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gots me a '92 Cougie 3.8l with issues. The heater is very tempermental. Before it worked sometimes, and sometimes it didn't. Match that with a temperature gauge that will swing from cold to near boiling in a period of five seconds, then drop back down just as quick. Now my heater will barely work period. I changed the thermostat with a Ford unit already and that didn't help. Then I thought it was a coolant leak. Got that fixed up (one of the pipes going to the water pump had a small leak), and still problems. Which is where I'm at now.

If I bleed and refill the coolant it will work fine for a day and then the same problems will come up.

My mechanic thinks it might be the headgasket which has me worried. Note, he wishes it isn't as much as me because he hates doing the damn things.

I should note though that my car is running fine now, I don't smell gas in either the radiator or the overflow tank. Will do an oil change in a few days, but I don't think I'll see anything in there. Smoke is only as much as you would expect in -20-30C weather, and I don't smell any coolant coming out of the exhaust.

A few last things, when the temp. gauge says the motor is near boiling, the motor is still cold most of the time and it has never overheated on me. Also today, on my way to work whenever I tried the heat I smelled coolant coming from the vents about two times, out of say ten that is.
 

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Sounds like headgasket or maybe heater core. Is any interior carpet wet under the dash?

-Andy "Melon"
 

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it also my be worth changing the thermostat, could be sticky. 10 bucks compared to 500+
 

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does she idle kind of rough? could be another sign of headgaskets. if it is welcome to the bad headgasket club! i just renewed my membership, they're finishing the car up today. this is the second set i went through :(
 

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Discussion Starter #6
idles fine and thermostat was changed for an oem unit 3-4 months ago.

the motor is showing no signs (at least that I know of) that the headgasket went other than the heater problem
 

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Air in the system... probably a pinhole leak or less likely a bad sender to the temp gauge. I fit was eating that much coolant through the head gasket you'd see some smoke or bubbles. Read up on the "burp" procedure and check the recent post on pressure testing. Sometimes getting all the air out can be a pain. Have you changed the radiator cap lately? Cheap to try...
 

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I agree, just the slightest pinhole of a leak will throw off the readings from the sender. Its right up at the top where the air would be, next to the bleeder. I got fed up enough with one of my birds that I took it somewhere to have the system pressure checked, they can spot the leak pretty easy with die that way. Then you will eliminate the headache. Turns out it was a pinhole leak at the thermostat housing (too tight as most are) and it was burning off and never saw it driping. Good luck.
 

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Hey there. I don't possess as much know-how as the veteran posters here, but just thought I'd add my two cents. My car (1994 T-Bird V6) was doing EXACTLY what you described. After going thru all the general suggested fixes, (thermostat, engine coolant sensor, radflush, etc) I pressurised the heads to check for a leak...heads looked good. Took them off anyway - 2 blown head gaskets, and a chunk of aluminum about the size of a cell phone fell out of the head as soon as I lifted it off. The reason that sometimes the car runs ok, and sometimes not, is because the crack in the head opened and closed, expanded and contracted with the heat. Take your heads off, I'm sure you'll see something similar.

Cheers
 

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Welcome. I just like to help people eliminate the simple or easier things before going straight to the headgaskets. Too many times people jump straight to that, when it could be a simple leak or something cheap. Everyone has "head-gasket-itis" :)
 

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when my headgaskets blew, the only real signifiers were the heat, which was overheating like a mother****er, took me like an hour to drive back from a town 7-10 miles away because i had to be pulled over most of the way to let the engine cool a bit so it didnt overheat, then when i got back, of course it had no coolant in the radiator as it was mostly in the oil sump and i found coolant dripping from the exhaust pipe in the morning
 

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Last year I had pretty much the same problem with my 89' LX. I drive my car a considerable amount and on one trip back too college my coolant temp sky rocketed. I pulled over but the coolant wasnt boiling over. So i continued on my way. The temp would rise and the warning chime would come on for approx. 30sec then the coolant temp would drop and it would remain stable for a while. Well I drained and flushed the cooling system, replaced the thermostat, radiator cap, and hoses. The over-heating stopped for about a week and a half. Then on my way home from work I went to pull away from a stoplight and *poof* the cars behind me were lost in a dense cloud of white smoke. Im not positive that it was the head gaskets wear that caused the overheating....or vise versa. All i know is my teacher said that the ford 3.8l have a problem with overheating and headgasket failure, also rod bearing failure due too those two. So i replaced the headgasket with a fel-pro unit and the car ran great up until this passed month. The heat kicks on/and off intermittantly but the engine coolant temp stays constant. I put a cover in the front fascia too block some of the incoming air and that seemed to have solved the problem.
 
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