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Weird "sticky" oily substance near A/C compressor?

Discussion in 'Stock 2011 - 2019 Ford Explorer Discussion' started by Bobs2018Explorer, October 14, 2019.

^^Searches ExplorerForum.com^^





  1. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    Yesterday, I had my 2018 Explorer parked "hot" for only about 15 minutes while in a store. When I came out and drove off, I suddenly smelled the distinct smell of hot oil that was possibly "cooking" on an exhaust pipe underneath... you know, that burning oil smell that eventually permeates into the inside of the car?

    As this vehicle only has 11,500 miles on it (3.5L V6), and had always previously been spotless and dry underneath, I took a look under the car as soon as I got home. Upon inspection, I discovered a very weird (and out-of-place) small ribbon of a VERY sticky, oily substance, that was really only evident underneath the bottom of the A/C compressor. As the lower engine was still very hot, you could easily smell that same smell that I had noticed inside the vehicle before. (As there was zero evidence of any such oil getting on the crossover pipes, I'll have to assume that it was simply "cooking" on this lower engine component, thereby giving off the smell).

    Now, a very extensive check from the top to the bottom of the engine in that area failed to turn up any obvious source for the sticky oil down below, in spite of using a high-power flashlight and a long mechanic's inspection mirror. My first thought was that, because it was the same color as my slightly-used engine oil, that it might be from the pan, but that is not the case, as the pan gasket is bone dry. However, the amount of stickiness it has is also confounding to me. Additionally, there is no apparent leakage of A/C compressor oil coming from the pulley seal of the compressor, and, the area that gives the "appearance" of it leaking is actually nothing more than where a bolt passes-thru a lower mounting bracket to help attach the compressor to the lower engine block.

    Anyway, here is a photo I took while I was under there. Anybody else suffer a similarly-mysterious ailment?

    11615 Miles - BEFORE CLEANING 101319 Pic1.jpg

    View attachment 174751
     
    Last edited: October 15, 2019
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  3. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    Although I am still unable to find the source of the seepage (probably coming from above the compressor area), I'm now thinking that it's actually likely Ford Orange Coolant, coming from somewhere! I say this because upon closer examination (smelling) of the seepage coating that area, it smells more like coolant than motor oil. I also checked the oil for any cross-contamination and see zero signs of coolant getting into the oiling system; this is a good thing, as it appears that replacing the "coolant pump" in this 3.5L requires a major tear-down of the front engine cover, messing with the camshaft chain-drive system, etc. That would be bad all around.

    Anyway, I also noticed today that my coolant bottle is now reading a bit lower than it was before any of this happened; it's now a hair below the "low-cold" level when the engine is hot (as shown in the photo). Just a couple of weeks ago, it was up in the middle of the two marks when cold... a clear sign that coolant is going somewhere.

    I guess I'll soon have no choice but to take it to a dealership, to have them put it on the rack to see if they can figure it out...

    11635 Miles - Coolant Bottle Level HOT.jpg
     
    Last edited: October 17, 2019
  4. RhinoQuartz

    RhinoQuartz Elite Explorer

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    I think you just caught your water pump, which is located above the compressor, leaking.
    If it hasn't contaminated your oil, count yourself lucky.
     
  5. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    What I can't figure out is that my OEM Ford Shop Manual appears to show that the water pump is actually "hidden" underneath the front "engine cover" (which is why it requires a major tear-down process to get at it, to replace it)... so, if that is really the case, how is it that coolant can somehow appear down below on the compressor area?

    Note that I've so far been unable to find any sign of leakage under the bottom edge of the cover... so far, that is!
     
  6. RhinoQuartz

    RhinoQuartz Elite Explorer

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    The plot thickens. Wonder if the Hardy Boys are available to crack this lol.

    Where did you get your service manual? I've been trying to find one for months, but they're all still quite expensive.
     
  7. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    To answer RhinoQuartz's question, it's downloadable from Factory Manuals. There is a cost, of course, but you give them your VIN # and you get a 1000+ page actual Ford service and owner's manual tailored to your specific vehicle. I've saved it on my computer, and have referred to it many times.. and it's the same data that your local Ford technician refers to in their shop.

    UPDATE on my problem: I took the Explorer to an area Ford dealer, and they pressure-tested the system and saw it drop by 4 psi. Up on the rack, they found that there exists a "coolant pump weep hole", and that is where the staining and dripping is coming from... thereby indicating a hidden coolant pump failure! God bless Ford, for somehow still being able to provide a weep-hole for an internally-mounted water pump... without that, I might not have known how risky the issue is, until my motor oil was totally contaminated with coolant!

    They've now ordered the parts, and since the factory labor estimate is for a good 10 hours of engine tear-down (for engine front-cover removal, to get at the pump), they also gave me a free rental car for as long as the car is being repaired!

    Will update here as soon as it is returned to me next week!
     
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  8. RhinoQuartz

    RhinoQuartz Elite Explorer

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    Covered under warranty right?

    Congrats on not having your engine flooded! I've seen a few people catch the same sort of thing in time, while others haven't been quite so fortunate.
     
