99 escort Head Gasket trouble


plwww
11-07-2009, 12:17 AM
Hey everyone, I'm hoping you could give me some advice with a head-gasket issue. My 99 escort appears to have blown a head gasket for the second time in two months, and I'm not sure what to do.

About two months ago, my head gasket started leaking...started my car one morning and blew a large cloud of steam behind me. When I took it to the mechanic, he said it clearly was overheated, and said it could only get that way with no water. It had indeed ran a bit low and overheated at least a month prior, but I hadn't had problems since then(was during the summer), though I didn't think it got hot enough to damage it since I shut it off as soon as I noticed it and hadn't driven far. I asked the mechanic if the damage could have taken a while to finally show up. He said, flatly, no; it would show immediately. Well, that didn't make much sense cause I hadn't noticed it overheat or be without water right before the problem showed up. Anyways, I got it fixed, and he assured me everything checked out as working(fan comes on, thermostat was new, no leaks visible...).

Well, a few days ago I had the same problem. Took it back to the mechanic and he says it again has clearly been hot(apparently by how the oil looks). Now, it most definitely hasn't been without water. I've been checking it constantly(almost in a paranoid manner, given I just spent a small fortune to repair it). Indeed, it still had water when I checked it after I noticed the problems again. Also, I have never noticed the heat-gauge going out of the normal range. I'm kind-of in a bind now. The mechanic maintains that everything checked out ok prior to releasing it back to me, so it isn't his fault....I find it hard to believe I blew two head gaskets in two months, and they're not related incidences.

So, what do you think? Am I doing something wrong, is it just bad luck, or did the mechanic miss something? The mechanic *has* offered to split the labor cost to repair it, but unfortunately that's not a great decrease in the bill(especially since I don't really have it). I still don't know what caused this to happen, so am reluctant to pay to repair it, if it may happen yet again.


Have any ideas or thoughts about this? I'd greatly appreciate any advice you have. Thanks

12Ounce
11-07-2009, 07:28 AM
Did your mechanic use new head bolts? Does he use a torque wrench and closely follow the tightening procedure? The head bolts on these engines are to be "over" torqued and stretched slightly ... then they act sorta like springs, keeping the aluminum head tight against the gasket. The bolts once used, are not to be reused ... but some mechanics insist on doing it.

Also the block and the head need to be checked for straightness ... warpage can occur during an overheating event. ??

Are you using antifreeze-water mix for coolant? It seems your cooling system may also be part of the problem, otherwise why did the first failure occur? You may have missed seeing an overheating event. I would suggest also wiring the rad fans for constant running while engine is running ... I do this on my vehicles for summer use. I also leave the reservoir pressure cap a turn or so loose ... drops the temp a bit, but does require a bit more topping-off. ... this assumes your model has a separate hi-press reservoir bottle and not a rad cap.

AzTumbleweed
11-07-2009, 10:09 AM
The first question that comes to my mind is why was it low on coolant? Coolant loss is a symptom of a bad head gasket. I think it was blown earlier than you thought and you just didn't notice it until it got low enough to overheat. Anyway, assuming he properly replaced the head gasket then my guess would be that you have a cracked head.

FordMan59
11-07-2009, 07:54 PM
As has already been asked, did he use new head bolts and did he check the head to see if it was true? If he was sure the engine had overheated then it's likely the head would have been warped and would have needed to be sent out to a machine shop to have it milled flat again. If the head wasn't sent to a machine shop and checked for cracks and to see if it was true I'd definely find another mechanic before sinking more money into it. There's a good chance that the second failure is because of something the mechanic didn't do right, why else would he be willing to do it again for half price? I don't know any mechanics who voluntarily cut there labor cost in half. If it was neglegence on the mechanic's part he should repair it free including parts. If you have a local news station that helps with consumer problems with businesses get them to talk for you.

plwww
11-07-2009, 09:00 PM
Thanks for the replies,

Yes, the head was checked and resurfaced. The mechanic did not use new bolts; I wasn't aware that they should be replaced so didn't think anything of it when he said he made sure they weren't stretched before re-using them. If I repair it again, I'll definitely ask about the bolts.

As for the coolant system: I am using an antifreeze-water mix. How likely is it for intermittent problems to arise in things like the Fan or pump? He said everything was working when it was sent back the first time, but I highly doubt I had two non-related heating issues this close together, both which caused damage.

AzTumbleweed, you think it was blown earlier? Would I have noticed smoke/steam in my exhaust immediately, or could it leak a little, then finally give fully and blow clouds? That's what doesn't make sense, really. My mechanic said "when it gets damaged, you know immediately". I think I'm mostly curious about that, cause if he's right about the timing, he's wrong about the cause(he also said being without water would be the only cause). Especially this second time, it had water constantly...I'm starting to wonder if he took me serious when I said it had water when it failed(both times).

Quick question, does the fan operate on it's own sensor, or is that tied to the sensor which feeds the heat gauge on the dashboard?(I'd look it up, but my book is in my car at the mechanic...oops)

12Ounce
11-07-2009, 09:27 PM
..... when he said he made sure they weren't stretched ....

