Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Longevity after a blown timing belt, water pump

A couple of months ago the timing belt blew (or the water pump took it out). We had both items replaced, as well as the serpentine belt and tensioners. What is the longevity after a blown timing belt? Did any damage happen to the engine? At the repair shop as the mechanic was checking everything following the belt, etc., repair, the cooling fan would not engage. The mechanic worked around this by flushing the radiator, which was apparently full of gray sludge. Now the check coolant light stays on, despite having enough fluids, and there appears to be something wrong with the exhaust system, but the muffler seems okay. However, the car is extremely loud. Could this have something to do with the catalytic converter and could this have been a result of the blown timing belt? Should we keep throwing good money after bad? The 1994 Escort wagon LX has 120-130K miles and we just bought it for $950 and have put about $800 into it, which puts us at book value. Should we repair?

Do you have any maintenance records for this car? If the belt “blew” at 120,000 miles, it was likely the first belt, and the original was never replaced. I suspect this car has seen very little regular maintenance, and I would have a good mechanic check it out as to what else may be wrong. The loud noise is likely a hole in the exhaust pipe or other part of the exhaust system. What makes you think it’s the coverter?

The Escort was a reasonably good car, but only if maintained by the book. This car appears to have been “just driven” with little thought as to upkeep.

You will definitely have more repairs in the future. All the things the first owner neglected.

If you depend on this car for daily transportation I would get rid of it. If not, just do the minimum upkeep and drive it into the ground.

Never mind. I see that you just bought it.

The engine in your Escort is not an interference engine, so there should be no internal damage from a broken timing belt.

By the way, they don’t “blow,” they just break, like any other belt. Or the water pump seizes and burns through the belt.

I don’t understand how flushing the radiator fixes a non-functional cooling fan, and gray sludge is never a good sign. It indicates lack of maintenance or something worse. What color is the coolant now? Does the cooling fan work now?

“Check coolant light?” Is that a coolant level warning or a coolant temperature warning? I’m betting it’s a temperature warning, and if the fan isn’t working it may have something to do with it.

If it’s a level warning the sensor may be faulty.

There is absolutely no connection between the timing belt and the exhaust system. If there are exhaust system problems they are a separate issue. The exhaust system can be leaking anywhere and it will make lots of noise. If you need a new cat you’re not going to like the price. Why do you think it’s the cat?

Since I don’t know what’s wrong with your Escort I can’t answer your question, “Should we repair?”

It appears that the car did have regular maintenance as we do have complete maintenance records from the prior owner who bought it off of the line. The only thing that was needed was the timing belt, so yes, it was original. The sound seems to originate from near the catalytic converter, which is why we suspect that. However, it could just as easily be a hole in the pipe.

Do you think the car could have electrical issues as indicated by the cooling fan issue and the check coolant light? Sometimes if you stop and then restart the car, the light goes away. I am wary about putting too much money into the vehicle if it will just nickel and dime us.

This sounds like a car that has been totally neglected and is on shaky ground. As mentioned, the timing belt snapping is not that big an issue. The sludged radiator and inoperative cooling fan might be.

If the car were mine I’d run a quick compression test and make sure this thing does not have some piston ring damage from prior overheating. You should be looking for around 180 PSI on all cylinders. If the pressure is down on any or all of them then it might be time to throw in the towel on this car.

If there is gray guck in the cooling system at that mileage, the car has NOT BEEN WELL MAINTAINED. I realize Fords have “long life coolant” but it won’t last 100,000 miles. Do the records show cooling system service, and at what mileage? I suspect the cooling system started leaking, and the guy put some stop leak in rather than fixing it properly. This means you could have a leaking head gasket as well, which spells the end of the road.

Your cooling fan problem could just be a small electrical glitch.

A hole in the exhaust system at than mileage is not a sign of neglect. But you have to fix it.

If the transmission and the engine are sound (big ifs) it’s worth putting some more money in. A friend of my wife inherited such an Escort from a relative, also “well maintained”, and she just scrapped it because the engine blew a head gasket due to overheating caused by not maintaing the cooling system.

If you offered me this car I would pay no more than $100, since you will have more problems. There probably is a good reason why the first owner unloaded this car just in time.

On the other hand, please realize that Americans spend $1200 per year maintaining their cars. If that figure scares you, buying a new car every 3-4 years is much more expensive.

Maybe the mechanic tested the fan and it functions but he suspected that the coolant temperature sensor was being interfered with by all the sludge in the cooling system so it wasn’t triggering the fan? This happened to a friend of mine on an old Honda. There was a sensor in the bottom right of the radiator and so much sludge had built up around it that it wasn’t even getting warm enough in that area to trigger the cooling fans but the rest of the system was way too hot.

By “the coolant light” do you mean the temp idiot light? I wa sunaware that Escourts had any type of coolant level sensor.

Assuming the tech fixed the cooling fan, the only problems you seem to have left are the idiot light and the exhaust. As long as the coolant is staying full and the engine not exhibiting other signs of overheating, it may be just he temp sensor. I’d fix it, but wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

I WOULD lose sleep over the exhaust. If you have a leak that pronounced and it’s getting into the passenger cabin you could be being poinsoned by carbon monoxide. That’s tasteless and odorless, but will put you to sleep and even kill you. You need to get this looked at and corrected ASAP! Yes, it could be in the cat converter, but the only way to find out is under the car. Get this fixed NOW, and drive it to the garage with the windows open. You can have them fix the light while you’re there.

(I don’t think '94 Escorts ever had “long life” coolant in any case.)

None of what you list seems out of ordinary for a 16+ old car. Constant repairs are going to be the norm on any car of this age with a likely unknown history.

Do you have the stomach for the repairs? If you can spend more money on a car from 2000’s I think you would be far ahead than putting into this one.