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Need help diagnosing a problem with a 2001 Ford Escape

Hey guys I’m new here so I appreciate any help you can give me in advance. A little history first. I have a 2001 Ford Escape that just passed inspection 2 days ago. It only had one owner that took good care of it and kept all the records. It currently has 159k miles and I changed the oil yesterday.

It had a coil pack go out a few months ago so I replaced the 3 up front and thank God that fixed it cause the rear ones are a pain to get to. It does have an occasional “bloop” at idle and probably needs the other 3 replaced shortly.

The radiator had a tiny leak that I used a copper stop leak to fix temporarily and it’s been working fine since, but onto the issue at hand. Oh, I almost forgot, the spark plugs are all seazed up and won’t budge at all. I’m afraid to take them out and risk breaking them off. The engine runs good and strong with no apparent loss of power at all rpms.

Okay, so now that’s out of the way, here’s what happened today. As I was driving back home from work, i felt something that felt like those road grooves that wake you up on the highway but the road was smooth and never made that sound so I knew it must be the car. I barely manage to get in my driveway when steam started coming from under the hood. I turned off the ignition asap and opened the hood. It seems the violent vibrations cracked the plastic inlet tube on the old radiator and sprayed the engine with coolant.

The car was not overheating when I got home and no check engine codes came on so I’m left scratching my head at the cause of this sudden failure. Also, there’s no coolant on the dipstick. The car was running great all day up until this happened.

Any guess as to what could be the cause? I assume the shaking broke the inlet tube but maybe the inlet tube cracked off and caused the shaking? (If that’s even possible…) Also, the motor mounts passed the driveway test and the transmission shifts nice and smooth. Never had any overheating issues either. Any guesses?

Just wanted to add, I was hitting potholes all day cause the streets are shite where I work.

Dod you check your wheels for dents? check for missing weights? Do you have very low profile tires?

If that’s not the problem, have the front end and wheel bearings inspected.

It was shaking in the driveway in park and displays no symptoms of bad wheel bearings either. I’m thinking it’s most likely engine related.

Tires are standard with good tread and well balanced. The motor is a 3.0L V6

My guess is that the radiator burst and the coolant leaked out, and the resulting engine overheating has damaged the engine. It might have leaked out slowly at first, and you didn’t notice when it started overheating. That’s just a guess of course, and I hope for you wallet’s sake that isn’t the problem.

A couple of points of advice going forward, assuming my guess is incorrect and there’s not engine damage to deal with. First, When a radiator over 10 years old starts to leak, the only viable solution is to replace it immediately. Aftermarket radiators usually get good reports here, and don’t cost that much. I installed one in my Corolla a couple of years ago, the radiator cost $90, and I installed it myself in about an hour, maybe 90 minutes time. Been working fine since. Second , from what I understand you are a recent owner, the 2nd owner. The spark plug seize problem probably indicates the routine maintenance wasn’t kept up to date by the prior owner presumably. Given that, all the routine engine and transmission maintenance items are suspect, probably beyond their due date, and they all need to be renewed. Engine oil and filter, proper transmission service, cooling system flush & refill and new thermostat are a good place to start. For the spark plugs, suggest to take your car to your local auto machine shop and ask them to remove the spark plugs for you. Likely to be a small fee, and they solve this kind of problem all the time. They’ll have special tools and procedures you won’t have access to. Don’t bust your knuckles on that job, let the machine shop handle it.

Was the check engine light flashing . . . ?!

Thanks for the advice. I will definitely replace the radiator and have a shop remove the plugs if they need replacing. It happened less than a mile from my house so it never actually overheated during that 5 min period on a short trip. The steam just started to come from under the hood as I approached the driveway so I think any engine damage was averted. The spark plugs were probably over tightened or slightly under tightened which allowed Moisture to rust the threads in. Obviously no anti seeze was used on the plugs. Something to disolve the oxidation might free them up.

It happened so close to home that I don’t think it had time to throw a code but if I were any farther away it probably would have. I got to borrow a code reader and see if it shows anything

I suspect that the radiator cracked first, then the steam shorted out a few plug wires causing engine shudder, which you felt as the shaking.

I blew the upper radiator hose on my 2002 Dakota and was lucky to be making a turn when it happened. Going so slow the steam was noticed right away…had I been going 50mph the steam may have not been noticeable and I may have overheated and done engine damage.
Hopefully the same happened to the poster…

I, personally would never buy a used radiator. You can probably get a brand new one for under $150.