96 Taurus coolant leaks

Taurus coolant leaks are very common on the 1996 and 1997 Ford Taurus. This was the first 2 years of the newer bubble body style. Here is a question I fielded about 96 Taurus coolant leaks

Mark a common auto repairs question for you. I have a 96 Ford Taurus with a slow coolant leak. The engine is dry and I smell some coolant when I put on the air conditioning. Is it the heater core leaking? Also note that this 96 Taurus has problems with brown coolant since we got it used some time ago. We have flushed the coolant system very often until the brown was gone.

Thanks Ken

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Hello Kenneth : Yes the 96 and 97 Taurus had there issues with coolant system problems. It sounds like you did a good job trying to keep it at bay with your frequent flushes. But if it was contaminated at one time it most likely weakened the heater core.

If this is the original heater core this would most likely be your problem. Yes the heater core is a huge job on that model. You have to take the dash loose from the firewall I believe.

A head-gasket is also possible but with the amount of coolant your loosing you should be able to see signs of coolant in the oil, if it was leaking in the engine. Milkshake looking deposits on the oil fill cap would be a tell tail sign as well as elevated oil fill level.

Coolant leaks on Taurus

Thank you for your prompt and knowledgeable response about common auto repairs.  This is the kind of answer I wanted.

However, In the meantime, I found that contrary to the instructions in my Haynes manual,  I did not have to remove the instrument panel to access the heater core.  (They wanted me to have the AC system drained first.)  I could get to it by removing the glove box and the ash tray. 

I removed the panel covering it.  I  don’t know if I could remove the heater core, but I think so.  I found that there is no dampness around the heater core, even after driving it around the block with the heater turned on.  Does this absolve the heater core, or should I remove it to check it?

There is no trace of milky substance around the dipstick or filler cap.  I know what that looks like from seeing it on other cars that I owned.  I changed the oil last week and there was no sign of it then, either.

On reflection about my 96 Taurus coolant leaks. I exaggerated the coolant loss.  Maybe its a pint a week, but that’s in only about 100 miles.

I’m sure its not an external leak as I put the car on jack stands and crawled under it while it was running last week.  Is it possible that an internal blockage (say in the radiator) could cause the engine to overheat and expel fluid while underway? 

I first noticed the problem when the temperature gauge read above normal and then discovered that I was down a quart or more on coolant.  When I added water and continued my trip, the temperature read normal. 96 Taurus coolant leaks What next?


Kenneth: In most 96 Taurus coolant leaks cases you can detect a heater core leak without removing it. Sometimes a leaking heater core will trickle down the inside of the firewall and collect under the p/side carpet.

Since the backing of the carpet is rubber you may have to remove some trim and peel it back to check for this. There is no question that the most common cooling system failures on your model are the radiator and heater core. The reason being is that they are made of very thin metal and are the first to rot out.

If the radiator was blocked and overheated and burped coolant out of the overflow bottle I think you would have seen signs of this when you had the car on jack stands.

I am still leaning towards the heater core due to jaded past experience. But when it comes to 96 Taurus coolant leaks or any vehicle with a 148,000 miles it could be a few other things.

Like a water pump or a hose with a slight leak. If the leak is small enough and leaking on a hot engine you may not see wetness on the block due to evaporation from the heat.

One thing is for sure 96 Taurus coolant leaks, only get worse not better. When it picks up speed you will have a better chance of finding it!


Taurus coolant leak conclusion

Kenneth Geisinger writes: 96 Taurus coolant leaks

I could not detect any moisture around the heater core, inside the box or in the carpeting.

Then I began the project that I had in mind anyway: replacing all coolant hoses, the thermostat, and the fuel filter.  I hadn’t done this for over six years.  The fluid that I drained was a golden brown again.  I couldn’t see the bottom of the bucket when it was five inches deep. 

When I got to the thermostat housing, I noticed a dried brown residue below it.  I found that one of the three bolts was loose (probably my fault from an earlier thermostat replacement).

So you were right.  It was leaking coolant and evaporating and my problem was the cooling system, not a leaking head gasket. 

I thank you very much for steering me in this direction.  Replacing these hoses is a heck of a job; but a lot easier than removing the heads.  And it probably needed to be done, anyway.   When I’m finished, the old Taurus will be more likely to remain dependable.

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