Mercury sable wagon woes

I got a 1997 mercury sable from a relative as a gift. She had mostly just driven around small towns in Long Island, not highway driving. I took off early am, stopped for gas about 3 hours later…all was fine. An hour after that, stopped for the loo and came back to car to find large puddle of rusty water across parking lot. Had smelled strange smell just before stopping (must have been antifreeze) but temp gauge fine. Service station in NE Maryland checked out next day b/c told me I could not drive it. The reservoir was full of rusty sludge, and when they poured water in reservoir it bubbled out onto ground, very rusty. I got ride to VA…now they tell me it has blown head gasket, a $1400 job. How can I believe them? Should i cut my losses and just sell to them? I have a Honda wagon with 230,000 that I love and had hoped that the sable would be a good replacement car one I have big problems with it. Oh…the sable only has 74,500 miles.

Sounds like your relative drove the car on short errands and didn’t really keep up on the maintenance, which is hard on an engine. Rusty coolant is a dead giveaway as far as lack of up-keep, but does NOT necessarily indicate a blown head gasket.

Without knowing the service history or the condition of the rest of the car it’s hard to give advice. Is there anyone near the location of the car you can trust to give you an honest evaluation of its condition? Any friends or relatives in the area?

What losses? The car was a gift!

Yeah, it sounds like you probably do have a blown headgasket. The symptoms fit, and I see nothing in your post that suggests they didn’t do a proper diagnosis.

Personally, I’d let them have it to cover the shop bill it they’re willing.

I have three of these cars (two 97’s and a '96) and I can tell you that rusty coolant is not necessarily a symptom of a failed head gasket. One time it was because a heater core let go, another time it was because a water pump let go, and on the third car it was because a radiator wore out and let go. Once I fixed these problems, everything was fine and I drove the cars for tens of thousands more miles. I echo the recommendation to have the car checked out by a trustworthy mechanic. Or, if you just want to give the car away, I’ll take it! :wink: