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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi! Clueless newbie here... I am just a female computer geek who can fix computers (when I'm not too sick) but I can't fix cars. I am also a breast cancer patient who can't afford much because what little money I do have goes to medical treatment.

I live in southern Nevada, near Sunrise Mountain for anyone who knows the local area.

Might as well get advice from the experts before trying to get my long-suffering '99 Ford Taurus fixed.

A year ago, the car started leaking coolant from under the front bumper. Some guy working at a Midas poured some radiator stop leak and also poured a second bottle with a label that said gasket-something (stop leak for gaskets?) into the coolant system for free. I was perfectly aware this was a "chewing gum and duct tape" kind of fix, but still, I was very, very grateful.

To my surprise, that excuse for a fix worked for a whole 8 months. I knew the time would come when it would finally fail. That time came around the end of January of this year. The engine light went on one evening, then the next day there was a nice puddle under the front bumper in the driveway. Car has been sitting there in the driveway ever since.

So I called the local Pep Boys to see what I was up against. They recommended replacing the whole darn radiator - even if it had no holes - because this is Southern Nevada after all.

As they said: this #$%@ hot desert location "eats coolant systems for lunch" in the summertime. According to them, that means I might as well get a whole new radiator anyway. It cost 600 bucks for the replacement, they said, "because you have to take the whole front end off to do it". The current radiator is as old as the car.

It has taken 4 months for me to FINALLY gather the 600 bucks for this fix. I hope to have it towed into the mechanic via AAA within the next 2 weeks. I cannot handle being outside in the heat very much while in chemo, so I am looking forward to being in a nice, air-conditioned car again before the summer-heat-from-hell finally hits Nevada.

Some smart person told me about this forum and recommended that I ask for advice from real Ford experts first before taking the car ANYWHERE to be fixed. "Maybe they can help you save some money and help you not be ripped off - in case there's a ripoff about to happen here. Hey, you never know, but their forum definitely will."

Hmmm... cool. :)

Well then, all you smart people: thanks for being here! :)

What should I know? What should I be asking and who should I ask? What should I be wary of in this situation? Any good advice, ideas, constructive criticism, bring it on... anything that helps improve my quality of life here is appreciated. I have confidence in you guys.

I thank you all in advance. Seeya again within 24 hours. :)

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944 Posts
Sounds like it very well could be the radiator. The do like to leak, and 10 years is often all they last. $600 sounds a bit high for a radiator job. I bet you can find a shop to replace the radiator, radiator hoses, and a thermostat for about $600.
Make a few calls, compare prices, ask questions about the warranty, down time, and brand of radiator. The A/C condenser mounts to the radiator, but does not need to be discharged/recharged.

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338 Posts
Yeah uhhh ... tell the boys at peps to shove it ... i replaced it in my car a 99 Taurus wagon with the 3.0 ... Twice, I live in michigan we dont have heat we have salt, and i did not remove the whole front of the car ... takes a little work but can be done!

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659 Posts
Hey there Sparrowhawk,

I would have to agree with Electro and Pletchaj that it might be worth it to call around and get a few more quotes. You may even want to call your Local Ford Dealership and get a quote also, I realize they will have the highest labour rate, but it will help to compare.

Did they tell you if they were replacing it with a "new" rad or if they were going to re-core the rad?

Electro, Pletchaj, do they even re-core Rads in the US? Would that be any more cost effective for Sparrowhawk?

If it would help you, I can contact my friend at Ford and get an estimate from her on this repair. I am in Canada, but I can't imagine the cost being that much different as the labour times are pretty much standard.

Lastly, to help you better understand what is involved in this repair I am attaching below the RE & RE instructions for a Rad for a 1999 3.0L Taurus to give you a better idea of what is involved here.

I hope this helps you.


Removal & Installation

To Remove:

  1. Before servicing the vehicle refer to the precautions in the beginning of this section.
  2. Remove the battery and battery tray.
  3. Remove the strap from the constant control relay module and position the module aside.
  4. Remove the radiator cap.
  5. Safely raise and support the vehicle.
  6. Remove the radiator splash shield.
  7. Drain the cooling system.
  8. Remove the radiator mounting bracket assembly.
  9. Remove the lower radiator hose.
  10. Partially lower the vehicle.
  11. Remove the upper radiator hose.
  12. Remove the radiator overflow hose.
  13. Remove the upper A/C condenser core retaining bolts.
  14. Remove upper transmission oil cooler pipe clips.
  15. Remove upper transmission oil cooler pipe using a 3/8 inch Ford fuel line disconnect tool.
  16. Raise the vehicle.
  17. Remove the lower transmission oil cooler pipe clips.
  18. Remove the lower transmission oil cooler pipe using a 3/8 inch Ford fuel line disconnect tool.
  19. Remove the transmission oil cooler bracket and position out of the way.
  20. Remove the lower A/C condenser mounting bolts and move the condenser out of the way.
  21. Remove the radiator support bracket and the radiator assembly.
To Install:

