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Blown head gasket - repair head or replace engine?

Discussion in 'Stock 2002 - 2005 Explorers' started by twotnbugs, December 31, 2011.

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    1. twotnbugs

      twotnbugs New Member

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      Year and Model:
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      My 2003 Explorer (V8, 4.6) with 61,000 miles has a blown head gasket. We are not 100% sure how this happened. It is possible that the head blew the first time it overheated. Here's a summary of what happened during the past two weeks:

      *Check gauges light came on while on interstate (thought it was because it was low on fuel), drove about two miles to exit, drove about 500 feet up a hill and service engine soon light came on. Noticed temperature gauge was pegged out. Drove 1/2 mile to pull over in safe spot. Coolant was going everywhere by this time. Towed vehicle. Mechanic replaced coolant, started her up, she ran like a champ. So they replaced the radiator cap thinking it was leaking and not holding the pressure.

      *Drove the vehicle on limited basis for the next week. Was supposed to take it back by the mechanic for a check on the fluid levels, so I drove it on the interstate for about 10 minutes to make sure I had driven it pretty hard. She overheated again after pulling a hill about 3 miles from the mechanic. Check gauges and service engine soon lights came on simultaneously. Pulled over immediately. Coolant leaked everywhere again. Towed vehicle again. This time they replaced the thermostat.

      *Again drove the vehicle on 2 - 3 limited interstate trips (15 - 20 minutes). No major hills. Scared to drive it far but needed the extra space to carry Christmas presents on Christmas day. You guessed it---overheated again after pulling a hill. Drove about 200 feet before exiting. Only the check gauges light came on this time. Towed again. Thank God for AAA plus (four 100-mile tows per year included). Anyway, the mechanic ended up getting stuck on the interstate with the same thing and had to be towed. After 20 hours of troubleshooting, they did some test to check the head and determined it was blown.

      Now for the good news... $3000 to repair the blown head. $5000 for a rebuilt Jasper engine with 3yr/100k warranty. We bought the vehicle at ~50k miles, 8 months ago for ~$12k.

      My dilemma is whether or not just to repair the head gasket or to replace the whole thing (and have a decent warranty---kicking myself for not buying an extended warranty on this thing when we bought it). If I was certain that the first overheating episode is what blew the head, then that would help. Otherwise I am concerned we'll fix the head and then blow it again because we haven't fixed the root problem.

      Thoughts, ideas, suggestions? Thanks in advance! They are pulling the engine on Monday (1/2) so we have to decide this weekend.
       
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    3. fusseli

      fusseli Active Member

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      Bummer dude. This is the first I've heard of a catastrophic overheat on one of these vehicles, the PCM should have shut the engine down and not let you drive or maybe gone into a limp home mode. Owner's manual refers to this.

      It may be a gamble, but I would say just do the one head... The engine in and outwould probably be 8-10 hours of labor, on top of the bigger pricetag for a reman engine. When they pull the one head they should be able to tell if you overheated bad enough to trash anything else in which case you should opt for the whole engine.
       
    4. twotnbugs

      twotnbugs New Member

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      UPDATE on blown head gasket...

      Good point, fusseli. You were right in that I did not overheat the vehicle to the point of blowing the head. Minor satisfaction in that I did not cause this mess.

      When our mechanic pulled everything out, the head on the driver's side was different than the other one. Hmmmm. He looked over the block with a magnifying glass. Turns out that the previous owner filled the block with some kind of liquid glass, fixed the one head, and got the thing running well enough to trade it in. :mad:

      Enter us, suckers, bought what looked like a great vehicle with low miles. Eight months later, we're putting in a new engine. $5500. Might also need a new heater core. So, my $12k 2003 Explorer just became my $17k+ car.

      What could we have done to prevent this? The CarFax report was clean. I am thinking only an extended warranty could have helped in this situation.
       
    5. Hitchhikingmike

      Hitchhikingmike Well-Known Member

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      Sorry to hear about your trouble with your new explorer. It's rare to hear about 4.0s overheating. I've put about 100k miles on my 4.0 here in Texas and my SOHC has never overheated.

      I've heard good things about Jasper engines though.
       
    6. matt0248

      matt0248 Active Member

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      I would not touch a Jasper engine with a 10 foot pole. They screwed the shop I worked at out of a ton of money because they refused to cover a reman. engine still under warranty. Long story short. reman engine was put into a customers caddy, less that 6 months later the engien had a slight knock. We determined it was the engine and it should be covered under warranty. The shop owner requested a jasper sales rep or someone to come out to listen to it BEFORE replacing the engine again. Jasper declined and said everything should go through as far as the warranty is concerned. Guess what? As soon as the engine got back to Jasper they said nothing was wrong with it and they would not cover it under warranty. Who had to eat all the time and $$$? you guessed it the shop. We never again used them. We started using another company, I can't remember the name, but they were way better about after install issues and warranty. WE even had the new company once send us a head and head gasket kit because the head on the reman engine was not refurbished properly and kept blowing out these plugs at the end of the heads. They even paid for the labor to swap the heads. my 2 cents, take it for what it's worth. Sorry about getting shafted on the X.
       
