Piston Slap: The Sable Preservation Society? (Part II)

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC Commentator Halftruth writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I’m trying to help my aunt out with her Mercury Sable, which has a 3.0-liter Duratec engine. It has an oil leak from the front passenger side which I believe is coming from the timing chain cover. How hard is this repair and what else should I look for if, say, the leak is not the cover or oil pan? I have checked the valve covers, oil press sender, and cam sensors — all dry.

Sajeev replies:

I agree with your assessment, it sounds a lot like a leaky timing chain cover, especially considering the age of any Mercury Sable equipped with a 3.0L Duratec. You will have to remove all the accessories, the CV shaft, and anything needed to get to those things before getting to the cover. If I read between the lines on the internet correctly, it’s a 9-ish hour job for a pro.

Certainly not for the faint of heart, but it isn’t the water pump on this engine’s successor. (shivers)

Your thoughts on this?

Halftruth responds:

Unfortunately I think we’re both right and the timing cover is more than likely the culprit. The leak is def sourcing from above the oil pan. I can do it but I think I am past driveway engine dismantling/repair at this point in my life. I will find a mechanic to look at it.

I may even see if I can pull some stuff out of the way, clean it up and simply silicone it from the outside. I have done that before with some success — just looking for a couple more years out of this car.

Weeks later, Halftruth adds:

On a whim I decided to use Lucas oil treatment. The leak slowed but now it’s coming from the other side where the transmission mates to the engine. At least the leak has been greatly reduced at this point, so not all bad. Def think the leak is starting high up somewhere but can’t see it yet. Might be time for some dye. Anyways, thought I’d give you an update!

Sajeev replies:

Sounds like it might be the engine’s rear main seal. And that’s a repair nobody wants to do on a newer car, much less a fully depreciated Mercury sedan. Even worse, since this isn’t a Sable that I want to appreciate for the rest of my days, I can’t be of any further help!

What say you, Best and Brightest? LS4-FTW?

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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.

Sajeev Mehta
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  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jan 24, 2020

    Dye + glasses + UV light kit is your friend - check it at night. The "no snake oil" statute of limitations has run out on this vehicle - time for "better living through chemistry." Try a bottle of "STP High Mileage Oil Treatment + Stop Leak" (it includes the 'seal conditioners'/'seal swell' stuff others have mentioned). When my family had an XJ Cherokee, I heard the theory that full-synthetic motor oil is 'so slippery' that it would 'find its way out' of the seals on that engine - so we ran conventional oil in that vehicle. If you are currently using synthetic, it would be worth a shot to go back to conventional motor oil (and as others have mentioned, go thicker viscosity if anything). Also, take it for a road trip so it gets a workout and feels appreciated.

  • Jagboi Jagboi on Jan 26, 2020

    I have the Jaguar version of the Duratech in my X Type, so take this with a grain of salt if the Ford version is different - and there are major differences, but the basic block is similar. On mine, the leak was from the serpentine belt tensioner. There is one hole for the bolt that holds the tensioner to the block, and that's blind. The other hole is for the locating pin and that was through drilled and then had a plug installed. The plug leaked, so I took off the tensioner, cleaned everything, and put a bit of silicone in the hole and so far that has cured the leak.

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.