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A collection of helpful articles based on reader submissions
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Below is a collection of Jim Grant's Tech Tips sorted by Vehicle Make. These Tech Tips were answers to questions submitted to Jim by users over the course of many years.
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Lincoln - Mercury
  Jim Grant's Tech Tips

'85 Mercury Grand Marquis, Coolant Leak

Q: I'm a female student and desperately need my car. A couple months ago smoke or steam was coming out of the hood of my ’85 Mercury Grand Marquis, but the heat indicator hadn’t come on. At the garage, they found the radiator nearly empty and nothing in the reservoir They filled it with antifreeze and said they found a leak in radiator. When I left the garage the interior windshield fogged up with a sweet odor. I went back and they disconnected my heater core because I couldn’t afford to fix it and said keep the coolant topped off, etc. These last 2 months I've watched for antifreeze on the ground and never see any but the last 2 weeks I have had to add antifreeze to a dry reservoir twice but the radiator is full. My questions are: Could disconnecting the heater core cause the reservoir to be empty or could my reservoir have a leak? I’m afraid to take the car in and be told it is head gasket or radiator failure. I can’t even afford the heater core right now. Any feedback would be appreciated.

- Carol

A: The diagnostic procedure for checking for a cooling leak is to install a pressure tester, apply pressure to the cooling system, and look for leaks. The shop found that your radiator was leaking. Unfortunately, your heater core was tired and did not survive the pressure testing for the coolant leak. This is not an uncommon occurrance in older vehicles. Disconnecting or bypassing a leaking heater core eliminates it from the cooling system, therefore it has no affect on coolant loss. Of course, with cold weather hitting you’ll have no heat or defroster. The reason for the continuing loss of coolant is still likely due to the leaking radiator. Being vigilant at maintaining your cooling system level is critical; you do not want to overheat an engine on a vehicle as old as yours. However, you’re going to have to do something and that something is going to require spending money fixing the heater core and the radiator. May I suggest having the repair shop check to see if there are any other leaks in the cooling system. Then have them put together an estimate to repair each item. With that information, you can start to plan for the repairs. In the meantime, “don’t” run your engine low in coolant. If you overheat, the repair cost could be more than the vehicle is worth.

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