  1. Install the radiator in the vehicle. Tighten the support bracket nuts to 71-106 lb-in (8-12Nm).
  2. Install the A/C condenser and tighten the lower bolts to 45-61 lb-in (5-7 Nm).
  3. Install the oil cooler pipe bracket.
  4. Install the lower transmission oil cooler pipe and clips.
  5. Install the lower radiator hose.
  6. Install the radiator mounting bracket assembly. Tighten the bolts to 71-106 lb-in (8-12 Nm).
  7. Install the radiator splash shield.
  8. Lower vehicle.
  9. Install the upper transmission oil cooler pipe and clips.
  10. Install the upper A/C condenser mounting bolts.
  11. Install the radiator overflow hose.
  12. Install the upper radiator hose.
  13. Position constant control relay module in the original position.
  14. Install battery tray and battery.
  15. Fill and bleed cooling system.
  16. Start the engine and inspect for leaks.

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158 Posts
Pricing parts online Ford wants $340.00 or $250 if bought online plus shipping. Autozone and Rockauto want about $100 to $120 for an aftermarket radiator. Have you tried your local vo-tech school? Most will do repairs for cost plus 10%. Ask around for local shops that people have used in the past and liked, then ask for an estimate. I think $600.00 is just too much. Just my opinions.

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944 Posts
...You may even want to call your Local Ford Dealership and get a quote also, I realize they will have the highest labour rate, but it will help to compare...Electro, Pletchaj, do they even re-core Rads in the US?
Great ideas Miss. Here are two more.
-The highest price quote is not necessarily a rip-off.
-The lowest price quote is not necessarily the best value.

Re-coring is certainly still done in the US and elsewhere, but wouldn't be an option here. Since Sparrowhawk's radiator is a Plastic Aluminum Radiator (PTR), the side tanks are the likely failure, and thus a new PTR is most certainly the way to go (assuming that it is actually the radiator leaking).

Re-coring is a great option when the radiator is a Copper/Brass (CBR) type. Retaining the style and original engineering numbers on older muscle cars is a big deal to some enthusiasts, and a re-core allows the original look and feel while (optionally) increasing cooling system performance.

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2004 F150
251 Posts
Something else to keep in mind. I have found that the radiator recovery bottle on the 99 Taurus has a tendency to fail. We do sell some of those here and they set on the right fender of the car. Make sure you take it to someone that can diagnois it and is honest, so I guess asking around is the best option. Since this part sells for about 55.00 and takes a half hour to replace, hope this is your problem, and not the radiator.

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2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I get to talk to you guys as well as talking on the Car Talk forums. Here's what they have to say:

(cut and paste that link into your browser)

The directions for how to remove and replace the radiator here is absolutely fascinating. Thank you. :)

Forgot to mention: this long-suffering car has over 130,000 miles on it. I hope to squeeze at least another year out of it before deciding it's just good for parts.

I am amazed that there is so much hatred for Pep Boys on the 'net... seems to be a consensus out there about that.

I remember once about 4 years ago in LA... the car just simply decided to lose power all of a sudden. A Pep Boys was about 2 blocks away, so we pushed it there. The Pep Boys guys found a screwed-up sensor that just needed a tweak. (It was some kind of fuel sensor deal.) So they tweaked it for free and all was well. Maybe there are honest Pep Boys outfits out there. I am still researching independent auto shops, though.

Tomorrow I am going to fill up the coolant tank, crawl under the car and see if I see where the leak is coming from. I will report back in later. :)

Question about stop-leak fluid for radiators: does that stuff leave any kind of residue which is bad for the coolant system in the long run?

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659 Posts
Hey there Sparrowhawk,

If I remember correctly "Stop Leak" goes in as a powder and creates a gum like substance that basically plugs up leaks. If the problem (leaking) is big enough it is only a "band-aid" fix.

From reading your Car Talk postings, I see that you are looking into other opinions and shops - good for you :)

I am guessing that you are presuming it is the Rad, which it more than likely is, however, it might be worth it to get a proper diagnoses and estimate on repairs once you have found a Garage you feel comfortable with. In the event there is more to this than just the Rad and in event that this could cost either more or less than the $600.00 originally quoted over the phone.

Again, if I recall correctly a pressure test of the cooling system should be done to help determine this.

I read that you have a "check engine light" on. That could or could not be related. I understand that is vague and not extremely helpful, but without knowing what the fault code is, it is difficult to say if it is or is not related.

Poppy has mentioned a few times in the Forum that Autozone will scan vehicles and retrieve the codes for Free. That is something you might also want to look into as well, when you feel up to it.

Oh, and Sparrowhawk, it's a Ford 130,000 miles is nothing compared to the 583,689 km that was on my 1998 Escort when I sold her, still running strong and built Ford Tuff..... :yesnod:

Hope this helps.

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944 Posts
Good thoughts Miss.

Please don't put any more stop leak in. IIRC, (in post #1) this has already been done. There is a cumulative effect that will just increase the final cost of repairs on your cooling system. These cars have known issues with heater core restriction, so no more stop leak!
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