Piston Slap: Escort Wagon Spelunking?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap escort wagon spelunking

TTAC Commentator Modestholdings writes:

Best from the West, young man,

The Boss has a pretty nice ’94 Escort LX wagon sourced by yours truly, and it happens to have found the sweet spot betwixt my picking it and her loving it. A grand for this one-owner handshaker and she’s managed to put about 23K on it in the last year — points of interest are far and few between here in Wyoming.

At 140,000 I figured it would be good prophylaxis to go ahead and do that timing belt (1.9 four-potter) after what was eventually determined to be the tensioner began yapping.

New clutch at buy, pretty new shoes and a windshield are our investments beyond regular upkeep. (When it rains, it hails.) Some forum s̶k̶u̶l̶d̶u̶g̶g̶e̶r̶y̶ ̶ spelunking has turned up the possibility of new valve seats as the next major preventative maintenance. My question for you, the B&B, et al, is whether that makes sense, or drive it until it pops (er, drops) and then plop a junkyard mill in? The current motivator is pretty tight for being good to vote and everything, and I’d like to keep the Green Machine rolling at least until she’s old enough to buy me beer.

Sajeev answers:

Yes, new valve seats could be in your future. Or her future. Or the Escort’s future. Whatever…

The questions presented here are when and how to replace it: wait until it drops and sell the Escort? Wait and replace with a junkyard motor? Replace the valve seats now, either by yourself (if you are that awesome) or with a rebuilt head swap?

As I get earn more gray hair on my dome and less flexibility in my joints in cold weather, my answer goes to the path of least resistance: the somewhat stress free and kinda cheap path. So don’t wait for the entire motor to grenade, as that (probably) ruins both the cylinder head and the block. Junkyard motors are 3-4 times more than a rebuilt head, and do you believe the valve “fix” was applied to whatever you buy? Or will it fail again, probably after the junkyard warranty expires?

Ignorance isn’t bliss, nor is an in-n-out motor swap. Time to find the answer in the shades of gray.

The smarter move is a few hundred spent at a place like this, or something similar on eBay. In the 1.9L Escort’s case, a rebuilt cylinder head fixes the bad component and a fresh set of gaskets/fluids with someone smart enough to swap it all around is needed. And if you must pay for the labor, it’s still a smarter long-term position than replacing the entire motor.

A possible final question: is it stupid to want to fix the problem before it actually is a problem?

When the problem can hurt the entire engine and replacement engines may be no better, the answer is absolutely yes.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

[Image: Shutterstock user Slusing]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 41 comments
  • CapVandal CapVandal on Mar 05, 2014

    The short answer is that it makes no financial sense to spend that kind of money on preventative maintenance on an asymptomatic, $1,000 car. This is far from the 'drive it til it drops' philosophy. I would fix anything I can see or hear or is cheap and easy. If it is a question of your relationship to the driver -- follow your bliss.

  • Alainrw Alainrw on Mar 07, 2014

    my grandpa had one of these and we put my dads 14" na miata wheels on it. looked pretty nice.

  • THX1136 Maybe Mark Worman/Graveyard Carz will see this, buy the thing and restore it to it's original condition.
  • THX1136 Fain's comments are ridiculous to these ears. "Struggling to get by. . ." - really? The only reason any would be struggling is due to living beyond said individuals means (spending money like the gubment does). Both political entities 'visiting' the situation is one more reason for this baby to vote for neither.
  • Sgeffe 400 horsepower? In a German 2-point-zero-tee?My God, that'll blow sky-high the day after the warranty expires!
  • EBFlex Did he deboard the plane with the baby steps? Anyway I called it. Right yet again:Jeff-“”I doubt President Biden would join striking UAW workers. It’s one thing to give support to strikers and another to join strikers on the picket line.”Well he’s a complete and total moron. So it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he joined them on the picket line. If an idiot would do it, then it’s something Brandon would do..”
  • Fred Trump's "concerted effort" will be to speak at a non-union plant. Don't forget he promised to keep Lordstown open.