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I have two 1990 Cougars non-supercharged, and one had a dying engine, so I took the engine out of the other one. (The other one had a dying transmission so it was a perfect match, I guess.) After the engine swap I found someone had filled the cooling system and engine with Bars-leak and pepper. So I bought some radiator flush and flushed the system after replacing the radiator, all cooling system hoses, thermostat, water pump, and temp sensor. I then had a leaky radiator, so it was replaced under warranty. With the new radiator installed, I once again flushed and burped the system. The car continued to overheat, so I did some investigation. The impaler on the water pump was failing, so I had that replaced under warranty, also. Two water pumps, two radiators, and six thermostats later, how do I continue to overheat? I haven't replaced the temp sensor, except for that one time, so should I do that? Also, could this be an electrical problem instead of a mechanical one? Should I buy parts somewhere else? This is the first car AutoZone has disappointed me one.
 

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The 3.8 of that era has a weak link, and that is head gaskets. Mine lasted until 120,000 miles. There are many different ways a blown head gasket shows itself, generally they all overheat. You can get combustion gases in the cooling system that cause excess pressure, you can get coolant in the cylinder/cylinders, oil in the water, water in the oil, or any combination of those.

I PERSONALLY had coolant in a cylinder and combustion gases causing excess pressure in the cooling system.

First indication was overheating
second indication was bubbles in the cooling system
third indication was one spark plug was super clean (others had normal amounts of carbon)

I did a compression test, had a semi weak cylinder, so I did a leak down test and saw bubbles in the coolant on two adjacent cylinders.

I totally blew it when I fixed it. I figured I was done with the car, so I just tossed in some new gaskets and bolts, didn't get get the heads checked, or replace the valve seals. 70,000 miles later I wish I had done that!
 

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Head gaskets would make sense, but I replaced them less than 1,000 miles ago, drove mildly in the break-in period, and changed the oil at 500 miles from the HG change.
 
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