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Discussion Starter #1
Alright, so it's not really a classic, but this is my first post and I can't find the 'keep the beaters moving' section. :)

It's a 1989 LS, 3.8l V6. And just the last few days, it's been smoking bad enough that you don't want to be in a convertible behind me at a red light.

It also sputters, and occasionally likes to stall when I pull away from a stop sign.

Checked the spark plugs and none of them have built-up carbon. Just the light brown dusting that looks like they're old.

None of them were wet, but it's not like I could pull them quickly. Hate working on those.

Oil on the dipstick is cloudy, but it's due for an oil change anyway. Actually showing a bit above full.

Coolant reservoir had a little at the bottom, but the radiator was half empty.

My first thought is a blown head gasket, but without obviously bad spark plugs, nor the time, room, or desire to yank the heads off, I just can't narrow it down to that. :(
 

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Ford 3.8L is well-known for blowing head gaskets. Chances are better than 90% that is what happened to yours.
 

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LOL - good one Jay!

Yeah, sounds like time to break out the ol wrenches or talk trade in......if it hasn't overheated you may not have to worry about warpage
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yeah, doing the labor myself is really something I wanted to avoid. Heads on 70's cars and inline-four trucks? No problem. On something like this, with huge instake manifolds, fuel injection, and everything crammed right around the heads, not so much. Especially since the work would need me to bribe a neighbor into letting me use their garage space.

Got a couple quotes. $1400 plus machine shop, and they won't even talk to me about a possibility that the heads might not need machined. The local Pep Boys actually told me they send it to the shop every time, because it needs machined no matter what. Right.

I've made sure the coolant stays topped off. But it's about time for a trade-in, then. From a student. Worrying about rent this month, and I've got $400 in my account right now... :angryfi:
 

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On the roulette wheel of engine failures, I would place my chips on head gasket failure.
 

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On the roulette wheel of engine failures, I would place my chips on head gasket failure.
Yeah, I'd bet that too. Change that oil before you start wiping bearings. Get it off the road if you can.
Figure you can probably do the head in your garage yourself with a few hundred dollars in tools and parts (assuming you don't have alot of tools already). Get a good gasket, don't cheap out on it ~ you want one that is gonna seal good. A nice gasket will compensate for a "little" issue in the head/block surface, but if it is warped...
You can probably get it back on the road in a weekend of work, once you have your parts and whatnot.

I had to do something similar on the wife's old car (89 geo spectrum). Picked up a Chiltons, a gasket, some tools and cut loose. Gasket lasted about 2 more years of daily driving before it started leaking again.
I know that may not be the "correct" way to fix it all, but if it is truly a beater as you say, and you are on a budget, that might be a good way for you to get some more miles out of it cheapish.

Now, to qualify all that, if your car has overheated and that head got warped, no gasket will help.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
No overheating yet! It drinks coolant, but I keep it quenched.
The problem here is that I tools but an aversion to head work, and absolutely zero garage space. Also, 35-40 hours a week at work, plus school puts a damper in my time there.
Between the abuse this thing's dealt with and the efficiency, it may be more worth it (definitely easier) to find a local used dealership. Bah.
I'll see if I can't bribe a neighbor with garage space via a bottle of good bourbon.
 

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LOL, I remember when a head gasket went in my 86 Mazda one night in San Francisco driving down Fulton. By the time I got to 21st Avenue it was one foggy night in the outer Richmond. Now I have replaced the back cylinder head in my wife's 98 Sable with the 3.0L Vulcan due to a cracked valve seat. Had to disconnect the fuel injection lines, upper and lower intake and back exhaust manifold while breaking a metal tube off the bottom of the exhaust. Actually it wasn't that hard except for the part of going 50 miles roundtrip to a junk yard for that pipe. Not all 3.0 Vulcan's had it and I broke three more before I got a whole one off. Damn rusted/exhaust heated nut. Oh, the remanufactured cylinder head cost just over $400.
 

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What the heck - rolll the dice....your only out a weekend and a few hundred cus words - er I mean dollars. Replace all the little BS stuff while your at it - hoses, vac lines, etc. First I would drain the water, then run some motor flush through it (diesel works too) quick just to try and get out the goop from the bearings (a couple minutes tops), drain that and follow it up with some old used oil you have laying around to re-lube everything again....no point in wasting clean oil til you get the marshmellows out. (Not at $5/qt!!) then when you get the head gasket back on, maybe it's time to trade/sell or at least start saving towards the next one. >Good Luck!
 

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Not too difficult a job in a rear-wheel-drive car. I had to do this job in my 91 Taurus, which is like working on a big-block in a Nova. Not much room to work but it was doable.

Parts cost to do the head gasket replacement in my Taurus was about $400. You will need to get new head bolts as they are torque-to-yield. I had my heads checked for warpage but can't remember whether they needed surfacing or the cost. I had to have two broken exhaust studs removed for about $20.
 
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