Mechanics

FORD CONTOUR ENGINE PROBLEM

1998 Ford Contour • 208,500 miles

The temperature gauge on the car isn't working at all anymore, just stuck at Cold. I'm not really sure whether it is the temperature sensor or the temperature sender. What is the difference between these parts, I also saw a diagram online(on another question on this site) where someone was given a diagram for the engine compartment and there was an Engine Coolant temperature sensor and a Coolant temperature sensor.
What is the difference between these two also? Lastly, what part do I have to buy seeing as how there might be 3 different parts?
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Dsmddn11
October 26, 2012.



"Sender" and "sensor" in this case are two different terms for the same thing. You have two of them because one is for the dash gauge and gives very little trouble, and one is for the Engine Computer and has caused Ford a lot of running problems. The one for the gauge has only one wire going to it. The one for the computer will always have two wires.

Unplug the wire from the single-wire sensor and ground it. That should make the gauge read full hot when the ignition switch is turned on. If it does, you know the gauge and wire to it are okay. That leaves the sensor. Why there are three sensors listed depends on whether you're looking at three different suppliers or there were three different ones used on your car model. You can buy them from any supplier and any parts store, but Ford is famous for changing something in the middle of a model year. The guys behind the counter at the parts stores will ask you whatever it is about your car that is different according to the notes in their parts catalogs. Most commonly with Fords they will ask you the date the car was built. That can be found in the top left or right corner of the sticker, usually found on the back of the driver's door opening.

Caradiodoc
Oct 26, 2012.
I just checked the car and both sensors have two wires going to it. There is a coolant leak somewhere but, I know for certain that no hoses are leaking or not tightened properly since I just switched out a hose a month ago. Could the gauge not be working because of a short out? The main worry that I have is that the car is going to heat up a bit and the fan wont turn on to help cool down the engine. BTW the car does not have a thermostat installed.

Tiny
Dsmddn11
Oct 26, 2012.
The engine can't warm up without a thermostat. The coolant will circulate through way too quickly and won't have time to get warm. You likely don't have a gauge problem. To tell, feel the air temperature coming from the heater. Also feel the upper radiator hose. It should be too hot to hold onto for very long.

I found three different temperature sensors but didn't know which engine size to look up. Two of them have two wires and one of them has one wire. I suspect there is a warning light on the dash along with the temperature gauge. That would explain the second wire.

Caradiodoc
Oct 27, 2012.
It's a 2.0 Zetec engine. No light on the dash, which is what I find weird. If it was a sensor then a light should be on, at least the "check engine" light(makes my stomach sink when it comes on).
The car hasn't had a thermostat since I got it 4 years ago, I think my dad either had it removed or we bought
it without one back in '02.

Tiny
Dsmddn11
Oct 27, 2012.
Replace the thermostat first before you go looking for a gauge problem that probably doesn't even exist. I just got done typing for over an hour for a fellow who asked what can happen when there's no thermostat in the engine. It boils down to increased fuel consumption, low power, greatly increased engine wear, and higher emissions. Many self-tests will not be run by the Engine Computer so some fault codes will never set to let you know a problem has been detected.

As for engine wear, you are very unlikely to get 50,000 miles from an engine that isn't running at the right temperature. 99 percent of engine wear takes place in the few minutes a cold engine is warming up. That's why vehicles that see nothing but highway driving live to see such ridiculously high mileages, like my '88 Grand Caravan with almost 400,000 miles. When your engine stays too cold it is constantly wearing excessively with every mile you drive.

Caradiodoc
Oct 27, 2012.
I saw how much thermostats cost and I guess I was wrong, I assumed they would be some ridiculous overpriced part. One question, is it still okay to drive the car? If the car starts to overheat, will the fan come on regardless of what the gauge says?
That's the reason this car is past the 200,000 mile mark, I mostly do highway driving. We also have an '84 Ford Ranger with over 400,000.

I checked the wiring and one of the connections and wires for a sensor is soaked in antifreeze. I'm assuming that could cause the problem.

Tiny
Dsmddn11
Oct 27, 2012.
I should have said, "As for engine wear, you are very unlikely to get 50,000 MORE miles from an engine that isn't running at the right temperature. The thermostat wasn't out of the engine for all of its 200,000 miles.

Nothing is going to suddenly fly apart but excessive wear is taking place in the engine. If I can find my other reply I'll paste a copy for you. You aren't going to do sudden damage in the short-term but as a person who beats the last ounce of life out of everything before I discard it, I pay particular attention to anything that can make them last longer. Thermostats don't fail as often as people think. They often remove them in a misguided attempt at solving a problem.

As for overheating, if that were to happen, the Engine Computer will turn the radiator fan on. It doesn't know about the missing thermostat; it just watches the coolant temperature.

Coolant in a wire or its connector comes from leaking through the sensor. That isn't real common but it did follow the wire all the way inside the car on a GM product a few years ago and made puddles on the floor. That's because there were no connectors in between like you normally find at the firewall, and thanks to the rubber weatherpack seals in the sensor's connector, the coolant leaking through it had no place to go except to get forced between the wire and its insulation. In your case, replace the leaking sensor and dry off the coolant on the connector pins. Use a little brake parts cleaner or electrical contact cleaner in a spray can to wash it out. Be sure to check for signs of corrosion or residue that could interfere with it making a good contact.

Caradiodoc
Oct 27, 2012.
I found a fail-safe thermostat so I'm gonna instal that and I also noticed that the sensors have a seal on them so I figured the one in there got worn out since it is the original part. I figure I'm gonna be on this site often asking for some help since the car is breaking down more often, still not enough to warrant getting rid of it.

Tiny
Dsmddn11
Oct 28, 2012.