Discuss Mustang: Head Gasket Problem on AllFordMustangs.com, the place for Mustang enthusiasts.
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replace the engine? i dont think so..
i would however use a straight-edge to check the straightness across the block and the head... if it warped, i would look into what may have caused it.. or it could have gone bad... years old doesnt mean anything its how much the engine has run.. (not miles, running time)
Search the internet and you will find tons of info on this problem.
This is a common problem with early 3.8L engines. Mine lasted until 200K before the gasket blew. If the engine didn't overheat to bad and no coolant got into the crankcase, then I would do a valve job. I did mine myself at a cost of $300 for parts and machine shop (no valves required) Get the Felpro head gasket set, not ford, also get all new head bolts (felpro$30). Call felpro and get the latest head bolt torque values. Ford increased the torque value for my 94 3.8 to match the 96+, that was part of their fix. Also get the heads planned. The common failure for this is at the #4 cylinder (lh fwd) the gasket cracks between the water jacket and the cylinder. Mine caused the coolant loop to get pressurized with combustion gasses.
My overflow tank kept overfilling filling with coolant. I had my coolant tested for exhaust gas, easy test at gas station and showed positive. Compression test won't show the cracked gasket.
How many miles on the engine, if low enough Ford may cover it for you.
unless you drove it for a long period of time with a blown gasket, it should be ok.
You can fix it yourself cheaply, or you can do an performance overhaul (while it's open). in most cases it will be cheaper than replacing the whole engine.
Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,his upper rooms by injustice,making his countrymen work for nothing...Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?Did not your father have food and drink?He did what was right and just,so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy,and so all went well...But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain,on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion. Jer 22:13, 15-17
There is a "secret warranty" on these 3.8L engines for the common head gasket failure. Ford will likely help you out on it. If not, you should be able to pull the heads, plane them, replace the gaskets and be back in business. I would recommend the Fel-Pro "print-o-seal" style gaskets and ARP head bolts, plus if you have a lot of miles, replace the springs while you are at it.
BTW: I would expect a compression test to reveal the problem, or if not a leak down test should reveal the problem. It's even possible that a cylinder balance test (part of the EEC-IV diagnostics) could reveal the problem, though this is iffy.
My brother-in-law had this problem with his car, and he just replaced the gaskets and was back in business.
I believe that the magic number for Ford help is 100,000 miles or less. You really need to check into this because you're talking about a '97 and you might well have some free help coming from Ford. A very very common V-6 Ford problem. Aside from that, the other posts are good and to the point. After-market gaskets, no warps, and possibly grinding, possibly not. The valve job is optional. Do it yourself for about $300, or have it done for $1000-1600. DO BOTH SIDES AND DONT FORGET NEW HEAD BOLTS! If you love the car its worth it. I have a girlfriend who had the head gasket job done on an '87 Nissan 4-banger three years ago. It was the best $1200 she ever spent on that car. She got bonus performance improvement and better gas miliage too, not that 30+ mpg was that bad.
The Ford "answer" for the problem with their 3.8L v6 head gasket problem was to extend the warranty to 7 years or 100,000 miles. They also offered to reimburse owners for any head gasket repair they'd had done prior to the warranty extension (offer was released in 2000 sometime). I've blown 3 gaskets and you don't have to replace the engine. I did replace it (engine) the 1st time. There are about 4 cars (like the 93 T-Bird) that have the same heads as the mustang. You can get heads from a salvage yard that will be in good condition for about $100 and resurfacing will cost about $50. Ensure you use the Felpro gasket though...it is made special for the aluminum head on a cast iron block. Since the block is cast iron...it is unlikely that it is cracked or warped. You can take the heads you have and have them checked to see if they are warped and just have them resurfaced. You will need an assortment of tools to do the job so if you have access to someones garage that would be better but if not then borrow some valve stem pullers, a torx set, a torque wrench (foot lbs and inch lbs), a power steering pulley puller and installer, and you should change the valve stem seals since you have it off. You'll need a special tool to do the seals ( I forget what the name of it is) Anyway...with the help of a friend you can tear it down in about 4 hours (1 1/2 hours if either of you have done it before) and put it back together in about 2-3. I changed my gasket a couple of weeks ago. I've got 270,000 miles on my 95 and I'm gonna ride her til the wheels fall off!