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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This has been an ongoing problem for a few years. The dealer said the tubing was corroded, and the only thing holding them together may well be corrosion - that if he were to flush the system, I could end up with pinholes and need an entire new cooling system, so he advised against it. In other words, my heat doesn't work, and is unfixable. I have 1995 Geo Prizms that are 15+ years old and the heat blasts like a furnace in those. So what is the deal with the heating/cooling system in the Sables? The symptoms are: air blows from heating system, but lukewarm at best, most likely just the warm air coming off the engine. If you crank it up, it turns pretty cold again. A/C works fine.

This along with other issues in this only-8-yr.-old car, such as: driver's door automatic lock no longer works, tail gate window is held up on one side by a foam earplug and superglue since that latch broke when it was never even used, interior lights are now dead because the open-door sensor wouldn't go off (I should have sprayed those latches with oil), ABS sensors shot in rear, windshield washer no longer pumping thru system so not working, front coil spring broke last year ... lead me to the moniker I chose. The car drives smoothly except for the fact that it's falling apart at the seams. At least the engine and transmission systems are still strong. 148,000 miles, I've had it since it was 1 yr. old and 30K miles.

But the heat - is that a problem with these cars?
 

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Cake monster
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This has been an ongoing problem for a few years. The dealer said the tubing was corroded, and the only thing holding them together may well be corrosion - that if he were to flush the system, I could end up with pinholes and need an entire new cooling system, so he advised against it. In other words, my heat doesn't work, and is unfixable. I have 1995 Geo Prizms that are 15+ years old and the heat blasts like a furnace in those. So what is the deal with the heating/cooling system in the Sables? The symptoms are: air blows from heating system, but lukewarm at best, most likely just the warm air coming off the engine. If you crank it up, it turns pretty cold again. A/C works fine.
Firstly, you probably should have had it flushed. If you leave crap in there, it's just going to keep making stuff fail until it's removed. The hoses would need to be replaced, but that's just part of fixing the issue. As for why these cooling systems do this, they are simply far more corrosive than some other vehicles and if the coolant isn't changed on time, then stuff starts to rot from the inside out. A Geo probably has an aluminum engine block and heads, there's a lot less iron in there to rust too.

This along with other issues in this only-8-yr.-old car, such as: driver's door automatic lock no longer works, tail gate window is held up on one side by a foam earplug and superglue since that latch broke when it was never even used, interior lights are now dead because the open-door sensor wouldn't go off (I should have sprayed those latches with oil), ABS sensors shot in rear, windshield washer no longer pumping thru system so not working, front coil spring broke last year ... lead me to the moniker I chose. The car drives smoothly except for the fact that it's falling apart at the seams. At least the engine and transmission systems are still strong. 148,000 miles, I've had it since it was 1 yr. old and 30K miles.

But the heat - is that a problem with these cars?
That's pretty standard for these cars, but I do get the feeling that it hasn't really been maintained. How did you drive around with the interior lights on at night? It's pretty darn dangerous to do that. Are you sure the bulb isn't burned out? The ABS sensors on the wheels need to be replaced with brake jobs pretty much, that's pretty standard even for other makes. They have a pretty harsh life. The hose breaks on the washer-fluid system where it bends around the hood, check there and make sure it isn't just pouring out instead of getting to the jets, the switch also gets dirty and causes issues. The coil springs well known to rust and break, but at 148,000 miles there's simply no point in complaining because that's a good service life for struts and springs. The door lock actuator went bad, the only way to fix it is to pop the door panel off and replace it.

A ford body will almost always rust out and fall apart before you see engine issues. Ford never had issues making an engine that could last and take abuse, the electrical systems and cost savings put into the rest of the car (much like GM and chrysler did) tend to make it suck a little. Every car breaks as it ages, and I'm not in any way trying to justify what has broken on your car, but it seems like the issues you are encountering aren't really that bad at all, it's not like it would cost more than a few hundred to fix all that stuff and have a properly functioning car again. The trick is keeping on top of it. You probably need a heater core flush, but someone else can tell ya how to do that.
 

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The minor problems you mention are pretty easily fixed. At 148K miles you're not really doing too badly, escpecially in the NE. I bought a 94 LeSabre last year that's needed engine gaskets, exhaust work, coil packs, an EGR valve, A/C compressor, back brakes, and more just since I bought it.

