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mustangmike, Ford Technician
Category: Ford
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1998 3.8: windstar..heat intermittently,through the defroster

Resolved Question:

I have a 1998 3.8 windstar. The heating system is not working correctly, I only get heat intermittently,through the defroster, the other positions do not work at all. I do get heat through the rear seating area (right behind the driver, on the left panel) when the heating does work. I can fill my radiator, and radiator reservoir, and I will get some heat for awhile, seems to be intermittent though, comes on and off. Where is the cooling fluid going? I don't see any leaks. This morning I noticed steam/heat underneath the car, looked like connections to the muffler, I did have the transmission replaced last year at the dealership, if that is of any significance.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Ford
Expert:  mustangmike replied 7 years ago.

i would have your windstar checked for a blown head gasket, you have all the signs.

they can check the van with a chemical reaction tester, that basically checks for exhaust blowing up into the coolant filler bottle.

this is the cheapest way to check for a blown head gasket, which these vans are notorious for, we see an average of 2 windstars a week here for blown head gaskets or worse "engine replacement" due to the coolant wiping the lower end bearings out.

head gasket replacement with parts runs around $2200 and around $4500 for and engine replacement. those prices include parts and labor based on an $87 per hour labor rate.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
My temperature gage shows the car to be at normal operating temp, so coolant dosent seem to completely disappear to the extent that the engine overheats. Blown head gasket-possible. But what about "defrost" being my only working selection for heating? Is there a vacuum line etc. somewhere not working. Where is it located?
Expert:  mustangmike replied 7 years ago.
the head gasket won't usually show up on the temp. gauge or cause an overheating concern with that engine design, the defrost is the default mode if the ac/heat head does not have vacuum to it, i would look for a disconnected vacuum hose under the passengers side dash and in the engine compartment we some times find the vacuum lines cracked.
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