  9. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    Yep, still have well over a year left under the original warranty (plus, also have a zero-deductible ESP plan after that), so at least it's all more than covered!
     
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  10. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    A check with the dealership shows they're still working on it, plus, they also have another Explorer in the shop being worked on for the same issue. Hmmm...
     
    Last edited: October 25, 2019
  11. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    OK, after 8 days in the shop, I finally got my Explorer back! Here is my take on what it took, to simply replace the "coolant (water) pump" on the 3.5L engine:

    First, this was a BIG job... estimated at 10 hours of labor... requiring a LOT of teardown! It first required draining of the cooling system and engine oil. After that, removal of the right front wheel and wheelwell cover (for better access); then the intake manifold, valve covers, alternator, belt tensioner and belt, AC compressor (including evacuating and recharging the system), and the crankshaft pulley. Only then can the "front cover" be removed, which exposes the timing chains and chain tensioners inside... which all then need to be removed as well! Once that is done (while using a specialized set of locking devices, to keep the camshafts from turning)... you can then detach and replace the "coolant pump" unit that is located behind all this stuff! Then, you get to put it all back together again, using new gaskets and RTV sealer, new oil and filter, etc.... and, IF they do it right (as my dealer did)... they will first wait overnight to let the sealer "cure", BEFORE refilling with the crankcase with engine oil (ostensibly, to prevent new oil leaks from ocurring).

    Secondly, it appears that my dealer followed their shop manual to the letter, to make sure it was done right. When I got the car back, it was spotless, and you couldn't even tell it had been torn down as much as it had; every part underneath that had been soiled with orange coolant had been scrubbed clean before it was returned to me.

    INTERESTINGLY... this dealer reiterated to me that my vehicle was one of TWO Explorers in the shop at the same time, for the exact same issue! And, on the morning I picked-up by car, ANOTHER one (a 2019) had just come in that morning, with the exact same problem! That equates to THREE Explorers in their shop for the same problem, just in the last two-week period! Seems to me that a problem issue might be showing itself, in the late-model 3.5L's, so keep an eye on your 3.5's "weep hole".

    Anyway, I am now driving and monitoring the car, and will report if any of the same issures come back to haunt me.
     
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  12. blwnsmoke

    blwnsmoke Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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    I assume you havent seen this 44 page thread of water pump failures?

    Water pump failure leads to dead engine

    And most dealers pull the engine out. Much easier to repair/replace as there is no obstruction.
     
  13. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    No, I had not see that lengthy posting!

    In my case, it was at least just the weephole letting some seepage out, thereby giving me plenty of warning...

    I guess that (a) I was VERY lucky, that it didn't end up a catastrophic failure (as experienced by those unfortunate owners in the post that you mention), and (b), that I will now REALLY be paying attention to (1) if my oil stays clear (not milky, due to coolant contamination) and (2) that I don't experience any weird losses of power or other symptoms.

    I also suppose that I was smart to buy the extended warranty, should I ever need something like this covered.
     
  14. blwnsmoke

    blwnsmoke Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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    Yes you were. I had my WP changed for $300 because they had to tear the front cover off due to an oil leak. It was just a little more labor to change it out at around 130k so for me, it was a no brainer.

    Unfortunately majority of people don't experience the weep hole leak, it goes internal and grenades the engine. Doesn't take much coolant to do that so one is VERY lucky if they catch it before it goes boom going the internal route.

    And yes, an ESP is almost a requirement because of this. It was that, the PTU and the EPAS are the 3 major downfalls of the 5th gen.
     
  15. ExPlat

    ExPlat Elite Explorer

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    Definitely, the ESP is a must and I think your story is great because you were quick in realizing a problem in combination with having a responsible and knowledgeable Service Department at your Dealer.

    My early 2016 Explorer (bought in 09/2015) only has 36,000 miles on it and the B2B warranty is long gone so I'm relying on my ESP to cover any other big failures. My EPAS and PTU have already been replaced (and many other things) but so far the water pump is intact. About 10 months from now my 5-year/100,000 mile ESP ends so it will be decision time on whether I extend the ESP or buy another vehicle.
     
  16. Bobs2018Explorer

    Bobs2018Explorer Elite Explorer

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    While I've seen info and comments online about the Ford PTU's, I haven't seen much about the EPAS systems failing. What were the symptoms of your EPAS failure?

    Speaking of non-hydraulically-operated steering systems... I've often found myself wondering why Ford hasn't also eliminated the belt-driven (aka, power-robbing) AC compressor, and instead, replaced them with an electrically-powered, motorized unit as well?

    I mean, my wife's Lexus Hybrid, and my brother's Chevy Bolt, can all sit there with cool AC air running while parked, but with no (hybrid) engine running. Has anybody else wondered why Ford (and other car makers) hasn't gotten rid of those, and made them simply run off of the electrical power of the car? I mean, it seems to me that all it would take is a small but powerful electric motor, coupled to the compressor mechanism, to eliminate the old belt-drive system...
     
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  17. RedXLTlove

    RedXLTlove Member

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    I have been wondering the same thing, seems to me it would make sense. Seems that it would also be more reliable, as there is a consistent compressor speed and no rubber hoses to fail.
     

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