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Overheating - do I have a problem?

1999 Ford Taurus, 179K miles. My car has been hot on occasion (adding about a half gallon of antifreeze a week for 4 weeks). Tonight the heater hose blew a hole and the temp went UP (highest I’ve seen the gage go). I pulled over, let it cool and drove about 2 miles home. I replaced the hose, flushed the system and when I ran the engine, white smoke came from the exhaust pipe that I don’t recall from before. Is there something I should be worried about or am I a hypochondriac?

Yes, you have a problem. The white smoke is water/coolant that has passed thru the engine (steam at the tailpipe). Before the blown hose episode, were there any visible leaks? What did the dipstick show (milky)?

You likely have a warped or cracked head or heads that are leaking into the combustion chambers, The head gaskets were probably the cause of the slow coolant loss before the heater hose episode.

Beforehand, the oil looked fine. I haven’t checked it since last weekend. The heater core drain was leaking when the heat was turned on, so I’ve not used the heat (luckily haven’t needed it) and the drip stopped.

What’s do I do at this point? Can I drive the car?

I would not be driving the car. I might drive it to the shop if it is close. You have some problems, but someone will need to do some hand on checks before you know just how bad it is.

(adding about a half gallon of antifreeze a week for 4 weeks). is an indication of a serious problem and the car should not have been driven. It could have been a minor problem and now because you were driving it while loosing that much coolant, it may have become a big problem.

You have every indication of having driven an engine with a blown headgasket continually and repeatedly letting it overheat without addressing the cause. It seems now that the problem has grown severe.

While you were driving it that way you not only likely warped the heads and REALLY blew a hole in the headgasket, a BIG one, but you’ve also seriously compromised your lubrication…coolant in the oil (I can almost guarantee you have it) will destroy bearings. You’ve probably also eroded some pretty big grooves in the surfaces of the heads and block where the headgasket breech was.

Honestly, at this point I’d look for a boneyard replacement engine. Replacement of the headgaskets will likely mean a milling of the heads and the block top surface…basically an entire rebuild…and the cost will be prohibitive and the results a crap-shoot. There’s been too much internal damage.

Note: the worrying should have started the first time the temp gage rose above normal. You are clearly not a hypochondriac.