I think the dealer is giving you a worst-case scenario with the cooling system, it's not likely everything is badly corroded. But you will need to have the heater hoses powerflushed, and replace all the coolant in the system. Do this yearly from now on and you'll experience fewer cooling system problems. The 3.0 Vulcan engine is notorious for sludging up coolant.
 

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Sounds like a plugged up heater core, Vulcans are well known for this issue, especially ones that don't get a coolant flush and change every other year. And keeping a Taurus together and running in the Northeast/Salt Belt, that should be an Olympic event....
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Reading the replies here makes me feel better about my car. No, I did not have the coolant flushed regularly. Honestly, I've always felt the maintenance schedules are more about the dealer making $$ and not necessarily needed. Okay, I am female, I do have to qualify that. But I never had my Prizm in for scheduled maintenance either, and that's going strong. Well, okay, that body is starting to fall apart too.

I actually don't drive at night [kids], and the lights do go off after you drive for a short while, even when the sensor says the door is ajar.

So besides the problems mentioned above, I got a quote today for rust patches on the rocker panels - $550. The rear ABS sensor replacements had been quoted at $700 by the dealer, I hear that job is labor intensive. I asked the local garage to flush the heater core (after researching heat issues on the internet), and they said -- next time you bring it in, and I dropped that, but should. So anyway, this stuff is expensive to repair.

The main problem I now realize is the rust issue from living in NH. Next time I get a new car: car washes weekly in the winter. I probably still won't take it in for every single scheduled maintenance, but I will take it for cooling system flushes. Our car inspection program here is pretty strict, so if there's a body problem, they make you fix it.

ABS brakes stink. 3 out of our 4 cars have ABS brakes, and all of them don't operate functionally anymore. It's a problem. The brakes themselves work fine, but not the ABS part.

Come to think of it, the engines in all our cars have always long outlasted the bodies. Next time I'm paying as much or more attention to the car body as the engine. I get struts replaced on a regular basis for some reason, and I don't think I drive the car roughly.

At least I get the oil changed every 3 months whether it needs it or not...

Thank you for the replies.
 

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Cake monster
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Reading the replies here makes me feel better about my car. No, I did not have the coolant flushed regularly. Honestly, I've always felt the maintenance schedules are more about the dealer making $$ and not necessarily needed. Okay, I am female, I do have to qualify that. But I never had my Prizm in for scheduled maintenance either, and that's going strong. Well, okay, that body is starting to fall apart too.
Dealers idea of maintaining a car and someone elses is pretty different. Generally, you should change your oil every 3k, your antifreeze every winter/spring, transmission fluid (not sure what it is in miles), rotate your tires seasonally, grease your suspension parts with a grease gun (you really need one to maintain a car) and lubricate all hinges/latches. It doesn't cost much to maintain a car if you don't want it to. Keep the fluids changed and everything lubed, the car will live a lot longer. As for the body, I live in Canada and it doesn't get much worse here for rust. Keep it oiled underneath, but we'll get to that later.

I actually don't drive at night [kids], and the lights do go off after you drive for a short while, even when the sensor says the door is ajar.
I'm sure the issues with the lights can be solved by you pretty easily, someone here should have an idea of what's up with it.

So besides the problems mentioned above, I got a quote today for rust patches on the rocker panels - $550. The rear ABS sensor replacements had been quoted at $700 by the dealer, I hear that job is labor intensive. I asked the local garage to flush the heater core (after researching heat issues on the internet), and they said -- next time you bring it in, and I dropped that, but should. So anyway, this stuff is expensive to repair.
$500 is a little much for rocker patches, but I do my own work. I just bought a 1996 sable today and the rockers will need to be redone in the back, but I have a bunch of steel left over from my truck project and it shouldn't take long for me to cut/weld in some nice work. I can't believe the ABS sensors are $700 to replace, that can't be right. As for the cooling system, if you have a nice set of wrenches and tools you could probably fix/flush it pretty cheaply yourself. I would call around for a cooling system flush including the heater core.

Do you always take it to the dealer?

