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ReluctantFordOwner

New Used Taurus NeedsTLC - Where to begin?

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I just bought a 2003 Ford Taurus SE with 71,000 miles.  I've really never been a Ford fan (mom's Escort rusted through so bad you could put your feet on the road when the car was only 12 years old). I bought this car because I was really in a pinch after my Camry blew a head gasket.   The car runs and drives very smoothly however it is definitely making some noises and having some issues that need addressed.  I'm looking for advice about what could be causing the following things and/or how to repair them in a cheap and efficient way:

 

A kind of popping/clunking sound when the steering wheel is turned too far in either direction (no hissing). Sounds like it's coming from the front of the car. Read it could be the steering rack or tie rods. Which is most likely or how do I diagnose?

The heater blows air only slightly warmer than the outdoor temp (it was around 72 today and the heater felt like it was blowing around 76-80 or possibly less. The car remained VERY cold after a downpour had me soaking wet).

The hood release latch does not release the hood. I even pulled on the cable with pliers as hard as I could and it did nothing.  I've also stuck a screwdriver in through the grill to try and unlatch it manually but even moving the latch up doesn't do anything. Can someone link me to a video of how to do this on a Taurus? I can't find one for the life of me.

The brakes pulse when the pedal is depressed. 

The previous owner thought the rear passenger strut needed replacing. The car definitely takes even minor bumps very hard and it's noisiest on the rear driver's side.  (pretty sure this is just s strut but thought I would list it anyway).

The rear driver's window does not go down with either the driver's door controls or the rear driver's passenger seat controls.

The seat belt of the rear driver's seat is stuck.  Will not extend or retract. I've removed the two pieces of plastic trim on the door and back wall of the car to gain better access but I still can't figure out how to even get a wrench back there to remove it. How do I remove the vertical part of the back seat or that upper shelf part above the trunk to get a better look at it and/or remove it and install a new one?

 

That's all for now, hopefully too many more issues won't crop up!  Thanks!

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Hi there!

1. Is it a continuous popping or a single pop when the wheel is turned? My first guess by your initial description is tie rods, then ball joints.

2. Clogged heater core. This is a common issue on these cars. I would suggest flushing it but if it's clogged as bad as it sounds then it would be easier to just replace it. But that won't be possible just yet because of #3.

3. Not sure how to help with this one. The latch is definitely frozen but I have no idea how to get it loose. Maybe spraying penetrating oil on it through the grille if you can get a good angle?

4. Warped rotors.

5. Might be a bad strut or the strut mount broke. To change either you will have to remove the carpet from the parcel shelf which I will explain with #7.

6. Most likely a dead window regulator. I have no idea how to change these.

7. If the seat is not the split folding rear seat then you will have to remove the seat bottom to expose the bolts holding the seat back on. Push in and up on the corners of the seat bottom to detach the latches, then pull the bottom out. The bolts for the seat back are now accessible. Remove them, then lift up and pull forward to remove the seat back.

If the seat is the split fold type it is easier to remove. Just fold the rear seat down and the four bolts holding it in will be exposed. Remove them, then lift up and pull forward to remove the seat back.

The carpet is held on with two plastic push pins. I put the nail puller of a hammer under the carpet and pry them out. You will probably have to disconnect the CHMSL (Center High Mount Stop Light, the brake light in the window) to remove the carpet. This should give you access to the seat belt and will also give access to the top of the strut towers.

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Thanks for such a detailed response!

Some good news:  Took the cars for a once over today by a mechanic and they were able to get the hood open by disconnecting the cable from the latch, and then pulling the cable while having a second person lift up on the hood. Tried it at home and my son and I can open it this way. I wonder if a new cable would fix this issue or if it's something else?

The noise when I turn the steering wheel very far is just a one time pop. The mechanic thinks it's the front struts, which I was surprised to hear since I thought it would be a tie rod and had no idea struts could cause a sound when steering.

I do have the fold down seats so I'll go have a look for those bolts.

I understand a heater core replacement is a very costly job, so I'm hoping a flush will do. Now that I can open the hood I'm ready to tackle that. Where do I begin?

Also the car is an 03 but it came with an 02 manual. Is it OK to go by what's in this book?  Any differences between the 02 and the 03 I need to be aware of?

 

 

 

 

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Also just noticed the knock seems to pop in and back out....it pops once when turning the wheel in to the turn, and then again when I'm straightening it back out. Hopefully that will be helpful in diagnosing this sound.

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3 hours ago, ReluctantFordOwner said:

Thanks for such a detailed response!

Some good news:  Took the cars for a once over today by a mechanic and they were able to get the hood open by disconnecting the cable from the latch, and then pulling the cable while having a second person lift up on the hood. Tried it at home and my son and I can open it this way. I wonder if a new cable would fix this issue or if it's something else?

The noise when I turn the steering wheel very far is just a one time pop. The mechanic thinks it's the front struts, which I was surprised to hear since I thought it would be a tie rod and had no idea struts could cause a sound when steering.

I do have the fold down seats so I'll go have a look for those bolts.

I understand a heater core replacement is a very costly job, so I'm hoping a flush will do. Now that I can open the hood I'm ready to tackle that. Where do I begin?