    7. Exproblems

      Exproblems Well-Known Member

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      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      You couldn't have prevented this other than not buying it in the first place, but not your fault. You had no way of knowing the previous owner had temporarily repaired the head with some liquid glass and that wouldn't show up on any car fax report, because he most likely repaired it himself, not thru some licensed repair shop. As far as buying an extended warranty on a used vehicle, I recommend getting one and have one myself on my Ex (2 yrs to go on it )because of the cost of some of these repairs on todays vehicles, but it may not have saved you in this case. The warranty company would have sent an inspector out to your repair shop to look over your engine and heads and seen the liquid glass in there and unless liquid glass is an acceptable way to repair a damaged head (I don't know), they most likely would have turned down your claim due to a faulty, previous repair or pre-existing condition. On a repair that costly, the warranty company would have definately sent out and inspector.
      FYI, warranties are good insurance, but the warranty company's will look for ways to get out of paying on a claim due to various things like pre-existing conditions, lack of proper maintenance or record keeping like regular oil changes/ receipts etc, and "never" talk directly to a warranty company claims rep and discuss the type of repairs your vehicle needs or costs for repair etc. Let the mechanic or the shop owner at the "licensed" repair shop do all the talking to the warranty claims rep. They deal with them all the time and know the routine. They (warranty company) will also try to pay for lesser quality parts or cheaper parts on the repairs they are willing to cover under your warranty. Gotta talk to your mechanic and get him to push for the better quality parts. Something to keep in mind if you ever decide to get one. Sorry about the Ex, good luck with the new engine or repaired one.
       
    8. amaral9696

      amaral9696 New Member

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      I'm having the same exact problem. Looks like we bought a 2006 Ford Explorer 3 months ago along with the warranty that the dealer told us to purchase. We start having problems, overheat and have truck towed. Warranty company does not want to pay because they found sealant in coolant and say it was pre-existing. Working with dealer to have them repair. Been a month and almost a $1000 in rental fees (which were supposed to be covered under warranty). Don't think I'll ever buy a used car again :(
       
    9. waskly

      waskly Well-Known Member

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      is it a head they are putting on or just a head gasket?

      these engines have a mls head gasket, problem is heads or block can warp and last i checked not alot of room to mil the head, or deck.
       
    10. Exproblems

      Exproblems Well-Known Member

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      Did this dealership sell you the extended warranty policy besides the Explorer, meaning you filled out the warranty paperwork and paid for the policy right at the dealership? If so, the dealership should be repsonsible for the cost of your repair. If the warranty company denied the claim as a pre-existing condition(which it most likely was), then the dealership/mechanics failed to do a required "complete pre-inspection" of the vehicle prior to sale, clearing the vehicle of any major defects or repair issues, which is a requirement of the warranty company towards the dealership selling their warranties. You should have something to this effect written in your warranty policy paperwork. I have an extended warranty policy on my Ex that I bought at the dealership, but covered thru a "Compass/American Guardian" plan, and it states about the "pre-existing condition" and "pre-inspection by the dealership" stipulations in it.
      I'm assuming your state lemon law warranty period has expired, but in New York State for example, if the vehicle broke down during the lemon law period, you get what ever number of days (lost lemon law days) the vehicle was broken down and in the shop tacked on to the date your vehicle is repaired and back on the road or driveable up to the total number of lemon law warranty days your vehicle is covered under. 30, 60 or 90 days etc. Each state has different lemon law warranties, so check up on yours.
      This dealership obviously sold you a damaged vehicle whether they knew about the problem or not and they should do the right thing and repair it for you at their cost. It was their responsibility to do a thorough inspection of that Explorer prior to selling you the extended warranty policy. You might want to use that fact as leverage against them if they try to give you a hard time about the repair. Good luck with them.
       
    11. Sedition

      Sedition Engine Repair Guy Elite Explorer

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      I would have compression tested it the first time it over heated. That would have shown there to be a blown out head gasket. That being the case I suggest replacing the head gaskets then you will have a reliable truck again.

      I say what has happend is the previous owner blew out the head gasket because of a dodgey thermostat or something simple then just poured in some liquid glass, topped off the antifreeze and traded it in for a newer model.

      If it were me, I would change both head gaskets myself and while I had the heads off I would check the mating surfaces were flat with a strait edge at the very least. All for a total of $400 in parts. No need to worry about new, remanufactured or rebuilt engines.
       
    12. jayton

      jayton Active Member

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      It would probably be better to start a new thread for your issue and just reference back to this old thread.

      How did the warranty company find sealant in the coolant? Did they request a sample or something? Almost sounds like a scam.
       

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