CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Overheating 1995 Ford Taurus

Okay, admittedly my car isn’t top of the line. But I’d rather keep it. I also don’t have the money for anything new.

It all started one day getting stuck in traffic. Some kid claims something broke, causing him to serve in front of a bus bus and sending the bus into a creek. Luckily, all the kids had been dropped off, and the driver wasn’t hurt. In my angrier moments, I figure the kid was texting but have no proof. Anyhoo… I was stuck in traffic for 90 minutes, and within sight of getting out of the traffic mess, there was a loud bang and it overheats. Off to the side of the road, call the wife, she picks me up. Take it to the local shop, which replaces the Radiator and the Thermostat.

From then on, if I get stuck in slow traffic or at stop lights, it heats up quick. The dash temperature gauge has the word “NORMAL” spelled vertically. After a few traffic lights, the pointer is at the O or even the N. Before the next incident (below), running too hot would cause difficulty starting unless I pumped the gas pedal, or let it cool down for awhile.

Another incident: a rather sudden loss of power driving. The mechanic claims that the catalytic converters are clogged (the car has two). He opens up one of them, “unclogs” it, and only charges me about $90. This didn’t solve the problem. It did seem to clear up the starting problem.

There’s plenty of coolant in the reservoir.

Any ideas?

“There’s plenty of coolant in the reservoir.”

Yes, but the overflow reservoir can be full at the same time that the radiator is almost dry.
I strongly suggest that you check the radiator (when it it totally cooled-down), and refill it if necessary with a 50/50 coolant/water mix.

If the radiator is actually full of the proper coolant/water mix (NOT straight water!!), then the next thing you can check is whether the radiator’s electric cooling fan(s) are turning on when the temperature gauge climbs. If not, then a defective fan relay may be at fault.

The other possibilities include the need to “burp” the cooling system in order to eliminate air trapped in the heater core, and a water pump that is in need of replacement. Also–I hope that the mechanic installed the thermostat correctly. Some thermostats can be installed backwards, and if your is one of them, that could be causing the problem.

As to loss of power, two comments:

It is normal for engines to lose power when they are running very hot. You did not make it clear whether the power loss only occurs when the engine is running very hot.

Clogged catalytic converters can definitely cause a loss of power, and unfortunately there is no solution to clogged converters other than replacing them, and that can be…pricey. But…your mechanic “opened” one of your cat converters and cleaned it out??? How did he reseal it? I am sceptical of this detail.

We’ve checked the radiator, it’s full. And if I keep the car for much longer, that cat will have to be replaced, as it’s probably non-functional at this point.

What needs to be known is whether or not the radiator fan is cycling on. Sometimes the fans would become erratic in operation due to the wire connector plug on the module that controls the fan/fuel pump/AC/etc.
This is called an ICRM and the pin connectors on the wire can get a bit iffy with age and electrically caused heat.

The non-starting and/or sudden loss of power while driving could be caused by the ignition module. By 1995 the TFI modules were being phased out but if your car has the 3.0 then I think (?) it still uses that TFI module and these are trouble prone and sensitive to heat.

Like VDCdriver I’m a bit skeptical about the mechanic who supposedly unclogged your converter. While I’m not 100% certain on this, I think the first converter on your particular model of Taurus has the converter located inside of the header pipe and unclogging* that would be a nightmare of the highest order.
(* Unclogging - gutted - possible big trouble if caught.)

I’ll take a look and see if this model uses a header pipe converter and keep in mind that any of my comments are theories only at this point.