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What's wrong w/ my bucket of bolts this time?

I have a 2002 Ford Taurus with about 202,000 miles or so on it. It’s got several problems, but the new one that I’m concerned with is that the thermostat gauge has started to read very hot when my car is idling. Today when it did it, I tried to turn the heat on to direct some of the hot air into the cabin and cool the engine until I got home. The air coming out of my vents, though, was cold until the car started to accelerate again. While I am driving, it blows plenty of hot air. Any ideas?

Have you checked your coolant level?
Have you checked to see that your cooling fans are working properly?

Beyond these simple chaecks you’ll need to expect to begin doing things like a system pressure check and a check of the radiator, thermostat, and even pressure cap. Your best bet is to bring it to a shop you trust. The whole cooling system needs to be checked out. Be sure the coolant level is up to full before driving it to the shop.

My guess would be a worn water pump at 202,000 miles. 

Other things to check would include radiator hoses that may look OK but are damaged in the inside. Have you owned the car since 2002? has the radiator fluid been changed?

I’ve had the fluid drained and filled, and the water pump was replaced within the last 6 months. I bought it used in 2004 with already 119K miles on it.

I’m waiting until the car cools off to check the coolant levels, but the fans appear to be OK. It stands a much greater chance of being fixed if it turns out to be something I can diagnose and/or fix myself.

It sounds like there’s air trapped in the cooling system.

If there is, and because the heater core is the highest point of the cooling system the air will collect in the heater core when idling and you get no heat until you accelerate. This air can also collect at the thermostat causing the thermostat to close causing the engine to begin to overheat. Thermostats are designed to sense liquid temperature not air temperature.

To remove any air from the cooling system, get the engine up to operating temperature. With the engine idling loosen the upper radiator hose clamp. Take a small flat bladed screwdriver and insert it between the upper radiator hose and the radiator hose neck. Allow the engine to continue to idle until all the air is purged from the cooling system and nothing but coolant comes out of the hose. Remove the screwdriver and retighten the hose clamp. After the engine has cooled down check the coolant level.


1ST, 3.0 or 3.8? Duratech? 3.0 could have issue with the water pump impeller being eroded aways, have seen that multiple times, 3.8 even Ford had head gasket issues with those, check and see if you fall into the free set of heads program and you might score a new engine for it. Other things could be restricted flow from radiator or from a collapsed hose, the lower hose on that vehicle is subject to collapsing at the bend. If you have 202K on it that might be happening. Another issue scould be related to the heater core being clogged from extended life coolant mixing with standard. Alot of things can cause that. Electric Fan issue??? Take its some place reputable and have them diagnose the cooling system correctly. Yes, you should have to pay for it, make sure a block test is run and have the Tech check it completely before you dump hard earned money into a 10 year old Taurus. This isnt a free inspection deal, you want to be sure.

The 3.8L was discontinued after the 1995 model year. There is NO way that he has a 3.8L in a 2002. None of the engines used in the Taurus from 1996 on have any abnormal headgasket issues There may be an occasional one or two, but no higher of a rate than you see in Camrys or Accords.

That really shows one of the battles Ford still has to fight - they fixed the problem you refer to 15 YEARS ago, but people still say that they have those problems.

This is a problem that all the domestic makes seem to be facing, and have for a long time. People can’t seem to get the '80s and early '90s out of their heads, when the Japanese companies were offering superior cars to what the domestics had to offer. I still hear Chrysler = junk transmissions rather frequently, and it’s all over the A604 that people had a tendency to use Dexron 3 in rather than the required ATF+4. That was twenty years ago, and the grudge is still going on. You never hear that about the transmissions Honda coupled to their V6 engines ten years ago that would fail every 15k to 20k miles, particularly in the Odyssey. Toyota is still largely well thought of and spoken of despite the number of recalls they have had to do the last couple of years, many of them safety related. I’m not saying we should badmouth the Japanese companies, but I do think it’s unfair the way the domestics are treated due to issues they had years ago. Who knows, maybe in twenty years people will refuse to touch a Honda or Toyota with a ten foot pole because it will either lunch the transmission or accelerate out of control and kill everyone inside it. Personally, I hope not.

Regarding your cooling problem, it sounds to me like low coolant level or a worn water pump. I would bet on coolant level unless you check it on a regular basis and know it’s full.

no heat from heater usually means low coolant level and id put a thermostat in it. get it together and put the heater on HEAT run it n watch 4 leaks

You see, because of the age, mileage, and extent of the other problems with the thing (I meant to type 220K miles in my original post) I am not willing to invest a lot on money in repairs. I don’t expect to get something for free, but if having a professional do the repairs means spending several hundred dollars on it I’d rather invest that money in a new one. At this age, things are just going to start wearing out. I’m just trying to squeeze a little more blood outta this turnip.