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Coolant Reservoir Cracked, Swollen 99 Taurus

Two autumns ago I lost heat and discovered I had no coolant because the reservoir had cracked. Replaced the reservoir and life was warm again. The following autumn, same thing. Replaced the reservoir AGAIN. The mechanic showed me where it had bulged out on the side, and said if this new one looks like it is swelling out also, then there is a deeper problem, like maybe a leaking head gasket. Well, it is definitely bulging on the side again. I mentioned this problem to my male co-workers and they were puzzled and also thought the mechanic’s suggestion was incorrect. They thought I should contact Car Talk.

Testing for a faulty head gasket is not that complicated but I’m not so sure there’s a head gasket problem with your car. What year, engine, and mileage on this thing?

Has the pressure cap been replaced and does the radiator cooling fan operate? Just wondering if the temperature could be climbing up a bit higher than normal and a faulty pressure cap is allowing cooling system pressure to build up higher than normal.

This test is very informal and by no means definitive but you could try this. After the car has sat all night loosen the pressure cap to release any pressure that may exist.
Retighten the cap, start the engine, and allow it to idle for 20 seconds or so.
Now turn the engine off and quickly loosen the pressure cap. If you hear a hiss then it’s at least possible there could be a head gasket breach and further testing should be done.

These cars are famous for the coolant getting brown and rusty with rusty sediment. The water pump impeller fins maybe rusted away causing low flow of coolant through the the system.

So the possibilities could be blown head gasket, or bad water pump, or coolant system clogged with sediment/rust, or bad pressure cap, or any combination of.

                             Good Luck

It’s a 99 SE with a 3.0 EFI V6 and 150,000 miles. Not sure if it’s a Vulcan or a Duratech. When the reservoir was replaced this past fall the pressure cap was replaced also.

Thanks for your reply. I’ll try that little test today.

So it sounds like a head gasket issue is not out of the question. Thanks for the reply!

If your pressure cap was ruled out then you have a head gasket issue. The head gasket is leaking cylinder pressure into the cooling system thus over pressurizing your tank and blowing it out. Time to either buck up some serious money for TWO head gaskets or you can use a $60 bottle of Blue Devil… Your choice. With the age of this car and the mileage figured in I would Blue Devil it and call it a day.

I appreciate the info. Blue Devil for me.

Unless flogged into the pavement, the 3.0 Vulcan is a fantastic engine that is near bullet-proof and head gasket problems are just about unheard of.

That’s good info. Sounds like probability wise the problem is more likely to be within the coolant system. With so many components in the coolant system, where to start?

TSB #01-11-16 addresses this problem. Among many things listed that can happen is a leaking/cracked/discolored coolant reservior bottle.

And here’s what Ford Motor Company says: On 1999 model year cars, PERFORM A FLUSH AND FILL PROCEDURE AND CHEMICAL FLUSH ONLY! That’s exactly how it’s worded, caps and all.


If you go to this link and download the Brown coolant PDF file on the first post you will get the TSB #01-11-16

Thank you very much. I took a look at the pdf as well as the posts. This seems worth investigating. Appreciate the help everyone!