Question about 1996 Ford Windstar

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1996 Ford Windstar GL 3.8 auto trans. 209,XXX miles Bought it from someone, running just a little rough, like it was running on 5 cyl, blowing white smoke. Previous owner stated it needs a head gasket. I agreed that it seemed it does. Oil had coolant in it. Didn't seem oil was reaching the coolant though. We found the burned up head gasket and replaced it. Put everything back together, now it's running worse than before, more rough, barely has any power to rev up, and stalls, also making a "clacking" noise, not consistently, and not even in a pattern. I believe I may have put something back on wrong. The "clacking" sounded familiar, like one piston was backward firing against the rotation of the engine, like that of an engine with 2 plug wires reversed. However, I checked fire order, it seemed to be correct. Any ideas what could cause it to run like so? Vacuum, sensors, ect? Thanks!

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  • Marvin Haaby Feb 03, 2010

    Thanks for responding to my post so fast! However, maybe I should clarify what I am experiencing..

    The van was drivable, not boding any problems on the road, it was only a little rough(and white smoke increasing with temperature), and no engine noise. Most of the symptoms described were not there until I had replaced the obviously burned head gasket; the metal part lining the cylinder was broken and blackened.

    The stalling, slow revving power, and the "clacking", or "popping" noise was NOT there before the repair; suggesting incorrect re-assembly(which is common for me! lol).

    I am not worried about internal damage.

  • Marvin Haaby Feb 03, 2010

    I did not. There were no visible cracks, and head was not warped, not even a smidge.

  • Marvin Haaby Feb 03, 2010

    I used the "light test" for any possible problems with valve seats, or burnt valves. I check warpage with a straight bar and a feeler gauge, which has been done enough times to know it's good for checking warpage. Last thing left is a cracked head! So it's either that or something else.

    My next step was to indeed check the rocker arms are installed and torqued correctly. I will check for vacuum leaks after I check rocker arms. Sensors all seemed in check. Fire order was checked 3 times, I am pretty sure it's correct. However I have one question for you. How do I detect a vacuum leak when all the vacuum hoses are behind that big bulky upper intake manifold?

    Appreciate the help!


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It does not sound good its possible with that high mileage the engine has internal damage.Also if you did not have the cylinder heads checked by a machine shop that could pose a problem also.We have replaced so many of those engines that i could not tell you how many ive actually replaced.At this point i would suggest that you install a low mileage salvage engine if you want it to be dependable.

Posted on Feb 03, 2010

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  • roger Feb 03, 2010

    Did you have the heads checked by the machine shop?Ford had so much trouble with that engine they would replace it if the customer would complain about enough even when it was out of warranty.Many head gasket repairs ended up coming back to the dealership within a week with internal engine damage that wasnt evident before the head gasket repair.Im telling you from experience what to expect from that engine.

  • roger Feb 03, 2010

    Visible signs dont mean very much when it comes to cylinder heads,valve seats,burnt valves,warped cylinder head surface,all may not be visible unless they are inspected by a machine shop.Just because it looks good doesnt mean that it is good.

  • roger Feb 03, 2010

    If you have a vacuum leak thats making it run that rough it should be easy to find.Also are you sure that you got all of the rocker arms and pushrods in place and properly tightened during installation?If you left any sensor unplugged than a obvious sign would be the service engine soon light would be on.I would double check your firing order as well,also make sure that the fuel injector harness is properly plugged into each injector.

  • roger Feb 03, 2010

    Do you have a propane cylinder? If so thread the tip off the torch and install a vacuum hose on the end of the tube.With the engine idling slowly turn the propane valve on,Run the hose end around the intake very slowly.If you get to a area where the idle changes and it runs different you need to check that area for a leak.This is a great way to find a vacuum problem.


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Try a new ignition coil pack it sure made my 96 run like new there about $50 and real easy to change

Posted on May 28, 2010

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