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Ford Escort Blown Head Gasket

Q. Mr. Ciulla, I have a 1995 Ford Escort with a 1.9 liter 4 cylinder engine. The car has A/C with and automatic transmission. The millage on the car is 107,000. There are two problems with the car. First of all there is oil mixed in with the radiator. If you take off the cap oil has settled around the rim.

The coolant tank has so much oil in it that you can no longer see the coolant below it. I am assuming this is due to a leaky head gasket. I am assuming it has been this way for some time now. I have not driven the car often for the last six months but up until now it has driven fine.

Now it is starting to run very hot. Not quite overheating, but approaching. Would a leaking head gasket cause the overheating? Or is another component (thermostat, water pump, hoses, etc.) the likely problem for the high temperature? Second of all there appears to be a rear main seal oil leak. There is oil on the rear of the engine but not high enough to be coming from the valve cover.

I am not very experienced with engine repairs (brakes, alternators, the easy stuff). I had a nightmare experience with a Pontiac Grand Am with a Quad 4 engine ($1500.00+ in repairs one month BEFORE the engine blew). My main concern is with the head gasket and the rear main seal appearing the be bad, how difficult is it to repair the car (for the average person)?

Am I likely to open up a whole can of worms getting into these repairs? Being a 1995 Ford Escort with over 100,000 miles would I be better off cutting my loses or would the repairs needed be cost effective and easy enough to repair myself. Taking to car to a repair shop would probably exceed $900.00 (gaskets, seals) and would not be worth it.

Thank You....

A. You're in the position of damned if you do and damned if you don't. The one bright spot, if you can call it that, is the two problems are very likely caused by a blown head gasket.

Can you replace the head gasket yourself? That all depends on your skill and experience. It is a lot easier than a GM Quad 4 so you have that going for you. If you get a Chiltons manual, they have a good step by step for replacing a head gasket. I would read it carefully and if you feel you have the tools, or can get them, and can handle it, go for it.

Now, some of the possibilities that you may face. It is possible the head is cracked so you will need to take it to a machine shop and have it pressure tested and resurfaced to make sure it is good. If the head is cracked, it will have to be replaced. Then there are the dreaded "might as wells". The things that you might as well do as long as the head is off. Things like replacing the water pump, thermostat, valve seals and other nickel and dime stuff.

With the oil in the cooling system you will have to clean that out and probably send the radiator out for a boiling out and pressure test.

Now, assuming all went well and you have it all back together and running, there is a real possibility that it will start burning oil. Once you have a reconditioned head and new head gasket, you may start sucking oil up past the rings. This happens often enough that I warn all my customers who need a head gasket on an engine with more than 100,000 miles.

The question of whether or not you should get rid if it and get a new one, or try fixing it yourself is up to you. The best I can do is give you information so you can make an educated decision.

And let's not forget you still have a possible rear main seal leak. This will require removing the automatic transmission to replace.

Additional Information provided courtesy of ALLDATA

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