Did I kill my Ford Escort...?

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Hello everybody!

The instructions advised me to introduce myself, so my name is Zbyszek.
I'm a computer science student, and I come from Poland. For any more details please write to my email :)

I have problems with my car. It's Ford Escort 1991 1.9L LX, automatic transmission, fuel injection, and it has supposedly 240,000 miles (I think it had the engine rebuilt at some point). I got it when it had
230,000 miles, 2 years ago. It has several problems, but the two main are:

1. There's something wrong with the automatic transmission. Sometimes it doesn't
shift into the fastest gear. In AAMCO they said it's an internal problem
and would cost $1500 to rebuilt. I don't think it is connected with the
main problem (below), but I mention it for completeness.

2. The story goes like this: For long time the check coolant lamp on the
dashboard was on, although the level in the reservoir was ok. There
wasn't any noticeably leak and the engine was not overheating. I assumed
it was a meter problem. At some point a leak appeared - it was a
considerable dripping, from under the timing belt cover (where water
pump is). At first I was adding coolant, but later I started to add tap
water to the coolant system. I ran it for about a month (I didn't drive
it much, but still everyday). The leaking stopped, but I noticed that if
the engine gets hot, some steam (I think, unless it was some white
smoke) goes out of the same place. The level in the reservoir was not
changing (it was much above full, by the way, because at some point I
just topped it). Also, there was some grating sound from around water
pump (bearings broken?), that sometimes got really loud for some 1-2
seconds. The hose from engine to radiator was quite hot, which would
mean the coolant was still flowing. I didn't drive the car much since
then, maybe several times, several miles each time. I noticed that when
the engine got hot, the car started to die. The temperature meter was
showing normal temperature. I wanted to take the timing cover out to see
the water pump, but didn't manage. However, I cleaned the water
reservoir (there was some mud (?) at the bottom) and left the proper
amount of water in it (cold full) - the check coolant lamp went off. I
also changed the drive belt, spark plugs (the old looked ok - just
worn), cables and air filter. The last time I drove the car, it died
several times after some 5 miles. I noticed that 2 out of the 4 new
spark plug wires happen to loosen and do not contact, so I had to push
them back (it may be because I applied special silicon substance to make better conductivity?).
It seemed to me that the steam is going out also from around
the spark plugs. I waited about 30 minutes to let it cool down, and
started to come back. At some point I could hear that every time I
accelerate there is a noise, for me it sounded like a hole in exhaust
(although I think it wasn't) - it could be that the spark plug wires loosened
again and this made the sound, maybe. Then, after about 3 miles, the car
died again while driving and I pulled off. There was quite a lot of steam
again (although I still could see the engine ;), and the spark plug wires disattached again and were so hot, I
could hardly push them back. I waited a while to let the engine cool
down, but it didn't help. Every time I tried to start the car, I only
saw the steam going out of the water pump (?) and I could feel a strange
smell which I didn't feel before (it could be oil, although I'm not sure).
During all this the temperature meter was
showing normal temperature. The car didn't start even after totally
cooling down. I can hear the engine rotating and I think I could even hear like
one explosion inside a cylinder, but it doesn't start. I have enough gas
in the tank. The timing belt was changed about 10,000 miles ago and is still in place (I could see it).

I have two hypotheses, after asking friends and studying Haynes manual.

- it can be the water pump broken. It is moved by the timing belt
(yes!), so if the bearings are broken, it may prevent timing belt from
running smoothly and stop the engine.

- or I overheated the engine. The temperature meter was showing all the
time "normal". However, it could be wrong - I guess that there could be
not enough coolant/water in the system - and since the temperature
sending unit works by measuring some resistance, maybe it didn't
function properly, if it was not submerged. The level of coolant in
reservoir wasn't changing, because every time the system was supposed to
suck the coolant from there, it was instead sucking air through a
possible hole in the water pump (there was a leak, right?). I tried to
see if there is any coolant in radiator, I opened it slightly at the
bottom and the coolant started to flow out - but I don't know how much
there is. Also, the coolant seemed to be polluted (but that's maybe
because I never flushed it). There is also some yellowish mud-like dirt
on top of the small gasket in the radiator cap.

Ok, that's it. Anybody has any other ideas what could happen? Also, if not, which
one looks more probable to you? How to check if I
really overheated the engine so much that I killed it? (I mean, if it
melted inside...).

posted by  skolicki

...by saying that I appreciate if someone could help me.



(that was because of copy-pasting... sorry)

posted by  skolicki

Ok, lets get the main problem sorted out first. It sounds to me that the 'yellowish dirt' is a mixture of oil and water, one of the symptoms of a headgasket failure. The white smoke you describe is also a symptom, as is water loss and rough running, all of which, you have described. Obviously it's hard to come to a conclusion without having seen the car, but I'd strongly suggest you have a compression test carried out by a Mechanic as soon as possible.

