1996 Ford Thunderbird Can you tell me what exactly happened

Tiny
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  • MEMBER
  • 1996 FORD THUNDERBIRD
1996 Ford Thunderbird V8 Two Wheel Drive Automatic 255k miles

Hi there,

This is a bit of a novel, but I wanted to make sure you had all the info.

I'm a bit baffled by some recent traumatizing events with my baby (she's only been fed synthetic fluids, k&n, 3.73s, never had a fluid leak, really try to take good care of her).

Anyways, in a recent huge snowstorm, I lost power steering, but kept driving like an idiot to try and get home (there was nowhere to pull over on the hwy). Started losing battery/charge and temp gauge went up to the red zone a couple times, but never stayed there. I know now that it was my serpentine belt, but at the time I was just trying to limp home.

Almost made it, but she finally stopped (battery dead). The next day, we replaced belt, pulley, tensioner and she was running again. But, I did see some unusual white smoke out the back, and coolant level was really low (i had to add about 2/3 of a jug). In the following days, I added about another jug of coolant. On one day in particular, the temp gauge did go back up to the red zone, then came back to the middle. This happened on a short 15 minute drive home from work.

So I assumed blown head gaskets and started looking for a new car. In the meantime I did put a little flour mixed with water in the rad overflow (I know this is frowned on, but I was desperate and just needed to get her to last for a few more days until I could find another car).

Well several days later a mechanic I know offered to check her out and he tested the coolant for hydrocarbons and said she's fine. He ran her at high rpm for 5 minutes, tested the operation of the thermostat, and whatever else needed testing and says he thinks my head gasket is ok. He also topped up the coolant, but he has not pressure tested the cooling sys yet. He said to drive it, keep an eye on coolant level and temp gauge. I told him about the flour and he said that would have blown out if the gasket was gone.

Since then, coolant level is stable and temp gauge stable also. Yesterday I took her on one very long trip (300 km) which included an hour of idling waiting in line at the border. She was fine and seems to be stable and back to normal.

I read somewhere that my 4.6 might have a cylinder head temp sensor that helps to safeguard against overheating.

So my question is: what is going on? Aside from the fact that I'm an idiot for trying to drive the car without a belt (and maybe for the flour trick), but what could explain why the car was so low in coolant and what could explain the temp gauge acting the way it did especially the second time, with nothing happening now. I don't see so much white smoke coming out the back now, but there is a little still. Still no fluid leaks. Am I ok to keep driving?

Thx for your help solving this puzzle,
Brian
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Sunday, February 17th, 2008 AT 10:54 AM

6 Replies

Tiny
M8TRIX01
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Wow quite a story. Well to explain the coolant level and the temp guage reading you probably lost quite a bit of coolant when you overheated it the first time and even after filling it up there could still have been some air pockets. Keep an eye on the coolant level to see if it stays constant, also check your oil to see if it is still black not white.
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Sunday, February 17th, 2008 AT 11:51 AM
Tiny
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Where did the original coolant go when I first overheated? Did it blow by the rad cap maybe? I've checked the oil dipstick and oil filler cap about 3 times now since the unhappy incident and I can't see any white or anything. The oil looks fine. Just took her for another quick hour round trip and no problems. Although I did smell a short hint of coolant when I turned the heat on inside, but then the smell went away (so maybe a small leak in the heater core? I've smelled this before, and also with my last 88 tbird - maybe these cars are prone to leaks here?).

But for the overheating thing, did I dodge a bullet on this one or do you think I still may have problems either now or in the summer when its hotter?
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Sunday, February 17th, 2008 AT 7:38 PM
Tiny
M8TRIX01
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The coolant probably went by the radiator cap. But if your coolant leval is consistant then you probably dodged the bullet. If it was going to overheat again it would do it not needing warmer weather.
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Friday, February 29th, 2008 AT 6:15 PM
Tiny
MERLIN2021
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It could also be the area involved in a tech buliten...4.6 2V enginges leak coolant at the crossover of the intake manifolds...


http://www.2carpros.com/forum/automotive_pictures/62217_Location_1.jpg


This shows the weak spot...
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Friday, February 29th, 2008 AT 7:12 PM
Tiny
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Thx vey much for your advice guys!

I have now been driving her without incident for a couple weeks. After topping up coolant level a few times in the first couple days after the incident, I have not had to top it up at all lately. I check the level every other day now and it seems to be holding steady. I haven't noticed any puddles or leaks of any kind and believe me I've been watching for coolant! I"m pretty much hyper-paranoid about every little thing she does now! I've noticed a new intermittent hesitation in the trany when it shifts from 2nd to 3rd I think, so probably gonna do the fluid again (just had it completely flushed out this past summer). But honestly, other than that, she's been treating me good since I abused her!

I do have one question about the cause of the broken belt though. When I first lost power steering (and the belt), I had accidentally put the A/C on, plus had wipers, rear defrost, everything going at once. Someone told me that using the A/C in winter can be problematic and may have triggered the broken belt? Is there any truth to this?

Hoping to avoid any further car abuse,

Brian
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Friday, February 29th, 2008 AT 7:52 PM
Tiny
MERLIN2021
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If the manifold hasn't been done yet, give it a feel for moisture evey now and then. Good luck.
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Friday, February 29th, 2008 AT 7:55 PM

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