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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a newbie here, and I don't want to insult all you Ford lovers... but I could use some help. My moms' '95 Sable has been a lemon. Let's see:

~Tranny rebuilt @ approx. 110k miles. Still shifts like crap.
~Head gasket replaced, head job, valve job=140k miles. New thermostat at the same time.
~New radiator @120k. New water pump @120k.

Why does this car have a knack for getting on everybody's nerves? It's been over 100 degrees in SoCal, and the temperature gauge likes to climb up to the "N" in Normal. I don't like that. Any other suggestions? Radiator, water pump, thermostat, headgasket... still gets too hot. And it isn't the cooling fan, because that definitely works.

Any suggestions about the transmission? It likes to punch its way into gear. Matter of time before that thing quits.

Also, the center of the dashboard jiggles around too much. Why?

Electrical parts only work when they want to. Have to click the power window button like 10 times before it responds. Why?

This car has been through 2 alignments. It still eats up the inner edges of the front tires. Why?

The car still looks like it's in great condition. But with problems like these, it's no wonder why my mother prefers her other car, '91 Geo Storm. Can somebody help change her opinion of this car? It's about to be on the selling block.

Basically, I'm looking for advice on getting this 3.8L in better shape. Advice that isn't generic to all cars... things that are pretty specific to this 3.8L engine. I'd appreciate it.
 

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Temp gauge ONLY goes to the N in 100 deg heat?

Don't know about other 3.8 owners but mine parks itself between the N and the O and pretty much stays there when it's in the 90's here in the Midwest. (minor fluctuations when the fan cycles on/off, of course) In cooler weather it stays in the vicinity of the N after reaching operating temp.

If the headgaskets lasted that long consider yourself lucky. :p

I put in a new radiator at 79,000 when one of the plastic end caps decided to let go mid-winter this year.

As for the transmission, the 1-2 shift is normally slow, kind of like slipping the clutch slightly in a manual. If it's "banging into gear" I'd have a talk with the shop that did the rebuild and start asking some questions about what exactly was replaced/serviced. A bad Vehicle Speed Sensor may or may not contribute to that behavior, hopefully somebody else here will know. Does the cruise hold a steady speed?

The dash on mine does move a bit on certain types of bumps. You'll find that a LOT on fwd cars (at least american ones) designed in the 80's. The 3rd/4th gen Taurus are quite a bit stiffer. You may want to look into getting a front strut tower brace to help alleviate the chassis flex if you plan on keeping the car. New subframe bushings may help there as well.

All the alignments in the world will not help if the car has worn front suspension parts. At that kind of mileage I'm sure some things need replacing. A reputable alignment shop SHOULD have mentioned that if they had any kind of integrity. When were the struts replaced last?

These cars will run a long time when properly maintained (which, quite frankly, few people really do). The 3.0 (vulcan) has fewer problems than the 3.8. I love the torque of my 3.8 but Ford definitely made a few too many compromises to put that engine in these cars. Nothing that can't be fixed, it just costs $$ to do so. ;)

The electrical problems could be a PITA to track down - don't know what to tell you there except start with checking the ground(s).
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Originally posted by sandrew@May 5 2004, 09:40 PM
Temp gauge ONLY goes to the N in 100 deg heat?

Don't know about other 3.8 owners but mine parks itself between the N and the O and pretty much stays there when it's in the 90's here in the Midwest. (minor fluctuations when the fan cycles on/off, of course) In cooler weather it stays in the vicinity of the N after reaching operating temp.

As for the transmission, the 1-2 shift is normally slow, kind of like slipping the clutch slightly in a manual. If it's "banging into gear" I'd have a talk with the shop that did the rebuild and start asking some questions about what exactly was replaced/serviced. A bad Vehicle Speed Sensor may or may not contribute to that behavior, hopefully somebody else here will know. Does the cruise hold a steady speed?

The dash on mine does move a bit on certain types of bumps. You'll find that a LOT on fwd cars (at least american ones) designed in the 80's. The 3rd/4th gen Taurus are quite a bit stiffer. You may want to look into getting a front strut tower brace to help alleviate the chassis flex if you plan on keeping the car. New subframe bushings may help there as well.

All the alignments in the world will not help if the car has worn front suspension parts. At that kind of mileage I'm sure some things need replacing. A reputable alignment shop SHOULD have mentioned that if they had any kind of integrity. When were the struts replaced last?