The main problem I now realize is the rust issue from living in NH. Next time I get a new car: car washes weekly in the winter. I probably still won't take it in for every single scheduled maintenance, but I will take it for cooling system flushes. Our car inspection program here is pretty strict, so if there's a body problem, they make you fix it.
Oil it, oil it and oil it some more. I can show you a picture of the difference it makes. Take it in every spring for an oil spraying under the car, in the rockers, doors and etc... It costs around $70. It will stop the rust. Don't let the dealer sell you a rust proofing package, don't believe what they say about it since it doesn't work. Oil good, other stuff bad.

You might be better off scrapping the car or selling it for parts, if the rust is too far gone then there's nothing you can do, even if the car is perfect otherwise. If you can fix it for under $500 it might be worth it but you need to debate how long you're going to keep it and how much it's worth spending money on. I don't think it's going to cost much to fix the brakes, but you would probably spend $700 to $1000 max fixing it all (a lot less without rust). If there was little or no rust on that car, I would probably fix it without thinking.

ABS brakes stink. 3 out of our 4 cars have ABS brakes, and all of them don't operate functionally anymore. It's a problem. The brakes themselves work fine, but not the ABS part.
ABS is pretty worthless in my book.

Come to think of it, the engines in all our cars have always long outlasted the bodies. Next time I'm paying as much or more attention to the car body as the engine. I get struts replaced on a regular basis for some reason, and I don't think I drive the car roughly.
A car that you always fix will likely never have many problems. If you let things go on, left unfixed and not working it all adds up to the point where the car is a pile of crap.

At least I get the oil changed every 3 months whether it needs it or not...
I love to hear that!
 

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When was last time that you have changed brake fluid? It's gyroscopic (attracts moisture) and needs to be replaced at least every two years. It's a lot cheaper then paying $700 for ABS work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
You mean you're supposed to replace the brake fluid too? Ugh. Would that keep the ABS sensors from wearing out?

The transmission felt like it was starting to slip a year or so back so I had the garage flush that (I think for the first time), and it has worked fine since. I know the older taurus/sables used to have a problem with transmissions - somewhere around '97s?

I never heard of an oil spraying under a car. $70? Someone will do that that cheaply?

I think the book value on a 2002 Mercury Sable wagon is about $4-5K. It also rides really smoothly. I'd hate to scrap it.

Oh, and supposedly the rear shocks are leaking. They just replaced the rear struts on one of my 1995 Prizms, and I believe it came to around $700, parts & labor. The rear shocks didn't pass inspection on the Sable, along with the rocker panels. Thankfully they didn't notice the ABS doesn't work - the light doesn't come on till you drive it about 1/2 mile. ABS is an inspection item.

Next time I am definitely marrying a mechanic. Who does dentistry on the side.

Thank you, all. I wish I knew all this sooner. Kids and cars - I want to start from scratch and do it right next time. :)
 

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Hygroscopic. Yes, brake fluid needs to be changed every few years. That's probably not the ABS problem though.

I had an old Chevy van with an oiled chassis. But it was from a leaking motor. Kept the rust away, but bolts had a neasty habit of loosening up while driving.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Would just like to report back that I asked the local garage to - point blank - flush the heater core, and now the heat is so hot it's unbearable, which is great. Before I would just tell this garage that my heat wasn't working, and I would get blank stares, a hose replaced, no heat. The internet is great, because that's where I learned it was probably the heater core. About the rusted rocker panels, that cost $550 to replace, and the body shop guy insinuated I should think about getting rid of the car due to rust issues. He also said having to replace the rocker panels because of the state inspection program was pretty much a waste - you're not going to fall thru the floor of the car, he said. Ah well.
 

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Cake monster
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Would just like to report back that I asked the local garage to - point blank - flush the heater core, and now the heat is so hot it's unbearable, which is great. Before I would just tell this garage that my heat wasn't working, and I would get blank stares, a hose replaced, no heat. The internet is great, because that's where I learned it was probably the heater core. About the rusted rocker panels, that cost $550 to replace, and the body shop guy insinuated I should think about getting rid of the car due to rust issues. He also said having to replace the rocker panels because of the state inspection program was pretty much a waste - you're not going to fall thru the floor of the car, he said. Ah well.
It's too bad the state you live in requires inspections like that. It's possible to drive it with bad rockers for years without issue. In Canada, we must have like 100+ oil undercoating places around larger cities, there's even around 10 in my small town. They're pretty competitive. $500 is a good deal for the rockers being fixed. Did they comment on how the rest of the under body looks in general?
 
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