I won't say this is "impossible" .... but other than a very hi-tech testing lab, I doubt if anyone else can do it. Centainly no mechanic eyeballing with a rule.

FordMan59
11-08-2009, 08:57 PM
The head bolts are designed to stretch when they are torqued properly. Even if he had replaced them when he did the head gasket they would need to be replaced again before installing the head again. It sounds like he tried to save a few dollars at the expense of you having another blown head gasket. Knowing he didn't do it properly he would either repair it for me free or I'd report him to the BBB and get someone else to do the work this time. It might be worth paying an attorney to write him a letter.

Davescort97
11-09-2009, 12:34 AM
In regard to your question about the fan. The fan operates off it's own heat sensor. It sends a message to the computer and the computer turns the fan on. There is a second sensor for the gauge on the dash. I think his failure to use new head bolts is the cause of your problem. When you go to the parts place to get a new head gasket, they will tell you they have a head gasket kit with new head bolts. It's expensive, like $100 and I can understand why he didn't put you through the extra expense. The bottom line is that your head gasket went out again because used bolts were used. Who's responsible: The Mechanic. A reasonable approach would be to have him give you the labor for free and you pay for the head bolts since you would have had to pay for them in the first place had the job been done right.

plwww
11-09-2009, 07:35 PM
Thanks for all the replies, it's much appreciated. I spoke with the mechanic again today, and decided to let him tear into it and see what damage there was....unfortunately, my engine is toast: He said the block is damaged. It's clearly been hot so I don't think I can blame the bolt-issue; I have no answer to why it got so hot, but I still believe whatever caused it the first time, caused it this time as well. Wouldn't be so frustrating if I at least *saw* it heat, but I haven't the slightest clue when it would have happened. I don't think there's really anything I can do now except look for another car...oh well. <sigh>

Intuit
11-09-2009, 08:24 PM
........... blown a head gasket for the second time in two months, and I'm not sure what to do. .............

If the head and block mating surfaces are out-of-spec then this can lead to repeated head gasket failure. Usually only the heads are done, but both the block and head surfaces should be shaved so that they are perfectly flat. But they should be check for warping.

Theoretically if the alloys are defective and the composition and densities inconsistent accrossed the head and/or block, that can lead to internal cracking as the materials will expand at differing rates.


About two months ago, my head gasket started leaking...started my car one morning and blew a large cloud of steam behind me. When I took it to the mechanic, he said it clearly was overheated, and said it could only get that way with no water.
Head gaskets as well as heads have been known to fail without necessarily overheating them. Sometimes if not often, the head gasket fails first, which then leads to the overheating, then cracking issues.

It had indeed ran a bit low and overheated at least a month prior, but I hadn't had problems since then(was during the summer), though I didn't think it got hot enough to damage it since I shut it off as soon as I noticed it and hadn't driven far.
Just one incident, no matter how minor may be enough to push the head and/or gasket beyond tolerances and expose any flaws. As time progresses, the faults get progressively worse.

I asked the mechanic if the damage could have taken a while to finally show up. He said, flatly, no; it would show immediately.
My experiences counter this.

Well, that didn't make much sense cause I hadn't noticed it overheat or be without water right before the problem showed up. Anyways, I got it fixed, and he assured me everything checked out as working(fan comes on, thermostat was new, no leaks visible...).

Well, a few days ago I had the same problem. Took it back to the mechanic and he says it again has clearly been hot(apparently by how the oil looks). Now, it most definitely hasn't been without water. I've been checking it constantly(almost in a paranoid manner, given I just spent a small fortune to repair it). Indeed, it still had water when I checked it after I noticed the problems again. Also, I have never noticed the heat-gauge going out of the normal range. I'm kind-of in a bind now. The mechanic maintains that everything checked out ok prior to releasing it back to me, so it isn't his fault....I find it hard to believe I blew two head gaskets in two months, and they're not related incidences.
Was the thermostat replaced ? Was the head replaced or repaired ? These items should be detailed on your receipt. I'd hate to second-guess the mechanic as it may not necessarily be his fault. Unfortunately sh** does happen. Could've received a defective part.

So, what do you think? Am I doing something wrong, is it just bad luck, or did the mechanic miss something? The mechanic *has* offered to split the labor cost to repair it, but unfortunately that's not a great decrease in the bill(especially since I don't really have it). I still don't know what caused this to happen, so am reluctant to pay to repair it, if it may happen yet again.


Have any ideas or thoughts about this? I'd greatly appreciate any advice you have. Thanks

If the head hasn't yet been replaced, replace it. My GUESS is that there is an internal crack that the remanufacturer missed. The parts if they have been replaced as opposed to repaired, should be covered under warranty. Get a new thermostat regardless but they're ordinarily pretty reliable. Unfortunately gauges aren't all that reliable but that's probably why Ford built prophylactic thermostat bypass valves in the "water outlets" for many of their vehicles.

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