These cars will run a long time when properly maintained (which, quite frankly, few people really do). The 3.0 (vulcan) has fewer problems than the 3.8. I love the torque of my 3.8 but Ford definitely made a few too many compromises to put that engine in these cars. Nothing that can't be fixed, it just costs $$ to do so. ;)

The electrical problems could be a PITA to track down - don't know what to tell you there except start with checking the ground(s).
--Can't be good, if it is "normal" for the car to approach the HOT mark on the temp gauge. Bad news. Oh, it also did not do this back in 1996... when the car was purchased.

--The shop that did the rebuild, did so over 3 years ago. When the rebuild was done, the damn car blew its headgasket. We let the car sit for 2 years. Finally, after getting the engine job... it went 1 month before the a/c compressor seized and the pulley wouldn't budge. Left moms stranded (back to its old self). :angry:

--The dash jiggle should not be acceptable. I know the car looks in good condition, but the center of the dash dancing in rhythm wasn't an event until around 110k miles or so. A strut bar improves handling. At least on most cars. That helps do the trick on Sables?

Finally, what exactly is "proper" maintenance on these cars? Replace engine every 100k miles? Replace transmission every 30k miles? I'm still confused... <_<
 

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Don't know about yours but the temp gauge on mine starts with blue on the left, spells out NORMAL in the middle and ends with the red at the right side. You DID say it got to the N, which would be on the cold side. If you meant the L, then yes, that is way too hot.

It is common for certain things to fail (especially A/C components) on vehicles that sit for years without being started. No lubrication from being started and ran regularly is detrimental to a lot of components.

If you have excessive cowl shake (dash bouncing) then the structural rigidity of the car is impaired. Something is either broken or worn out. A strut tower brace (not the same thing as a sway bar) does improve handling but it does so because it ties the strut towers together making the chassis more rigid. If nothing else is broken (any body/subframe experts wanna chime in?) a strut tower brace should reduce cowl shake.

If you let the car sit after blowing the headgasket without repairing it coolant could've collected in other areas as well, possibly damaging the rod bearings. You might check for leaks around the timing chain cover also but I'm assuming since you had the radiator and water pump changed the mechanic would've noticed a leak in that area.

Proper maintenence is as easy as checking off the recommended maintenence items in the owners manual at the intervals stated, especially in regard to coolant and transmission fluid changes/flushes. Never hurts to do those two a little sooner than the manual tells you to.

Personally, with that many miles on it, unless you're really attached to the car and/or can't afford a different one I'd sell it or trade it in for what you can get out of it if you need to replace/rebuild the tranny. The cost of that single repair will cost about what the car is worth for trade-in value.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Originally posted by sandrew@May 5 2004, 11:05 PM
Don't know about yours but the temp gauge on mine starts with blue on the left, spells out NORMAL in the middle and ends with the red at the right side. You DID say it got to the N, which would be on the cold side. If you meant the L, then yes, that is way too hot.

It is common for certain things to fail (especially A/C components) on vehicles that sit for years without being started. No lubrication from being started and ran regularly is detrimental to a lot of components.

If you have excessive cowl shake (dash bouncing) then the structural rigidity of the car is impaired. Something is either broken or worn out. A strut tower brace (not the same thing as a sway bar) does improve handling but it does so because it ties the strut towers together making the chassis more rigid. If nothing else is broken (any body/subframe experts wanna chime in?) a strut tower brace should reduce cowl shake.

If you let the car sit after blowing the headgasket without repairing it coolant could've collected in other areas as well, possibly damaging the rod bearings. You might check for leaks around the timing chain cover also but I'm assuming since you had the radiator and water pump changed the mechanic would've noticed a leak in that area.

Proper maintenence is as easy as checking off the recommended maintenence items in the owners manual at the intervals stated, especially in regard to coolant and transmission fluid changes/flushes. Never hurts to do those two a little sooner than the manual tells you to.

Personally, with that many miles on it, unless you're really attached to the car and/or can't afford a different one I'd sell it or trade it in for what you can get out of it if you need to replace/rebuild the tranny. The cost of that single repair will cost about what the car is worth for trade-in value.
Yeah, my temperature gauge must be different than yours. It doesn't move left to right, rather, it moves up and down. The N for "Normal" is about as far as the needle will go before it is time to pull over and cool off. I'm not sure which "gen" this 1995 Sable is... but I've seen some people refer to their '95 Taurus and Sable as 4th gens. I'm not the know-it-all with these cars (ask me anything about a Geo Storm and I'll tell you though), but I always thought the '95's were 3rd gens?

