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Coolant in oil- big time!

06-08-2011, 02:45 PM
Got my car back from the local shop that flushed the coolant system. They must have used more than 10-15psi to flush this as now I have coolant in the oil. My guess is that with 170K miles the head gasket finally gave way.

Any other possible weak spots for coolant getting into oil?
Will I have to go below the heads or will that be sufficient?


06-08-2011, 03:30 PM
Coolant contains sulphates and phosphates ... abrasives for the small clearances of the engine internals. You can expect to have aggresive bearing wear on the crank and rods ... expect a total engine rebuild to correct. You could try a couple of engine oil drains (pull an initial sample to go to the lab) ... I would use the lowest priced conventional oil I could buy ... only put a hundred miles or so on each oil fill and then drain (change filter). I would do this three or more times ... and then fill with my normal oil. Now drive a couple of thousand miles ... drain oil again, pulling a second sample to be sent to Blackstone Labs .... with a complete write-up of what the two samples represent. Follow their recommendations afterwards. Start this whole procedure right away! You may get lucky ... I hope so.

I doubt if the head gaskets are the fault ... I would rather suspect the engine front cover gasket or the lower intake manifold gasket.

06-08-2011, 04:50 PM
I'm going to agree with 12Ounce on this one: In particular, I'm suspicious of the front cover.

The name "front cover" is a bit of a misnomer: The Windstar's 3.8 "front cover" assembly is a complex casting that covers the timing chain - and mounts the water pump (which means two water passageways go through the cover), the oil pump and filter (which means two oil passageways go through the cover), as well as the cam position sensor.

The coolant passageways in the cover create a location for engine coolant to leak directly into the crankcase.

06-08-2011, 10:52 PM
The timing cover, aka front cover, is a expensive and labor intensive repair.
It is not a DIY type of job unless you really know what you are doing.
The good news is that the gasket has been upgraded to a better material, so if the job is done correctly, it should never need to be done again.

The lower intake manifold gaskets are easier to replace than the front cover gasket, but it STILL is a lot of work.
Again, the new gaskets are made of better materials, so you should only need to do this repair 1 time.

06-10-2011, 06:27 AM
Thanks guys.

Would the job be easier if I just pulled the engine? That way at least access would be less of an issue. I figured it would make cleanup much easier.

06-10-2011, 08:57 AM
I've done it both ways ... with engine in-place, and included in engine overhaul.

I would prefer to drop engine/tranny/sub-frame and overhaul engine ... but that takes time and workspace. But you end up rewinding the clock on the engine.

06-11-2011, 07:00 PM
Thanks guys,

Has anyone pulled the engine out the top? I'm not going to do the bottom drop with the whole sub-frame and drive wheels. I'd want to roll the van out of the garage after listing the engine out and just focus onthe engine - much less hassle.

I could see removing the hood, outer & inner cowlings, radiator and fans, and have plenty of room to get the engine out.


06-14-2011, 08:41 PM

Good advice on the oil change first. The Lord's being gracious to me. After draining and refilling, I've been driving it back and forth to work for a few days (10 miles each day) and the oil still looks clean.

Now that begs another question. Did these guys do something deliberate to get the coolant in the oil? How could that much coolant get in the oil without there being a breech in a gasket somewhere unless they had the engine open somewhere?


06-14-2011, 10:06 PM
Glad it seems to be getting cleaner ... but there can be abrasive quantities of coolant in the oil and you will never be able to detect by looking, feeling, touching ... whatever. It takes a lab. The oil is probably improving, but you need the experts ... if you really want to know for sure. Of course, you could just plunge ahead ... do a couple of clean-up oil changes and hope it is sufficient. Life's a gamble. I guess a crankcase can be also.

Someone may have made a mistake. You may have made a mistake carrying your car to that shop.

The word "flush" makes me nervous. Sounds appropriate for a toilet ... only.

Perhaps in Poker.

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