My 97 cougar seems to run close to the hot side. When I am moving along it seems to go back closer to normal. The coolant was low in the resovoir so I filled it up and let it circulate but I'm having the same problem.
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Try checking the heater control valve. Follow the heater hose from the engine, and as you get closer to the firewall, you should run into it. It is in line with the hose, and should have a vacuum hose connected to it. Apply vacuum to the valve and it should move. If not, then replace the valve. If there is no vacuum when engine running and heater turned on, then check the hose for leaks or the vacuum source.
Not sure if you got your cougar running or not, but I had a similar problem and it turned out to be my Crank shaft sensor. I replaced it myself, its fairly easy if you are the type that likes to pull stuff apart and fix it. The part cost about $20. you do have to move the ac compressor over but you don't have to remove it makes the job a lot easier. I am still running the 1997 cougar xr7 30th anniversary edition, it has 160000 miles on it and still running strong. I think these are the best cars mercury ever built, i hope they come out with them again in this body style and platform.