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tRus03

2001 Taurus Problems.....a Lot Of Them

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Hi everyone. I'm writing about my sister-in-law's 2001 Taurus SES with the 3.0L Vulcan engine. Car has 165,000 miles on it, and she's had it just under a year. Previous maintenance unknown. To me, it looks like the plugs and wires are original. When she first got the car, it had a check engine light. When I finally saw the car, I pulled the codes (5 of them) with one of them being a P0420 code. She's been driving the car with that code for almost a year because she couldn't afford to get it fixed (needed a new catalytic converter). I wish I would had known that beforehand because I would've told her not to buy the car. About a month ago, I was checking over the car for her and I saw that the coolant was like sludge. Told her to get that changed ASAP, which she did. Then about two days ago she was driving to work and the car wouldn't go over 20-25 mph. All she asked me was if a bad catalytic converter would cause the car to be sluggish, to which I replied that it could. So she takes the car to a relative who owns a repair shop, tells him the problem of the car not going over 20-25 mph, and he replaces two of the catalytic converters (I believe the bank 1 converters). The check engine light went out, but he says that she needs to get the third converter (I believe bank 2) replaced as well. After charging $750 for the two converters and another coolant flush, the mechanic says that the car is overheating and it still won't go above 20-25 mph. He was taking the car to a trans shop to see if the trans has any codes and that's when it started to overheat supposedly. So I don't know if there are any tranny codes. So I go with my sister-in-law to pick the car up. When I walk up to the car, the mechanic is looking over her car and he has a Haynes repair manual that he's referencing. Already I'm thinking that this guy isn't too knowledgeable on the Taurus if he's using a Haynes manual. I ask him what's going on and he says that the water pump's leaking (which I saw to confirm), all the hoses are dry-rotted and need replacing, there's an electrical short somewhere in the car (when you turn the car off, the door locks go crazy and start locking and unlocking until a door is opened), and the reason the car won't go over 20-25 mph could be caused by the transmission. So he changes the converters on a car that might need a new tranny? Sounds like he's ripping her off. The mechanic told her it would probably be best to just get rid of the car and get a new one. However, she doesn't have the money to get a new car. So I drive the car back to her house and indeed, it doesn't go very fast at all, but it didn't overheat. When starting from a traffic light, the car gets to about 20 mph and then starts to jerk hard. Maybe it's trying to shift to second gear? And it feels extremely sluggish. No matter how much I push the accelerator, the car barely gets going. Then once it starts jerking hard, if I let off the accelerator and then tap it slightly, the car will shift into second gear. When idling, it idles a little high, but it holds a steady idle. No check engine light on currently. I checked the trans fluid and it's clean, at the right level, and doesn't smell burnt. To add to it, after driving about 2 miles, the battery light came on and stayed on. I'm thinking it might be the trans going out, but I'm also thinking maybe it's something with the timing because it feels so bogged down when trying to accelerate. And it just feels so sluggish when trying to get the car to go from a stop. At one point, once I got it moving and gave it about 3/4 throttle to see if I got any response, and it just felt like the car bogged down even more. I'm looking to get any insight as to whether you guys think it might be the trans, or if you have an idea about something else. My sister-in-law seems to think that if she changes the plugs and wires, that will solve the problem. However, I'm skeptical and told her I'd ask the experts on this forum before she's makes any decision on what to do. I did tell her to get a second opinion and see what another mechanic says. Thanks for reading and any help/advice you can offer.

Matt

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What does the trans fluid look like? Is the fluid bright red?

With the unknown history, and the apparent lack of cooling system maintenance, the trans might be a logical starting point. If the fluid is not clean and bright, I would think a fluid/filter change is in order.

If that "mechanic", who is charging money, is using a Haynes manual, she needs a different mechanic. That is not professional at all.

Did the battery light stay on solid or flickering? If there is a charging system problem, low voltage can cause some driveability issues?

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Im thinking transmission range sensor would be a good place for you to start. Pull the plugs and see what they look like.

Sent from my HTC Incredible S using Tapatalk

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Thanks all for the replies...

rdh2 - it was sort of difficult to see if the trans fluid was a bright red being that it was dark out when we picked the car up. But from what I could tell, the fluid still looked red in color, maybe a little dark if I had to say. Once the battery light came on, it stayed on solid the rest of the drive home. I didn't get a change to start the car back up once we dropped it off, but I'm sure it'll come back on. I was thinking along the same lines of if the car's not getting enough electrical power, that might be causing the drivability concerns. I'll have to ask my sister-in-law if the light came on when she first noticed the problem.

2000_Gold_Taurus & Vulcanator - I tried manually shifting it while driving. Starting out in 1st, then shifting it into D once we were up to speed, and that did nothing. I will be sure to mention the TRS to her and tell her to mention it to another mechanic if she gets a second opinion. What gets me is if the transmission was at fault, wouldn't the engine just rev up? With her Taurus, it revs up a little and then starts jerking really hard, almost like a bad misfire. But again, no codes. If I get a chance in the daylight, I'm gonna take a look at the plugs and see what up. But would bad plugs/wires cause a car not to go over 20-25 mph? However, at one point during the drive, I did manage to get the car up to around 35 mph. But then it started jerking again.

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Take a white paper napkin, dabble some trans fluid from the dipstick on it (fresh and once it's dried), take a pic of both and post.

