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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi Everybody,

Our 2000 Taurus Station Wagon (3.0 Vulcan OHV Engine) in otherwise very good condition has a blown head gasket. My first thought was, "Hey, there are some very nice Audi cars out there with 5-Cylinder engines, why not just keep running our Taurus on its 5 remaining cylinders?" But then my wife got tired of seeing billows of steam behind her every time she pulled away from a traffic light... :lol2:

Anyway, I need to make a decision. Do I just pull the offending cylinder head (thankfully the one at the front of the car), have it resurfaced to eliminate any warping and put it back on, or do I pull both cylinder heads and replace them with remanufactured ones (NAPA has them for about $300 each). Figuring it would cost around $100 to have the original resurfaced, it would be about $500 extra to replace both with remanufactured heads (and take a few more hours of my time).

Here's the stats:
Car has 151,800 miles.
Very little oil use (less than a quart per 1000 miles).
We plan to keep this car at least another 3 years / 30,000 more miles (and possibly as long as 7 more years / 70,000 more miles).

My concern is, if I spend the money and time replacing both cylinder heads, it'll be a waste if the car needs a new bottom end anyway in the next year or two. I suppose I could just buy a short block if that happens, but it seems like most engine remanufacturers (including Ford) are only offering long blocks these days.

On the other hand, I don't want to spend 15 to 20 hours of my life on this project just resurfacing and keeping the original cylinder head, only to have to repeat it all if the valves give out or the other head blows its gasket in the next few years.

So, here are my questions:

How long do the top ends (valves) of the Vulcan engines last?

How long (assuming an extreme overheating scenario doesn't happen) do cylinder head gaskets usually last on the Vulcan engines?

How long does the bottom end (rings, bearings, etc.) of these Vulcan engines last?

By the way, I am also replacing the water pump and heater core when I do this job since I suspect that my pump's impeller blades are mostly dissolved, based on the rusty color of the antifreeze within just weeks of flushing and replacing it, and also the fact that I have to pressure clean the heater core every few months to get the rust gunk out of it.

Any thoughts and suggestions appreciated!

Best wishes,

John
 

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You can find reman heads online for WAY cheaper than $300 each, even including shipping costs.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yes I'm sure I can find cheaper ones on the Internet. But given the labor involved in replacing them, I feel hesitant to go with cheaper ones just to save a hundred or so. And actually, I just looked up on the NAPA website and I was wrong about the pricing. Their own brand ("NAPA IronClad", really remanufactured by ATK) heads are $199 each and the Moore's Cylinder Heads brand are $254 each. Both with only 1 year / 12,000 mile warranties (not very impressive).

All that said, I've just read some pretty bad reviews of both ATK and Moore's. Now I'm thinking maybe it's best to take my heads and have a reputable local machine shop rebuild them if they're still good..

Thoughts?
 

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The mechanic I've talked to say it's very common for the head gasket to go but he doesn't usually end up doing too many of them because the cost isn't worth it. Normally, it's time for the junk yard when the head gasket blows. I think the cheapest way out is to just dump another used engine in. Check car-parts.com, used engines are probably in the $300-$500 range.
 

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A compression test on the remaining good cylinders might be helpful in the decision making process. On my 03 I pulled the heads for one cylinder with a fairly bad exhaust valve. It is pretty low miles but had some used heads on if for some damn reason. I sourced some low mileage used one and had a good machine shop rework them. Turned out great and not sorry I did that route. On the 00 it has a bent valve when I bought it. It is higher miles and I just pulled one head, slapped in a valve and put it back together. Not sorry I did that either and has been working out OK. I think it all depends on the circumstances. I can tell the difference in power between the two cars but they both fit a need.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
"With something that involves serious labor I'd feel more comfortable with a local shop, just my 2¢"


Me, too! But my mechanic quoted $1560 just to pull the heads, have them checked and resurfaced (no valve job), and put back on the car. I'm not putting that kind of money into a car that in perfect condition isn't worth much more than that.

Willing to put my own time and maybe $500 or so into the job though (and this way end up with warrantied, remanufactured cylinder heads as well).

This isn't my first cylinder head replacement. I did one on an MG Midget (simple to work on) and one on a Fiat X1/9 (Overhead Cam - NOT so simple to work on) in the past. All the wiring and plugs are a bit intimidating in this more modern engine compartment though!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
The mechanic I've talked to say it's very common for the head gasket to go but he doesn't usually end up doing too many of them because the cost isn't worth it. Normally, it's time for the junk yard when the head gasket blows. I think the cheapest way out is to just dump another used engine in. Check car-parts.com, used engines are probably in the $300-$500 range.
Yes, most people (including me) don't want to pay a mechanic more money than the car is worth for a job. I thought about a used engine, but then it's just an old engine that could blow tomorrow, plus I'd have to rent an engine crane, find a way to transport the engine to my house (and get rid of the old one), etc. And I've never pulled and replaced an engine before (a bit intimidated there). Heads are nice and light and fit just fine in the back of my Cherokee. And come with a warranty.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
A compression test on the remaining good cylinders might be helpful in the decision making process.
Yes, I might do that. Given that the car made good power and used virtually no oil before the gasket blew, I'm confident the compression readings will be good.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Newsflash!

Well, guess what? In a sudden (okay, constant) fit of laziness I decided to make a last-ditch effort and use K&W Permanent Head Gasket and Block Repair. I followed the directions from the guy on this YouTube video who claims a good success rate with the stuff:


His directions are a little different than what comes with the product. In particular, instead of just idling the car with the stuff in it for 30 minutes, he recommends driving the car 500 miles with just the Repair (and water) solution. I didn't go that far - I idled the car for about 45 minutes and then drove it about 100 miles the next day. I then drained it last night and let it sit overnight with the drain plug and radiator cap removed to let the system dry as much as possible (as per the directions that came with the product).

It worked! The engine started running on all 6 cylinders within a few minutes of pouring the stuff into the coolant system.

Note that I drained and thoroughly flushed the system using Ford's VC9 Iron Remover product before adding the K&W stuff (as I understand it, the K&W stuff will not work in the presence of antifreeze).

We'll see how long it lasts - I've read reviews of people with 5000+ miles on the car after application of this stuff, so maybe I'll be lucky, too.

I'm not worried about it gunking up the engine - in one review I read a guy for whom it did not work found upon tearing his engine down for the Cylinder Head replacement that there was absolutely no sign of any ports or passageways getting clogged by the stuff. And my heater core is already pretty clogged up (I have to flush it every few months to get it to work at all), so I've already bought a new core and will be installing it at a later date anyway.

During the 100 miles of driving yesterday (took wife to work and picked her up), I was running the A/C on a 90+ degree day and the temp gauge stayed below the half-way point just as it always does, so the radiator clearly didn't get clogged up, either.

I'll report back from time to time, and if it fails again, I'll report that here right away. As of now, I strongly recommend anyone facing a blown head gasket try K&W Permanent Head Gasket and Block Repair before paying $1500+ for the repair or spending 3 or 4 days of my life doing the repair.

Best wishes and thanks for the suggestions here,

John
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Two weeks later - still running okay

It's been two more weeks now, and so far, pretty good. There have been a few instances where the car runs on just 5 cylinders for a few seconds after a cold start. But within seconds it cleans up and runs fine. No overheating issues. The momentary misfire makes me worried that this quasi-repair is not going to last forever. I just hope it gets me at least through the coming semester if not to maybe Spring Break next year (working in an unheated garage in Chicago is much more pleasant in the Spring than in the Winter). :lol2:
 
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