Piston Slap: Mad Vulcan Powah?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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piston slap mad vulcan powah
TTAC commentator Felix Hoenikker (yes, really) writes:

Dear Sajeev,

As a fellow Panther owner, I am seeking advice on the disposition of another Ford product. My 24 year old son just bought a new to him car and returned my 2000 Ford Taurus with the 3L Vulcan overhead valve engine to me. At 206K it runs great, but has one issue. Combustion gases are entering the cooling system and periodically venting through the coolant de-gassing tank.

Also, the OBDII system will ocasionally flag cylinder one for a misfire. This must be a very short lived event because the engine runs smoothly even when the CEL light is on. Two years ago, I had the car diagnosed by a AAA club recommend mechanic. He tested the coolant and found the combusion gases in the degass tank. He concluded that the engine had a head gasket leak in the vicinity of cylinder one. I should also mention that periodically, the spark plug on the cylinder number one gets coated with a white mineral. None of the other spark plugs have this type of deposit. So we know that coolant is getting into this cylinder. The car uses about one pint of coolant per thousand miles. Since there are no leaks, I assume it all ends up in cylinder one. At around 10K miles, the spark plug fouls with minerals, and I replace it. It’s a bear to get at since it is on the firewall side of the engine.

In March of 2010, I bit the bullet and replaced both head gaskets and resurfaced the valves. While the engine ran as smooth as silk, this job did not fix the coolant leak into number one cylinder. I believe that the cylinder head has a very small leak in this piston even though I could not find any evidence of it when I replaced the cylinder head gasket. It could also be a warped head. I am considering replacing the cylinder head with a rebuilt one from Advance Auto since I plan to give this car to #2 son who is a feshman in college.

Before I invest a $200 and a whole days work, I want to ask you and the B&B if you agree with my diagnosis. Has anyone heard of a cracked block doing this? When I replaced the head gasket, the block was shinny and smooth with no evidence of a coolant leak between it and the head gasket.

Sajeev answers:

Fellow Panther owner? I only got Foxes, Panthers are just the logical extension of my madness! My avatar don’t lie, son! But I digress…

Normally your OBD-II code and PCV (i.e. combustion gases) problem are the same concern. A bad PCV valve, worn out vacuum lines, etc can cause a code, but having these gases wind up in the coolant without it turning milky with oil contamination?

Maybe it isn’t the head, maybe the coolant expansion tank has an air leak…maybe at the cap? That makes more sense than needing to change the head, do machine work, etc on a Vulcan V6 that otherwise drives perfectly. Of course that doesn’t explain the spark plug issue…or was that resolved after the new gaskets and machine work? Now I’m seriously confused.

Confused by one of the most basic engines in modern history! Oh boy.

The other concern: how the hell did your son overheat/abuse a Vulcan V6 to the point it warped the head/block? This all-iron motor is about as bulletproof as it gets. Maybe the Taurus forums can help, because I’m drawing at straws.

Get your Vulcan On, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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2 of 13 comments
  • Chicagoland Chicagoland on Dec 26, 2012

    In my opinion, the car is at the end of its useful life. 200K from a Taurus is well above average for that line. I'd send it to the scrapyard.

  • Blowfish Blowfish on Dec 26, 2012

    i would put a can of these block sealant into the coolant system, u may wanna pinch off the heater core, these can cause blockage in heater core. the one i bought called ceramic a long plastic tube, next day or so when i go to local parts place i can look u the name for u.

  • 28-Cars-Later "But Assemblyman Phil Ting, the San Franciscan Democrat who wrote the electric school bus legislation, says this is all about the health and wellbeing of Golden State residents. In addition to the normal air pollution stemming from exhaust gasses, he believes children are being exposed to additional carcinogens by just being on a diesel bus."Phil is into real estate, he doesn't know jack sh!t about science or medicine and if media were real it would politely remind him his opinions are not qualified... if it were real. Another question if media were real is why is a very experienced real estate advisor and former tax assessor writing legislation on school busses? If you read the rest of his bio after 2014, his expertise seems to be applied but he gets into more and more things he's not qualified to speak to or legislate on - this isn't to say he isn't capable of doing more but just two years ago Communism™ kept reminding me Dr. Fauxi knew more about medicine than I did and I should die or something. So Uncle Phil just gets a pass with his unqualified opinions?Ting began his career as a real estate  financial adviser at  Arthur Andersen and  CBRE. He also previously served as the executive director of the  Asian Law Caucus, as the president of the Bay Area Assessors Association, and on the board of  Equality California. [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ting#cite_note-auto-1][1][/url][h3][/h3]In 2005, Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor  Gavin Newsom, becoming San Francisco’s highest-ranking  Chinese-American official at the time. He was then elected to the post in November 2005, garnering 58 percent of the vote.Ting was re-elected Assessor-Recorder in 2006 and 2010During his first term in the Assembly, Ting authored a law that helped set into motion the transformation of Piers 30-32 into what would become  Chase Center the home of the  Golden State Warriorshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ting
  • RHD This looks like a lead balloon. You could buy a fantastic classic car for a hundred grand, or a Mercedes depreciationmobile. There isn't much reason to consider this over many other excellent vehicles that cost less. It's probably fast, but nothing else about it is in the least bit outstanding, except for the balance owed on the financing.
  • Jeff A bread van worthy of praise by Tassos.
  • Jeff The car itself is in really good shape and it is worth the money. It has lots of life left in it and can easily go over 200k.
  • IBx1 Awww my first comment got deletedTake your “millennial anti theft device” trope and wake up to the fact that we’re the only ones keeping manuals around.