.

$3500 buys a lot of quarts of engine oil.


You have a Taurus which has gone past its designed mileage already. Just replace that old car. A new engine will make the car worth $700. Maybe. Go for two quarts of 30 weight along with the other oil in an oil change. Don’t try to repair it at any cost.


If it comes right down to it and it turns out that you do have a legitimate serious engine problem, my opinion would be that there is no way I would put 3500 into an engine on this car.

Check around with reputable salvage yards. As I mentioned, the 3.0 is a rock solid motor and due to low demand the prices on used, low miles engines are cheap IMHO.

A Ford-only salvage not too far from me had about 2 dozen Taurus/Sable engines on the rack the last time I was in there since the engines seldom fail.
Most of the engines had 40-60k miles on them and averaged about 350 dollars exchange so that could give you a rough estimate of what other yards may get.
Some yards will even install them for a nominal fee.



I went by and picked the car up today – the owner said this was not a standard 3.0 engine, it was a dual overhead cam, which was why a replacement would be harder to find and more expensive. He told that me the leaks were probably around the valves, and he hated to do a valve job, because it would stress lower parts of the engine, and I might end up with more problems.

Thanks for all of the advice guys.



By the way, the PCV valve was replaced about 2 wks ago, with no effect on consumption


You are consuming almost a quart of oil per tank of gas. I can’t believe it does not smoke, even if only at start up. I will go along with most of what was stated and say don’t throw $3500 into it. I am sure the market value is worth much less even with a new engine. Use that money towards a newer used one. Taurus/Sable are good cars for the money but they depreciate fast and there are plenty on the used market. Also keep in mind the trannys are a weak point, so ask about the maintenace performed on any used ones you look at. The used engines from a salvage yard may end up being a good deal but are a crap shoot. Even with some kind of warranty you have to be prepared to be inconvenienced by not having a car for some time while it is being install and possibly reinstalled if it craps out. Only you can weigh that out.

You could try using a 10W-40 High milage oil like Castrol’s or Valvoline’s. See if that reduces the consumption a bit while you are still using it. If you live in a warm climate try adding 2 qts of 30 weight as someone suggested.


If oil is leaking into the combustion compartment past the valves, it is the valve stem seals. You would not need a valve job, just replacement of the seals. Typically this problem displays a puff of smoke at startup and when taking off after idling, even at a traffic light.


Your mechanic is correct that the DOHC is harder to find and more expensive.
I do disagree with him somewhat on one point.
Performing a valve job does not automatically mean that since the valves are sealing better there will be a problem with the lower end. That is only true if the engine has low oil pressure, has suffered head gasket failure which diluted the engine oil, and IF (the big one) the rings are going out.

It should be the mechanic’s duty to tell you if the rings are a problem or not. This is easily done with a “wet” compression test or leakdown test. If the rings and oil pressure are good there should be no problem performing a valve job.

If one assumes the valve seals are the problem, these can be replaced without removing the cylinder heads. The cylinders are aired up one at a time, valve springs are removed, and the valve seals replaced with the valves in place. There is no test for valve stem seals; it’s strictly replace and hope; although often many bad ones, once they’re off, can be visually examined for faults.

As to the “wet” compression test I mentioned, this is nothing more than squirting a small amount of oil into a cylinder and rechecking the compression. If the compression is somewhat low and the oil does not force the reading up much then it’s a valve problem (which has nothing to do with valve seals).
If the reading takes a considerable jump upwards then it’s a ring problem.

This needs to be determined before going into that engine at all. It would be interesting to know what the compression readings actually are.


If the problem turns out to just the valve guides, replacement of those should not be too costly, as pointed out already. Now that we know what engine you have,if there are major problems, scrap the car, since the DOHC engine is much more troublesome, and for instance, changing the rear plugs necessitates pulling the engine out!