'97 Ford Taurus GL: Repair or Retire?

I’ve been listening to Car Talk on NPR since I was a little girl (probably as long as they’ve been on!), and I think this would be a good place to get some opinions

In February of '03, I purchased my first car, a '97 Ford Taurus GL, from a used car dealer. It had 114K miles, and appeared to be in good condition for the mileage. According to the dealer, it had been primarily a ‘showroom’ vehicle before being purchased by an elderly couple. Bought it for just under $4,000. We had it checked out before hand by a trusted mechanic, and he said it was in good shape for the mileage and price.

For the first few months, it ran well. Come summer, it started having issues. I had to have the A/C cleaned out due to a noxious mold build up from sitting for so long, but that wasn’t surprising. Nor was it surprising when the transmission showed some issues. An inaccurate local transmission shop took it apart and said it just needed some solenoids replaced. I wanted a second opinion, so I took it down to a major Ford dealership. They discovered the transmission was inundated by metal debris from wear and tear, and gave me the option of a transmission repair or rebuild. Opted for the rebuild, which was about $2800. Though quite painful, I knew with a car of this age and price would probably need it. I figured if I did the rebuild, it would last longer and I could keep the car going for many more years. And since then, the transmission has given me no issues. I also had a brake job done (shims replaced and relined).

The problems I’m concerned with are the electrical issues. I’ve had 3-4 batteries during the whole time I’ve owned it. I’ve had the air bag sensor replaced, various switches and relays fixed, and have had an alternator replaced as well. The door sensors have been nothing but trouble, and sometimes never go off. Nobody has been able to repair this. Interior lights stay on, and power drains quickly from batteries, even after the ‘new’ alternator (re-manufactured). I have heard many times that this make and model has history of electrical issues, and I’m wondering if I should sink any more money into this car or just move on. It’s gotten to the point where it’s been sitting on the property for quite some time, occasionally being started and moved.

Spend more or send her out to pasture? Note, I’m on quite a budget, so expensive repairs that may not extend its life long enough aren’t exactly my cup of tea.

Thanks all!


"According to the dealer, it had been primarily a ‘showroom’ vehicle before being purchased by an elderly couple"
and all the prisoners in prison are really innocent.
Good Lord, don’t believe anything a used car salesman says. If everything they said were true half the vehicles on earth would be owned by little old ladies and only driven to church.

A car’s history is a usually a pretty good indicator of what it’s future will be. I’m guessing that this one will onlt get more expensive and less reliable as time goes on. If it were mine I’d write what I’d spent off to the cost of a bad guess and sell (or trade) it and move on.

Take out the bulb, and trade it in during the day. :slight_smile:

That’s what I thought too. I figured it was owned by an elderly couple and was kept in storage quite often, hence the odor and mold. Trustworthiness doesn’t run in his family.

You’ve taken care of a big issue–the transmission. As far as the interior lights are concerned, the door switches shouldn’t be that expensive to repair. Even cheaper–remove the interior light bulbs.

My temptation would be to take the car to an independent shop that specializes in electrical work for an evaluation.

I would think that your mechanic would have caught this, but I wonder if your car was in a flood. This would explain the electrical problems and the moldy smell. If this is the case, I think I would lose the car.

Faulty ignitions switches sometimes cause issues with various electrical systems and could also cause the draining of the battery. I would also suggest having someone with automotive electrical experience check it out before putting it out to pasture if everything else seems to be in good condition. If there are other problems with the car you might be better off to try to find another vehicle that doesn’t have current issues. Buying a used car is always a gamble, but you can do things to reduce the chances of getting a lemon by having a mechanic check it out first (which you did) and getting a carfax report to get information of previous problems, accidents, and accurate mileage reports. Good luck!

The door switches in this Taurus are located inside the door. On the 98 Taurus in my family I sprayed WD40 inside the door latches and opened and closed the door several times. This was over 10 years ago and the problem never occurred again. It’s worth a try.