Engine Mechanical problem
1997 Ford Escort 4 cyl Front Wheel Drive Automatic 162000 miles
I had just gotten back from a week long stay in a town 7 hours from where I live. During the stay my car endured a ton of highway, city, and steep mountain road driving. On the way back, the car would (and has for quite some time now) slightly overheat while ascending mountain highway roads at high speed even with a light passenger load. I would remedy this with slowing down to 45-55 mph. Normally no more overheating would occur when the highway leveled out, but this time on my way back to my town it was running a bit hotter at all times than usual.
When I eventually got about 5 miles from my home, my temp gauge was at times within a couple millimeters distance from the red, and might have spiked all the way maybe once or twice.
Ever since I bought the car 2 years ago when it had 118,000 miles, I had noticed that every month or so the " check coolant" light would turn on. I solved this problem every time by filling the reserve coolant tank (located all the way left of the radiator) to the " full" mark. I would restart the car and the light would be gone. Although the " check coolant" light would come on from time to time, it never seemed to have a direct effect on the engines running temp. This " check coolant" light came on midway through the 7 hour drive home and stayed on and I didnt put in coolant to the tank this time. I have never put coolant directly into the radiator to solve this reaccuring " check coolant" light.
It sat for a week while I went out of town. When I returned I looked underneath and saw several beads of green coolant underneath the radiator in several places and underneath the bottom of the engine, also there was deposits of dry coolant, and recent coolant stains coming from the hole which the main gear coming from the engine (crank shaft gear? Its attached to a main belt), is attached.
At this point the " check coolant" light was still on and the car still ran, not so enthusiastically, but it still would go. I drove it to the store to get coolant, and noticed the temp gauge read normal. On the return drive from the store, the acceleration slowed down as if the engine was getting really tired, and refused to respond much to more gas without really forcing it. At the same time, the temp gauge bounced a bit to the cold side. Immediately after, there was a loud, relatively medium pitched rapid sound that sped up with acceleration. It sounded like a rapid " tig-a-tig-a-tig-a-tig-a-tig-a". (Its a sound i've noticed for years but it has always been a very light sound, barely there, and caused me no concern). This sound, although familiar, was very much suddenly louder than it has ever been before. Still my temp gauge read normal if not colder than usual.
My car then stalled after maybe 7-15 seconds of this racket. There was no smoke of any kind coming from the exhaust pipe, but upon opening the hood I noticed a bad smell and a light white smoke quickly coming from the engine itself. After a few minutes, I tried to start the car again.
When I turned the key, the starter didnt give me a dead click, but seemed to be operating fair. But, the engine seemed like there was something trying hard to hold it back. It was trying to start but just didnt seem to be rotating fast enough,
I got what sounded like an engine trying to go fast enough to run but struggling to barely move, like a marathon runner with serious leg cramps trying to run with 50 pd weights attached to both feet, or like someone using their last bit of energy during a losing arm wrestle. Over the last 3 days I've attempted to start it twice with the exact same characteristic result.
-oil was always changed at 3,000 miles.
-an oil change before this trip may have actually been overfilled a bit.
-dipstick before and after breakdown shows an ideal amount of oil in the engine.
-the oil color is what I would call slightly dirty medium brown and around the edges of a droplet of oil slightly opaque and clean looking (the miles show im due for a change but not much overdue)
-opening the radiator cap shows me no fluid, looks all gone, and no apparent coolant pressure in the radiator once opening the cap with the engine hot (tested this right before it broke down)
Can you please tell me what went wrong, whats broken, what I did wrong, how much it could cost to fix it, and if replacing the engine with a new one (since the tranny has only 10,000 miles on it) would be cheaper.
It sounds as if you have seized the engine due to overheating. Your problem has been lack off coolant, but you say the gauge was ok? Unfortunately the temp sender will only work properly if it is emersed in water, if the coolant level is so low that only water /air or steam is present it wont work. I would price a re co engine an see if it is feasible for you to go that way.
April, 14, 2008 AT 1:44 PM
What do you mean by " re co" engine? Do you mean rebuilt? What about just getting a new engine?
April, 14, 2008 AT 5:00 PM
A re-co (reconditioned) or re built engine will be a cheaper option than a new factory engine, just shop around for your best price.
April, 14, 2008 AT 5:05 PM
Ok cool, but, on average would you say that a new engine would be a safer bet than a rebuilt one?
April, 14, 2008 AT 6:58 PM
A new factory engine would be better, but the cost will be considerably higher, you will have to compare the two prices to see what your budget will handle.