Maintenance for Cooling Systems


I have a 1993 Ford Taurus Station Wagon with just over 60K miles. I have never given it a tune-up or any other maintenance other than oil-changes and alignments and a recent brake job. I have read that modern cars don't need tune-ups. Do I need one? Is there any other maintenance I should do now that it has gone over 60K? I am planning to try changing the oil myself next time but I am really ignorant when it comes to cars. Is there a book you could recommend?

Dear Sasha,
The best book that I can recommend is the 1993 Ford Taurus Owner's manual that came with your car. In this great book you will find what needs to be done to your vehicle and when. As I tell all of my readers, you really should follow what they say, because they built the car! If you fail to follow the maintenance procedures, then you most likely void your warranty.

A couple weeks ago, when I was 600 miles from home, I noticed green anti-freeze fluid inside my car on the passenger side. Not much. 8 or 9 drops. I took my car into a reputable shop (recommended by family, AAA approved, many years in business and they worked on my car for another reason). Three days later and $850 poorer I had a new heating core and a hose to go with it.

My car is a 3 year old, Plymouth Sundance with 47,000 miles on it. A few weeks before the incident I notice a bit of water vapor on the inside of my windshield, but did not think anything of it until the mechanic asked about this. What do you think? Was I told good information? Could I have been taken?

By the way, I did a price check. An auto dealership had the same price and a BAD attitude. Another shop quoted a lower price, but a longer wait. I had to return to work and could not wait. Their price was about $500 if I remember correctly.

I would have diagnosed it the same way. As for the price, it is mostly in labor. To change the heater core and not completely ruin the interior of the car (with the spilled anti freeze) is a job. On some cars, the dash board needs to me completely removed. It seems that your might be one of them. As for the guy who offered you a 350 cheaper rate, he might be a little more hungry and has a lower labor rate that others...

Hi Bob!
My husband and I have two Volvo 240 4-door sedans. One '84 GL and one '90 DL. Both of them overheat when we turn on the air conditioner, so that we can't use the car air conditioners. We took them to our mechanic, who replaced some fan belts, but the problem continues. Our mechanic wants to replace the radiator on the '84 to the tune of $300, but I want a second opinion before we spend that kind of money. Do you have any suggestions as to what might be the cause of this chronic problem? Thanks!!

Dear KK,
It would seem to me that the air flow through the radiators is restricted. Check to see if they are clogged with leaves, dead bugs, dirt, or anything that would reduce the air flow through it. If they don't look clean, you could use compressed air to help remove the debris or a water hose. Finally, you might want to check the thermostat. IT might be opening at too high a temperature. Also, when was the last time you had your coolant flushed? With the engine cool enough to safely open the radiator cap, use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the coolant to see if it is within specified tolerances. While you have the cap off, look down there to see if there is any visible scale build up. I think you might have an aluminum radiator, so if you were inclined to use a flush chemical, make sure that it is compatible with aluminum.