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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am posting because I'm actually having trouble finding a trustworthy mechanic who wants to look at my car. It seems mechanics who are equipped to do diagnostic work are in short supply in Milwaukee.

I have a well maintained 96 Taurus 24v 3L DOHC. About two months ago I received an intermittent low oil pressure light. The oil was not especially low but I added some, just in case. I took the car into my regular shop, and they said there was nothing wrong it. I have monitored the oil level, and it is normal.

About three weeks ago I was coming to a red light and braked as normal. I put the car in park to fiddle around with something, and when the light turned green, I couldn't depress my brake to put it into drive again - the brake pedal was stuck in the up position. So, I turned the car off and back on again, and it struggled to start a bit, which was unusual.

I didn't think much of these oddities, so I got on the freeway. Five miles later, as I am exiting the freeway, my CEL begins to blink and my low oil pressure light comes on. There was very obvious shaking and the vehicle struggled, but I was in a rough stretch of town at night with no phone, so I pushed ahead another mile to my regular shop. There was a lot of engine noise - possibly from the valve train, but I'm not an expert. My battery light was also on by the time I got to the shop, which I guess is from reduced engine power.

My shop calls be back to tell me that I have a p0303, and that their opinion is the car isn't even worth further diagnosis - with the combination of engine noise, low oil pressure light, and misfire, the engine must be dead.

I took the car back - I drove it a block to store it off their property (it still starts and runs, although it has a lot of trouble starting, which is new with this most recent problem). The battery light has not come back but the other two lights remain. I borrowed a friend's cheapo code reader and it gave me p0303 and p0305. I don't know if my shop lied, but whatever the case, now I have misfires in the 3rd and 5th cylinders.

Can anyone advise on my next step? Does a low oil pressure light and misfire codes indicate a dead engine 100% of the time? Is the lack of vacuum to my brakes five miles before this happened a clue?

I don't want to give a shop $300 for diagnosis when they start out being convinced that I need a new engine. I have done some research, and I'm thinking about trying to get a vacuum gauge and hooking it up to the hose that runs from my engine to my brake booster - as I understand it, a bouncing needle would indicate a valve problem. Any problem that requires removing the engine probably means I need a new car.

Please advise.

Thanks,
John
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm not opposed testing, but I've been turned away from two shops who didn't feel comfortable taking my money for the diagnostics; they felt the engine was obviously dead, and I don't yet agree with that. If we can't get anywhere based on the evidence we have now, I will end up ordering the necessary testing tools and doing it myself.

The oil pressure light has taken about 10 seconds to come on in the three times I've started it since the problem.

No sign of overheating, but I am operating in 10-25 deg F temperatures. It hasn't run for more than 2 minutes since the problem, and there was never any sign of overheating at any point before or after the present issue.

The tach is in constant movement between about 800-1500 at idle in park. This is something that it has always done in cold weather while it's warming up in park, however. In drive, now, the tach can get very low such that I think it could be about to die, but again this is cold.

Thank you very much for your help.
 

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Cake monster
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I'm not opposed testing, but I've been turned away from two shops who didn't feel comfortable taking my money for the diagnostics; they felt the engine was obviously dead, and I don't yet agree with that. If we can't get anywhere based on the evidence we have now, I will end up ordering the necessary testing tools and doing it myself.

The oil pressure light has taken about 10 seconds to come on in the three times I've started it since the problem.

No sign of overheating, but I am operating in 10-25 deg F temperatures. It hasn't run for more than 2 minutes since the problem, and there was never any sign of overheating at any point before or after the present issue.

The tach is in constant movement between about 800-1500 at idle in park. This is something that it has always done in cold weather while it's warming up in park, however. In drive, now, the tach can get very low such that I think it could be about to die, but again this is cold.

Thank you very much for your help.
The misfiring would explain the rough running. Does the oil light go out when you apply throttle? Is the engine knocking in general?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The oil pressure light is persistent. The engine is not making a regular knocking, however, like I said, there is a lot of noise. I have heard a couple of irregular, arrhythmic sounds coming from it, but I wasn't able to discern the nature or source.

For what it's worth, I haven't been able to find metal specks on the dipstick.
 

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Cake monster
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The oil pressure light is persistent. The engine is not making a regular knocking, however, like I said, there is a lot of noise. I have heard a couple of irregular, arrhythmic sounds coming from it, but I wasn't able to discern the nature or source.

For what it's worth, I haven't been able to find metal specks on the dipstick.
That dummy light isn't a great indication of what's going on. Perhaps you might be able to rent an oil pressure tester from a local parts store and do the test yourself? It might save you some cash.

You can't diagnose a knock properly with misfires happening. You'll have to figure out why it's missing like that first, it might be a vacuum leak or something along those lines, or it could be ignition related. It might even be an issue with the valve-train, maybe there's a few burnt valves.

I would start with an oil pressure test, if you can't get your hands on one of those, you should try and find a compression tester and check those cylinders, if they're still holding air than you might have a chance. There's no way you'll be able to fix or tell without some extra tools though. I wouldn't run the car until you figure out what you're doing with it.

Hope this helps!
 
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