Neon Metallic Teal Escort Needs Your Advice

Hi folks,

Here’s the situation: I have a ’94 Ford Escort with 61k miles. Most of its life was spent in my grandmother’s garage. It’s got one of those neon metallic teal paint jobs, i.e. the best paint job. Until I moved to Washington, DC (what a mistake) it never gave me any trouble. But about a year ago my water pump busted and timing belt snapped at about the same time. I got both replaced at a certified Ford shop, shelled out $1100 for the job. Fast forward to now and the car has been running hot. I took it into a local shop and they tell me that the head gasket is busted, the cause being low coolant resulting from…a leaky water pump. They quote me $1400 for the whole job. I call the Ford shop and they say that the water pump is under warranty and they’ll replace it for free, but the head gasket replacement is not covered, even though it “may or may not” have been caused by the leaky water pump. So, they’ll do the pump but charge me…$1400 for just the head gasket job.

Here’s the rest of the situation: One way or another, I need a car because I’m moving to Texas at the end of the summer and it’s impossible to live down there without one. I don’t have money for a new car, or even a decent used one. So I’m inclined to get the work done, even though the car is quite old. When I paid for the water pump and timing belt replacement last year I was hoping to get at least another several years out of it, and I wouldn’t be having this problem now if the pump hadn’t been faulty. So I have two basic questions:

  1. Considering the low mileage, am I right to think I’ll be able to get another few years out of this car if I go through with the repairs? Will I at least be able to confidently drive down to Texas in the midsummer heat? (the cost of a plane ticket and shipping my stuff would be just as much as the repairs, so it’d be worth it just to accomplish that). The mechanic said nothing else appears to be wrong with the car and that when they dissemble the engine they’ll let me know if additional damage from overheating has been done, rendering this all pointless.

  2. Is it worth pushing Ford to cover the cost of replacing the head gasket as well? I talked to a couple Ford shops my family in knows and they said that they could very well be liable, but the shop that did the original repair down here in the wasteland of the Potomac is insisting that they are not. Is there a good strategy for approaching that?

Thanks so much in advance for any advice!

I would have the head gasket replaced.

Look at it like this. You’ll have the repair done, and then make a one time payment and the vehicle is back on the road.

If you purchase another used vehicle, you’ll probably have car payments, the insurance will be higher because there’s a loan on the vehicle, and since it’s used vehicle you don’t know the maintenance history of the vehicle. So the head gasket could fail shortly after purchasing the vehicle.


Check both shops through the BBB and or other services that rate businesses, then pick the best.

I’m thinking it may be time to purchase a newer car. I realize you don’t have very miles on this one, but I get the sense it hasn’t been maintained to the manufacture’s recommended schedule. For example, has the cooling system been flushed and re-filled with fresh coolant at least every 2-3 years? The timing belt should usually be replaced every 7 years, regardless of low mileage.

So if I’m correct and the routine maintenance has been deferred on this vehicle over the years, I think you are looking at more problems, and expensive ones, if you try to keep driving it. Cars age with time just like people, all the rubber and plastic parts especially, like the seals get hard and start to leak, the belts deteriorate and break, etc. It sounds like you need a reliable car, and I’m worried this 1994 Escort just isn’t going to meet that requirement.

Price some 3-5 year old used cars in your area, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla or Camry, Honda Civic or Fit, something like that. Visit one of those places where they sell rental cars, they have that type of car and are usually quite reasonably priced.

My vote is to fix the car. It’s aged but has very low miles and the alternative could be a used car that is nothing but major league problems from top to bottom.

As to holding the Ford dealer responsible, I don’t think you have a prayer of doing that. A few points could be made about that.
A leaking water pump will not cause a head gasket to give up.

Ignoring engine overheating and a climbing temp gauge due to a leaking water pump can cause a head gasket to fail. They could lay this at the feet of the car owner who did not do what should always be done when an engine is overheating or an oil light illuminates; stop immediately.

You could try to push the issue I suppose but after a year and considering the circumstances I doubt that it would go very far unless FOMOCO stepped in with a Good Will warranty to foot half the bill.
The warranty also expressly states no responsibility for consequential damages.

Everyone, thanks for all the advice, ok that was especially helpful.

George, not sure why you got that impression, but I’ve kept up routine maintenance on this car quite well (otherwise it would not have lasted even this long). Although I’ve never heard of anyone replacing their timing belt every 7 years. Like I said originally, I only have about $1500 to spend so there’s no way I can get a 3-5 year old car…

After pressing more on the Ford dealer, they said they could bring the issue to their higher-ups at Ford and possibly get it covered. But it sounds like that’s pretty unlikely. Plan at this point is to have the head gasket taken care of at the place it’s at now for $900 and then have AAA tow it to the Ford place to get the water pump done for free. Here’s hoping she can make it another few years…!

If the Ford dealer replaces the water pump for free you should make sure that the timing belt is replaced again.

A leaking water pump can saturate a timing belt with engine coolant and this can cause the belt to fail prematurely. Stay on top of this and do not allow them to nonchalantly brush this off as not being an issue.

Interesting! Good to know. I’ll have to give them another call…

If you can’t buy a new one then you fix the old one. Cars can always be fixed. They don’t have an expiration date on them, just a price tag. I would get the work done at the Ford dealer though. For one thing it is more likely to be done properly although some will argue. The other though is that there are plenty of Ford dealers in Texas that will stand behind the work done at a Ford garage if there is a problem. I’d hold my breath about finding more wrong though.


So if a tech at a Ford dealership offered to do the job at a lower price on the side, you should turn them down?


The Ford dealer will have a much higher labor rate than an independent shop

Unless the dealer is willing to replace the timing belt at no charge, have it done elsewhere. I’d go ahead and replace the cam and crank seals, tensioner and idler, while the timing cover is off. Unless they were replaced a year ago, and are still good. If you’re low on money, it’s imperative that everything under that cover is fresh. That way, you’ll be good to go for several years.

Penny wise is pound foolish, in the case of cheap and incomplete timing belt jobs

But definitely have the Ford dealer replace the water pump for free

“So if a tech at a Ford dealership offered to do the job at a lower price on the side, you should turn them down?”

It depends

First of all, let’s be realistic. That guy is not going to warranty the parts or the labor. Who knows what’s going to happen, if something goes wrong 6 months later?

Is he going to replace all the seals, tensioner, idler and water pump, also?

Or is he just quoting the timing belt job, minus all the other necessary stuff, just so that his quote looks low?

If you like taking risks, and don’t mind having no warranty on such a crucial repair . . .

The guy’s price would have to include everything for a proper timing belt job. Absolutely everything. And it would have to be significantly lower than the quote from a good independent shop. And that shop would have to be quoting the exact same job, with all the parts.

you have to compare apples to apples


So if a tech at a Ford dealership offered to do the job at a lower price on the side, you should turn them down?

No. I believe the OP had a price of $1400 doing it either way. She never said the Ford tech would do it after-hours that I saw anyway. To me the important point was that she is moving to Texas. Having the work done at a Ford dealership will allow her recourse from a Ford dealer in Texas if she has a problem. Neither the Inde shop or a tech working on the side would be able to offer that. For the same price, in this case I would go to a place where I could also have a nation-wide warranty.

I have to ask . . . why so much attention paid to the “Neon metallic teal” aspect of the car? Good advice from the others, just thought that I’d ask. Rocketman