Chances are, it is an internal problem, however, it could be a simple ECU fault, I really cant say for certain, I'm sure somebody else will have a further insight into this problem for you. :thumbs:

posted by  Cliffy

Cliffy on to this one

What will happen during a compression check is all of the plugs are removed, the throttle plate blocked open, the igition system temporarily disabled and a pressure gage srewed into a apark plug hole. The engine is cranked for 3 or 4 revs and the highest pressure is recorded. This is repeated for the other cylinders. What the mechanic is looking for is one or two cylindes lower than expected (less than 10 - 15% of each other) indicating bad head gasket or cracked block based on the other symptions described.

posted by  tbaxleyjr

Have a diagnostic computer pluged in to the auto box and read off the error codes.. Cross reference these to the applicable book and hey presto, you auto box problem will be found...! :mrgreen: :sleep: :thumbs:

N.B. i say found, not solved. Oh and to answer ur question no, you didn't kill it, just temporaly mamed it...! :hi: :orglaugh:

posted by  R34RB30DETTV

not for an overheated car and a warped head or head gasket

posted by  tbaxleyjr

Thank you for helping. Did I understand correctly that the compression test can be done without the engine starting (just cranking it using the battery...? how long will the battery last?)

I'm thinking about trying to change the water pump myself (although it requires removing the timing belt... hm :) I'll be following the Haynes manual, wish me good luck), flushing the coolant system and see whether the car starts or not. If it starts I'll see if it overheats (because the temperature sending unit should work then correctly) and I'll know if I have a headgasket blown. If my changing the water pump doesn't help (and I think it won't, but I want to see if I can do it myself ;), then I'll take the car to a mechanic (I've already been to one, who told me that the timing belt is broken and that he can see no valves moving when he open the oil cap - which is totally false, because I tried it with my friend - so I'll take it to another mechanic). Is it possible that the engine doesn't start at all because of the warped elements inside?



posted by  skolicki

Your mechanic will remove the spark plugs, disconnect the ignition system, block open the throttle plate, and install a pressuren gage in the spark plug hole. He will crank the engine for 10 - 15 revolutions until the pressure in the cylinder is maximum and repeats itself a couple or three times. This will be done for each cylinder.

If you have a broken timing belt, you will see no valve movement in the oil cap

I think the timing belt will have to be fixed before a comprssion check can be done

posted by  tbaxleyjr

Ok, so from your description it looks like engine doesn't have to start to make the compression check, it just has to rotate (especially that you remove the spark plugs etc). I'm still not sure if a battery can last long enought to crank the engine 10-15 revolutions x 4 cylinders?

I believe my timing belt is NOT broken. I think the mechanic who said that it is, didn't even bother to look under the hood. I looked under the timing belt cover, could see it, and my friend tried to start the car - and I could see it moving and rotating the camshaft. And I DID see valve movement in the oil cap.

Thanks again.

posted by  skolicki

The engine will not start during a compression test with the plugs out and the throttle blocked wide open. You disconnect the ignition system to keep from electrocuting yourself during the test with a 20000 - 40000 vols spark dancing to ground

posted by  tbaxleyjr

ok, that's me again. I still didn't have the compression test yet - I don't have much time for dealing with the car, and was using buses recently (and don't want to spend money, if I decide to tow the car to the junkyard...)

1. I've read a bit about compression test and it looks like you have to run your car a bit before the test - to warm it up. Can I still have the test without this warming up (since the car doesn't start) ? The readings will be smaller, but it will still be possible to judge, if I have a head gasket problem, right?

2. I drained the radiator, because I was thinking about changing the water pump. There was little coolant there (like 1/4 gallon?). Is it normal? I think I was running without coolant (why the temperature gauge didn't show it's too hot???). This, plus the fact that the engine used to die, when it got hot, makes me think, that I have seriously overheated it and possible warped something inside. Do you think there is any chance I didn't? Can there be any other reason connected to coolant system/water pump why it was dying?

Thanks again

posted by  skolicki

If you operated the car with only 1/4 gallon (1 L) coolant in the radiator, you are probably in deep poo-poo. (i.e. warped head, headgasket @ least, internal engine damage such as a siezed engine @ worst.

To answer the title of your post, you probably killed the escort

posted by  tbaxleyjr

skolicki listen to Cliffy and tbaxleyjr. They are almost certainly correct. Your symptoms are classic head gasket failure.

posted by  Wally

LOL.. poo-poo.. He he he.. :orglaugh: . Anyway, yeah your car sounds pretty past it's best.. Will the engine even turn over still?

posted by  R34RB30DETTV

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