On my reliability check-list, I did give the Sable a pass for the a/c compressor situation... since it was sitting for 2 years.

As for the dash bouncing... it's a tricky situation. It does it in rhythm, which makes me believe it is something that is tire or suspension related. But it still seems to me as if the dashboard is a little bit too heavy for its mounts to be so sensitive. Even if the ride is smooth, the dash is bouncin' more than Beyonce'.

Oh wait, just when I think I've explained all of the issues with this 95 Sable, the ABS brakes don't work properly. Light stays on, and ABS occasionally tries to engage during regular braking---which interferes with normal stopping distances and can cause a wreck. I unplugged the ABS computer.

Also, another problem we've had was a rubber molding on the rear of the roof that lifted up and created a long howling/whistling/moaning noise while cruising on the freeway. It took many years for the rubber molding to lift high enough to be easily discovered as the culprit. I glued it back, and the car is quiet now.

I'm trying to think of some more... I'm sure I'll find it. :D
 

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Ah. The Sable gauges must be different. I have a '95 Taurus.

The generations:

1st: 86-91
2nd: 92-95
3rd: 96-99
4th: 2000+

As for the dash - ya got me. I have no experience whatsoever with removing it or how or where the mounts are or where something could break (on the dashboard proper or its underpinnings). I only mentioned the strut tower brace because mine will bounce a bit when hitting the occasional nasty pothole or old railroad tracks and I figured it would help in addition to firming up handling. I'm sure somebody here will also know whether a broken engine mount, worn out subframe bushings or suspension bits could contribute to cowl shake.

I'm off to bed - hopefully some of the more knowledgable peeps will have some suggestions tomorrow. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Originally posted by sandrew@May 6 2004, 12:43 AM
Ah. The Sable gauges must be different. I have a '95 Taurus.

The generations:

1st: 86-91
2nd: 92-95
3rd: 96-99
4th: 2000+

As for the dash - ya got me. I have no experience whatsoever with removing it or how or where the mounts are or where something could break (on the dashboard proper or its underpinnings). I only mentioned the strut tower brace because mine will bounce a bit when hitting the occasional nasty pothole or old railroad tracks and I figured it would help in addition to firming up handling. I'm sure somebody here will also know whether a broken engine mount, worn out subframe bushings or suspension bits could contribute to cowl shake.

I'm off to bed - hopefully some of the more knowledgable peeps will have some suggestions tomorrow. :)
Actually, yeah. 2nd gen sounds more like it.

And, I won't run from the fact that there are probably many tired suspension components. The car is still riding on stock struts(!). I've told my mom that this is a no-no, and won't help things. But it's still strange to me that even on the smoothest patches of roads the dash wants to 'shake its tailfeather.'

I don't want to distract from all the advice I'm looking for, but... ah, whatever. I actually think the Sable is a fine car... when it works right. And that hasn't occured since the car had like 60k miles. At that point, the beginnings of troubles began. That's when the tranny began missing shifts.

I'm not hiding from the most important advice I seek though: Engine warming past the 1/2way mark, and the transmission missing shifts. Any other issues with the car can be expected with any car having 144k miles.
 

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I'm not trying to be mean but I really don't understand how you can consider the transmission the cars fault. If you had it rebuilt and it is a POS then maybe it's the shops fault. They could have replaced it with a faulty parts, etc. It could just be a bad rebuild. Thats like having a doctor doing an operation and just leaving something inside of you after they close you up. Instead of blaming the doctor you blame yourself. See what I'm saying?

As for the temperature gauge, it should NOT be up by the "N" My car at normal operating temperature isn't even to the middle of the gauge. I would definitly say something is wrong there. But with the amount of cooling work you have had done, it's hard to say what it could be. I would say maybe a bad thermostat. It could be a bad one that you put in. I know on our 2001 Explorer the t-stat went bad and the gaugue would go alllll the way up to the red and a light would come on that said "CHECK GAUGE!" After replacing the t-stat, it never did that again.

The shaking of the dash. Definitly suspension components. The dash on my 1999 Taurus started shaking around 65k miles when it still had the stock tires. The tires were bad, replaced the tires and had an alignment done. The car actually rode better than it did when it was new in 1999.