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OK, thanks Nick! I'll tell her to take the pictures and send them to me so I can post them because I don't know when I'll see the car again.

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i would look into the charging system, some systems dont like to operate and can even be locked into limp mode if the voltage is too low. some computers may not be getting the reference voltage they need. take a dvom and just check out what the voltage is at idle and also at about 2k rpms. my sho would have random things hapen when the battery got real low, speakers would pop with no key in the ignition, stuff like that. alt voltage should reach a minimum of 13.6v iirc to be considered in good working order.

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Is the car actually shifting out of first gear? What's the tac read when it's at "maximum" speed?

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are we sure it is even in first gear to begin with? anyone know what gear these transmissions default to when both soleniods are off?

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Sounds like a bad coil pack could be part of the problem. The limp-mode, jerking and bogging is exactly what mine did at those same speeds when my pack went bad. Of course it could be something inside the tranny that died or something else but I would look at the easy things and rule them out first.

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Vash - when I first started driving the car, it was exhibiting these symptoms that I've described and the battery light wasn't lit up. It wasn't until about 2 miles or so into the drive that the battery light came on and stayed on. Even if the battery light didn't come on until later, is it still possible that the car couldn't have been receiving enough electiral power to make the car act up?

Is the car actually shifting out of first gear? What's the tac read when it's at "maximum" speed?

Sometimes it will shift out of first gear. If I feather the accelerator pedal, I can get it to shift to second gear. But when it goes into second gear, it's not a smooth shift - it's a harsh shift. It seems like the car doesn't want to shift at all though. The rpms don't go very high - maybe to about 2500-3000 rpms. But again, when the engine is revving up, it starts jerking, and the rpms flucuate about 500 rpms as the car jerks. If I get the chance to see the car again, I'll try to take a video of it.

When I get home from work I'll post the pics of the tranny fluid. Thanks again guys for your help!

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Sounds like a bad coil pack could be part of the problem. The limp-mode, jerking and bogging is exactly what mine did at those same speeds when my pack went bad. Of course it could be something inside the tranny that died or something else but I would look at the easy things and rule them out first.

Thanks Matt. When your coil pack went bad, did it jerk bad, or just feel like a misfire?

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transoil1.jpg

Here is the first pic taken of the trans fluid from the dipstick. Trans fluid level was in the hatched area when I checked it (car warm, shifting from Park through 1st gear, then back to Park)

transoil2.jpg

Here is the second pic of the trans fluid, taken about 15 minutes after the first pic.

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Trans Fluid: In the first pic, I don't see much of a red color. But at least its not black. I would change fluid and filter.

I had a cracked coil pack on my '02 Vulcan. When it acted up, the car would fall flat on its face. The engine would stumble and have no power. It did not not throw any misfire codes at first. The misfire codes only showed up when it misfired during damp weather. I took the coil pack off and there was a hairline crack on the bottom.

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Trans Fluid: In the first pic, I don't see much of a red color. But at least its not black. I would change fluid and filter.

I had a cracked coil pack on my '02 Vulcan. When it acted up, the car would fall flat on its face. The engine would stumble and have no power. It did not not throw any misfire codes at first. The misfire codes only showed up when it misfired during damp weather. I took the coil pack off and there was a hairline crack on the bottom.

OK, I might have access to the car this weekend, then I'll take the coil pack off and inspect it. That would be an inexpensive fix if it's the culprit. Thanks!

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Thanks Matt. When your coil pack went bad, did it jerk bad, or just feel like a misfire?

It mostly bogged down but at its worst it felt like an earthquake in the engine. Scared the crap out of me. I was certain it was the transmission but the tech at the trans shop said it was the coil pack. Changed the pack and all the problems disappeared.

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25MPH in first gear on a vulcan is around 4000 ... sounds like it's at least shifting out of first gear.

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25MPH in first gear on a vulcan is around 4000 ... sounds like it's at least shifting out of first gear.

Yeah, it never revved near 4000.

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Well, to update things here. My sister-in-law had another friend look at the car and he said it was the MAF sensor. So she replaced that part and the symptoms are still the same. Now he told her to replace the plugs and wires, which she is going to do tomorrow. I'm going to tell her to take a good look at the coil pack too. We'll see what happens......

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Thanks Matt. When your coil pack went bad, did it jerk bad, or just feel like a misfire?

when my coil pack went it could be felt misfiring at start but went over 25.

also my cats have been bad for about three years now, even got it to pass with bad cats, never did it limit the take off or idle.

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A cracked coil pack from an '02 Vulcan:

IMAG1059.jpg

IMAG1060.jpg

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when my coil pack went it could be felt misfiring at start but went over 25.

also my cats have been bad for about three years now, even got it to pass with bad cats, never did it limit the take off or idle.

Yeah, even when she had to bad cats on the car, it still had some power. But then this problem developed, and we thought that maybe the cats became even more clogged (the car had the P0420 code), causing this problem.

Rdh2 - thanks for the pics! I haven't heard from her today, so I don't know if she changed the plugs or not.

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UPDATE! My sister-in-law went ahead and changed the plugs and wires, still had the same issue. She then took the car to another shop and the mechanic said the problem she was having was indeed caused by the third catalytic converter. So she had him change out the third cat and the car is now running normal once again! Thanks everyone for the help and advice!!

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