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My wife recently inherited a 2002 Taurus (Duratec) from her grandparents. It has various issues that I'm trying to diagnose and (hopefully) fix. The big one that I took care of yesterday was replacing the PCV elbow that had a hole in it and had collapsed. That seems to have solved the majority of the issues that she noticed while trying to drive it. I know there are other things wrong, but I'm not sure how to go about diagnosing things. Below is a list of what I've observed up to now.
  • Slow leak in both power steering and brake systems (I will occasionally need to top off both fluid reservoirs).
  • Some sort of issue with coolant system (dash light indicating low coolant turned on at one point). I can see evidence of coolant in the engine bay around the reservoir, but I'm not entirely certain that isn't from spillage while topping off the reservoir.
  • Substantial amount of oil in various parts of the engine bay. There's spray/splatter near where the PCV elbow is that is clearly from the old elbow having a hole in it. There's also quite a bit covering the left side of the engine bay (where the serpentine belt and various pulleys/pumps are). I'm not sure if this is also due to the PCV elbow issue, or if it's coming from somewhere else. I'm pretty sure it's oil, but I suppose it could be another fluid.
  • I noticed the transmission fluid dipstick was partially popped out of place. I'm not sure if this is because someone simply forgot to put it back all the way, or if something caused it to pop out.
I think that about covers everything I've noticed so far. I know some of the observations are a bit vague, but I'd really appreciate if anyone could point me in the right direction on where to go from here. We would ideally like to invest as little money as possible into this vehicle which is why I'm trying to avoid taking it to a mechanic to diagnose. I'll do that as a last resort, but I'm hoping to fix as much of the issues myself as possible. I'm relatively handy, I just don't have much experience with these vehicles. Thanks in advance to anyone who replies.
 

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As to coolant, Cap replacement with MC re-vised unit from RA. I had 2 of my 4 OE fail, one seeping out the cap, other blew all the coolant out of the tank.
As to dip stick on tran. Remove the air intake plenum, good time to check/replace the air filter. Find the rubber vent cap on top of the tran, right below the master cylinder. Pull the cap, clean it, and put it back, only on the first bulge of the nipple, wobbly loose. Common fail.
On the coolant, there are posts of the tank cracking and leaking.
I bought used '03 Taurus, very nice clean well maintained car. First thing, I replaced the pressure cap, PCV, and elbow. Need to have the air intake plenum off to do that also. Those parts on RA nice price good service.
-chart-
 

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Slow Leaks in P/S & Brake system: Inspect and monitor. Look for inspection how to on Youtube,
Coolant leaks: On a 20+ year old car, this can be like a dog chasing it's tail. Fix one leak and another happens. It's best to take a comprehensive approach. You could borrow/rent a pressure tester (get the adaptor) from an auto parts store. But if one hose is leaking or "crunchy" it's a safe bet the others aren't far behind. If you decide to replace the major hoses, get a new water pump that has the stubby hose already attached. I wasted a lot of time and about $60 trying to find or fashion suitable replacement for this hose; only to have the water pump start leaking. The only Fords that don't leak some oil are those that have no oil in them! LOL After replacing both pan gaskets; I have been using Lucas Oil Engine Oil Stop Leak and have gained significant improvement.
 

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Duratecs are notorious for valve covers leaking oil. Your description of oil spatter fits my '04 to a tee and I'm planning on replacing the front valve cover gasket this Spring if the car is still on the road (it has 271K miles and rusty) and I deem it's worth trying to get some more life out of it.
 

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You may consider replacing the front struts if they have never been done. The strut spring may be ready to break and rip into the tire. This is a common complaint on Gen 4’s of this vintage.
 

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Leaky worn wheel cylinders in rear drum brakes could be responsible for brake fluid loss.
 
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