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Greetings, all, new user here. Don't have a Taurus, but have had lots of friends with them. I have SuperDuty truck, trailer, and motorcycles. :)

Buddie's 1998 Taurus lost a lot of coolant in about 15 minutes and was blowing white smoke and green fluid out the tailpipe. No coolant in oil, but bad news all around.

Due to time, money limitations and how much longer he might need the car, dropping a used motor in makes more sense to us than rebuilding the existing one.

1998 Ford Taurus SE 4-dr sedan, 186K miles. VIN 1FAFP52U7WG1xxxxx. 3.0l 12V OHV V-6.

People at LKQ parts looked up the VIN and said this had a build date of 9/15/1997. They have several engines in stock with "U" as the eighth digit, indicating a match. But they say these engines they have were all built later (after 7/13/98) and have a (listed on their site) VIN code of "4". The door plates they show from the donor vehicles all have a "U" in the eighth position.

So: Is there a difference, and what IS the difference? A local parts guy said the the later engines had longer head bolts and sockets, but I wouldn't care if I'm swapping the whole engine. Any other reasons this wouldn't line up?

The VIN engine code decoder over at ford-taurus.org shows a "4" as a 3.8 Essex engine, clearly not the same.
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