I'm a new poster, but I've lurked for awhile since my girlfriend's car is a '97 Taurus with the 3.0 Vulcan and automatic. Column shifter. Variable power assist. 118K miles.
Firespirit, your problem is very likely the transmission range sensor, or also called the neutral safety switch. I just replaced that part on my g/f's Taurus. Here were the symptoms that she had:
- Radio worked in P and O/D, but not R
- Radio randomly just went silent (LED
display OK, dead silence from speakers) when in O/D and D
As time passed, the radio outages became more frequent.
- Random loss of power steering (sometime with a flashing seat belt warning light also)
These were rare, but getting more frequent as well. This symptom is what prompted me to start looking for answers, radio is annoying, power steering is dangerous.
- Eventually tranny refused to go into O/D, even on the highway at highway speeds.
I searched here, and googled it. There is a TSB
concerning the power steering issue related to the transmission range sensor. A few other 96 and 97 year Taurus owners had similar problems, including the loss of some power accessories.
I picked up an 8 pin (there is also an 11 pin version, but you can tell which your car has by looking at the sensor under the hood) neutral safety switch at Advance Auto for $26 including tax. Replacement took less than 30 minutes. That was over a week ago, and NO symptoms have returned.
Ford calls it the TR sensor, everyone else lists it as neutral safety switch.
I can tell you more about how to replace it if you want to do the work yourself.