Also the car is an 03 but it came with an 02 manual. Is it OK to go by what's in this book?  Any differences between the 02 and the 03 I need to be aware of?

You can change the heater  core yourself to save $$$. If yours is plugged as bad as the one in the video then you would need acid to flush it clean. I don't know if you have to drain the cooling system for this or not.

1 hour ago, ReluctantFordOwner said:

Also just noticed the knock seems to pop in and back out....it pops once when turning the wheel in to the turn, and then again when I'm straightening it back out. Hopefully that will be helpful in diagnosing this sound.

I forgot that the struts can pop like that when they wear out (although 71k miles sounds premature.) The bearings might have gone bad which I believe is known to cause a popping sound or feel.

And a manual from an '02 will be fine for your car. The 2002 and 2003 cars are both Gen 4 and there weren't any significant changes.

Edited by Angrod

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Yeah, I don't work on cars....and getting a wrench under the windshield for the bolts on the dash looks like a nearly impossible nightmare.  The more I'm reading about these cars I'm really not understand why they were/are so popular.  The gas mileage in particular has me stumped. Why would anyone want a mid sized sedan with gas mileage worse than or comparable to most minivans?  What am I missing?

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2 hours ago, ReluctantFordOwner said:

Yeah, I don't work on cars....and getting a wrench under the windshield for the bolts on the dash looks like a nearly impossible nightmare.  The more I'm reading about these cars I'm really not understand why they were/are so popular.  The gas mileage in particular has me stumped. Why would anyone want a mid sized sedan with gas mileage worse than or comparable to most minivans?  What am I missing? 

The first generation models were popular considering what most of America was driving at the time, which were cars that were generally of the three box style. The Taurus and Sable dropped in as a sleek, modern looking car compared to similar midsize cars, like the Chevrolet Celebrity.

1986 Celebrity

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1986 Taurus

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The second generation was an update on the first generation. Still had modern styling at the time, but all the other manufacturers couldn't be outdone. Pontiac tried copying the Sable's distinct light bar on the Grand Prix. Ford did have a rather good run with the car between 1986-1995, and a lot of their lines started sharing similar "Aero" body lines moving into the 90s. For 1992, the Crown Victoria imitated a "larger Taurus" after being restyled in the only year it didn't have a conventional grille.

u2fogea1.jpg
 

Just like today where most manufacturers share similar design cues in all models, it happened in a number of Ford products from the late 80s through the 90s.

 

From there, the popularity waned as the third gen was a love it or hate it affair design wise and other competition, especially from foreign markets really took hold in the midsize market. The addition of the Duratec V6 was nice for the extra power over the traditional Vulcan V6, particularly after the head gasket hungry Essex V6 was dropped. However, the less than exciting styling relegated a number of these cars to fleets and rentals.

As far as popularity goes, this was a midsize, generally no thrills sedan that offered 5 or 6 passenger seating with a number of modernity amenities as they were built. They may have not been a stellar as some of the other cars in their class, but they did what was expected of them, however forgettable they may seem. For a number of buyers, they made a good family car that would either be passed down or eventually traded in a few years later.

I wouldn't say they were made to last a lifetime without a bit of work. The transaxle has always been a weak point in these cars, or at least prior to the shift to the full size chassis after 2007. An external cooler and more frequent fluid changes considerably will extend their lifespans. The 3.8 V6 (Essex) engines were available in the late 80s right up to 1995, but had a nasty habit of eating head gaskets, but the Essex wasn't unique to Taurus and Sable, and also gave troubles to Thunderbird, Mustang, and other cars that used it, however a good number of Taurus/Sable models got them, so a notorious engine with a notorious transaxle gives the cars a bad rap, especially since that stuff causes nameplates to pale in comparison to other competitors. 

Barring all that, the Taurus did accomplish something fairly large in its own right, and it saved Ford. Ford wasn't well off in the '80s, and the Taurus/Sable project was a make or break deal. If that car flopped, they would have gone under. They were so unsure if the Taurus would make it, they kept making the car it was supposed to replace, the mid-size Fox chassis LTD. right beside it for the 1986 model year. When sales took off, they finally ended the LTD production.

/tangent

Regarding MPG, are we comparing them to modern minivans or minivans that were new when they were new? The four speed transaxle would probably be the biggest point of less than stellar mileage. A more modern transaxle would have been nice in the mid 2000s, but alas that didn't happen.

The Duratec engines in my opinion seem to be thirsty. My mother has an MKZ with the 3.5 and a 6 speed automatic, and in mixed driving gets similar mileage to my Grand Marquis with a 4.6 with a 4 speed automatic. Typically I average 20 MPG, which is nice for a large car that's 21 years old. Her car might do 21 MPG average, and is only 9 years old. Even highway mileage is similar between 26-28 MPG. I assume a Taurus could manage similar numbers.

Edited by Kodachrome Wolf

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Call me crazy, but I love both those cars, I would take a Celebrity and a Taurus any day of the week :wub: 

The Taurus is a pain in the ass to work on, but it has character to it. Lot of things are on Youtube, and not that hard. 

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