-Kyle
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Originally posted by kjw86ca@May 6 2004, 10:34 AM
I'm not trying to be mean but I really don't understand how you can consider the transmission the cars fault. If you had it rebuilt and it is a POS then maybe it's the shops fault. They could have replaced it with a faulty parts, etc. It could just be a bad rebuild.
Well, I am upset with the shop for a bad rebuild. But I wonder why none of these mechanics, including the dealer, seems to do a thoroughly good job when working on this car. When the family gets work done to the Geo Storms, or the Honda Prelude, or the Isuzu... the work is always good. But on the Sable? It always seems to come out as a job that either isn't 100% or doesn't last.

With all the cooling system and engine work that has been done, I just don't know enough about this 3.8 V6 that makes it run 3/4 of the way up to hot sometimes. I suspect even the cooling temperature sensor, but if it's bad it should 'throw a code'? Or am I wrong?
 

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One thing could be the size of the engine...have you actually looked under the engine bay? There isn't too much room to move around in there. Go look under the hood of that Geo Storm...theres like over a foot of extra space in there. Same with the tiny engine in the Honda, but I don't know about the Isuzu.

If you've been so happy with the Geo Storm, honestly, go buy another one for your mother. They sell for like $1,500 and even with the Sables current problems you can get over 2k for it. If thats a more reliable car, then by all means, do that.

-Kyle
 

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But I have to add that Honda isn't exactly getting high praises for some of its vehicles now. 110K miles is a pretty long time for any car these days to last. My friend's Accord is ready to blow out its trans-axle at 70K miles. *shrug*

The trans-axle in the Taurus/Sable has a big problem with heat. A transmission cooler will GREATLY help the trans-axle last a lot longer. There are people with nearly 200K on their AXOD's, but I don't think any of them have done that without a tranny cooler.

As for the temperature reading, get a new t-stat for $2 and replace it. Such a simple part can cause serious headaches, especially on the 3.8. Many of the headgasket failures result from people neglecting to service their cooling system (Read: Flush once a year). Go talk to the Neon guys if you want to know about faulty headgaskets. I'm sure the Toyota guys can help you out as well. :lol2:

You might think the Sable is junk, but I think it's a great vehicle that does need a bit of care if it is to last a long time. Of course, like in politics, the longer you ignore the problem, the worse it is for you down the road.

As for the brakes...you sure you aren't confusing a warper rotor pulse with ABS pulsing? That happens all too often.
 

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Just for what it's worth, my 1995 Sable wagon with the column gearshift has had horrible cowl shake from day one. I b****ed up a storm with the dealer, but once he had my money, he didn't know me any more. The center of my dashboard will "bounce" about 2" or more on a rough road.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Originally posted by Majisto@May 6 2004, 12:58 PM
But I have to add that Honda isn't exactly getting high praises for some of its vehicles now. 110K miles is a pretty long time for any car these days to last. My friend's Accord is ready to blow out its trans-axle at 70K miles. *shrug*

The trans-axle in the Taurus/Sable has a big problem with heat. A transmission cooler will GREATLY help the trans-axle last a lot longer. There are people with nearly 200K on their AXOD's, but I don't think any of them have done that without a tranny cooler.

As for the temperature reading, get a new t-stat for $2 and replace it. Such a simple part can cause serious headaches, especially on the 3.8. Many of the headgasket failures result from people neglecting to service their cooling system (Read: Flush once a year). Go talk to the Neon guys if you want to know about faulty headgaskets. I'm sure the Toyota guys can help you out as well. :lol2:

You might think the Sable is junk, but I think it's a great vehicle that does need a bit of care if it is to last a long time. Of course, like in politics, the longer you ignore the problem, the worse it is for you down the road.

As for the brakes...you sure you aren't confusing a warper rotor pulse with ABS pulsing? That happens all too often.
Yeah, I'm not one to think Honda and Toyota guarantees trouble free vehicles. I have plenty friends with all cars, even new, that have expensive troubles. Even though the family has a '85 Prelude with over 280k miles and still running, and I own a base model Storm that I purchased for $600 bucks and now has 235k miles and running STRONG. The other Storm GSi model cost me close to $5000, but it runs like a champ. My moms already jacked me for one of my other Storms, because the Sable wasn't reliable enough.

But anyways, I'll change the thermostat myself this time. I'm not so sure whether or not the shop was lying when they told me they did so when the head gasket was changed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Originally posted by kjw86ca@May 6 2004, 12:43 PM
Go look under the hood of that Geo Storm...theres like over a foot of extra space in there. Same with the tiny engine in the Honda, but I don't know about the Isuzu.

If you've been so happy with the Geo Storm, honestly, go buy another one for your mother.
What you know about a (Isuzu built) Geo Storm?? :p
 
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