Smoking, shaking, noisy - my Taurus has turned into Los Angeles

The 2000 Ford Taurus SE showed no signs of blowing up before it told my wife last night it was tired of running.

That was when I got the call -

She’d turned it on to move it out of the driveway, and it was idling very rough, shaking, and making a revving noise. She turned it off. Turned it back on again - same thing. Needing to get the car out of the driveway, she pulled it about 50 feet in reverse and parked it in the street.

By then, it was smoking too – greyish smoke, coming from under the hood.

When I got home a few hours later, I tried to start it up. It sounded like a normal start-up, except, well, it didn’t start. Just kept trying.

Pre-existing conditions:

- A slight oxygen leak in the fuel system that it’s had for 40k miles. We’ve opted not to repair it because, well, it’s had it for 40k miles and has not produced any problems. It’s shown on in the ODB sensor as a missing gas cap.

- The last few weeks, it’s very sporadiaclly had a tapping or clicking noise coming from under the hood as we drive it. The best description I can give is that it sounded like bad CV boots, except there was no method to the clicking (didn’t happen when accelerating, turning, etc… just random) and, well, CV boots wouldn’t make the car blow up.


The questions:

1. What the heck happened?

2. Dealership or shop? I’ve had good luck with Ford dealerships doing repairs the last few years… but this sounds like it could be pricey.

3. Time to tell Mr. Taurus, with 157,000 miles, to hit the road?