The story of a head gasket and shitty Ford service

I haven’t been around much this summer. I blame a change in my work schedule earlier this year for part of that. I went from working only 15 days a month to an average 20 days.

Here’s a thing that happened in June/July...

Back in mid June I noticed that the coolant reservoir was showing a little low in my Boostang. I didn’t think much of it since the car is nearing it’s 3rd anniversary until I began seeing some white smoke and smelling coolant on cold starts. Checking the oil shows no mixing there, and the coolant it had was the proper color with no apparent oil in it. The temp gauge on the dash has never gotten anywhere near hot, and I monitor oil temp regularly and it never got above 215. At autocross in June I noticed that the coolant reservoir was nearly empty, so I topped it off with water and kept going. A week later, I opened the hood to check, and once again the reservoir was nearly empty, so I drove it straight in to the dealer that has done every oil change and more on the car since I got it. I have spent a bunch of money with them, though they didn’t sell me the car. They’re just the closest dealer to me. At no point did the car leave coolant on the ground, and I could see no points where it was leaking. The car ran strong, and there was no outward sign of any issue other than the coolant loss.

Mac Haik Ford Lincoln in Georgetown Texas.

I told them about the coolant issue. I informed them that I had topped it off, but it was low again after a week. I didn’t hide the fact that the car is modified, nor have I hidden that fact any time it’s been in. I even told them I was willing to pay for diagnosis. They took my car, told me it would be several days before their tech could get to it and gave me a new base model Escape as a loaner.

That was June 28th.

On July 3rd they called me and told me that since it’s modified their service manager told the tech to stop work on it and that they wouldn’t touch it. “Come get your car, no charge.”

They plugged in a code reader, saw that the only code was for the missing grille shutters and put some dye into the coolant. They didn’t pressure test the cooling system. They didn’t pull the plugs and scope the head to look for leaks. They admitted that all they would be doing was throwing parts at it.

I picked it up. They gave me no paperwork on anything they either did or didn’t do, nor did I sign off on their lack of work.

I drove from their lot straight to another Ford dealer. I sat in their service lane for 10 minutes without having anyone greet me. I was unable to find anyone to talk to, so I called the dealer and asked for an advisor to meet me in their line. I spoke with a service advisor who looked at the car and said that they would be happy to look at it, but their performance diagnostic guy was backed up 7-10 days. They also couldn’t get me a loaner until the end of July. I thanked him and went to yet a 3rd Ford dealer.

At the 3rd dealer, I was immediately greeted by a service advisor who was knowledgeable about the Mustang platform. He knew that he couldn’t help me on the quick lane side and walked me over to a main line service advisor. They only have a 1-2 day backlog on diagnostics, and since they were closed on the 4th it made no sense to leave the car. They set me up for a rental car and an appointment first thing Monday morning.

At every dealer, I refused to try and hide the fact that the car was modified. I expressed that I was willing to pay for diagnostics before I decide what to do from there. With only 34k on the odometer there was a chance of still getting things covered by warranty, but Mac Haik Ford Lincoln in Georgetown Texas was completely unwilling to even look at it.

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I didn’t think of it right away, but I’ve been running a dash cam in my car for a while, it just took me some time to pull down the video and look.

The tech plugged in his scan tool, got whatever it was going to give him, though he had to ask someone else to help him interpret it. The video didn’t show much overall, but the best part is that it showed when he was backing it out of his bay to park it back in the lot, and he stopped when someone asked him what was up with the car. “Blown head gasket, I think. Yeah, it’s got coolant in number two or three.” They then talked about how modified it was and that their tool was showing 3000 miles clear. I know it’s been longer than that since I changed anything or re-flashed, but apparently the mileage was part of the key they were looking for.

Of course the fact that he thought it has coolant in #2 or #3 is more information than they gave me at the service counter. If they had told me that at the time and said that because of the mods they couldn’t cover the repair, I would have gone ahead with it anyway, but now I know I can’t trust them.

“Quality means doing it right. Even when no one is looking.” Henry Ford.

I took the car in to the dealer nearest my office as I had arranged and got a new Escape as a rental car. They then had the car for two and a half weeks.

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The dealer technician took things apart and diagnosed a head gasket failure, but because of the modifications under the hood the dealer was unwilling to cover things under warranty. (oh, and he unplugged the dash cam.)

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On July 22nd I got a text message from the service advisor telling me that they’re done and I can come pick it up. I went in, turned in the rental (at full cost) and went to talk to the advisor. He got the paperwork together, got me over to the cashier (at full cost), then went and pulled the car around. Fine.

The first thing he said when he got out of the car was, “I assume the check engine light is on because of the modifications.” No. It wasn’t on when I gave it to you, it shouldn’t be on now. I plugged in my Cobb Access Port and pulled the codes:
P008A - Low Pressure Fuel System Pressure - Too Low
P2282 - Air leak between throttle body and intake valve

Neither of these codes was on when I dropped it off. I have photos of the codes that were there for the misfire, which hey that’s all better now. Now the idle was surging slightly, the exhaust note was off from normal, and there’s a damn check engine light!

He pulled it back in, took it to a different tech who plugged in and tested the fuel injectors and didn’t find a problem (shocking). He gave me back the rental (same car, on their dime this time) and said they’d pull the intake and figure this out. I told him it likely needed a low pressure fuel sensor, though I didn’t have the revised part number on me, and that there wasn’t an intake leak before, despite the throttle spacer.

I got the call around noon on July 24that it was once again, done and ready for pickup.

I went down to get it and they couldn’t get the oil cap breather to seat in place. When I looked at it, the tech had taken the clamp off of it, so the breather element would just spin. There was no way to get it to seat like that. Once they put a clamp back on it for me it went back in place and things were good.

No check engine lights. The only soft code was for the missing grille shutters. Everything seemed to be running properly. There was no charge for the low pressure fuel sensor, and the fix for the intake leak was that the tech had left one of the PCV lines loose.

I left the dealer and things felt pretty good. The car was generating boost up to 24 lbs and it was acting like it should. Until...

My drive home from this dealer is roughly 15 miles and I have to get on the highway. I went to merge and gave it some gas to hear “POP” and immediately lose all boost. All Eco, no Boost. I turned it around and took it back to the dealer.

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It took them another 20 minutes to fix it. I have no tools in the car at the moment. If I’d had my kit with me I would have done it myself... (OK, maybe not.)

So here’s a breakdown of what was replaced with this repair session: Pressure Test Coolant system found coolant going into #2 cylinder. Remove head and clean engine block and head check for flatness all good replace head gasket add coolant change oil and filter road test verify repair.

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  • Crankshaft oil seal
  • Intake manifold gaskets
  • Valve seals (only 2)
  • Oil Filter
  • Cylinder head gasket
  • 10 head bolts
  • Vacuum pump gasket
  • thermostat seal
  • Fuel Injector Pressure Sensor (free)
  • Oil, Antifreeze, and random nuts and bolts

Parts: $558.58
Labor: $2688

They did give me a 24 month warranty on this repair, so if I pop another head gasket they get to do it all for free...

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——

After getting the car back, I had to return again because I found footprints on the inside of the hood that they failed to clean up, and I’m a picky asshole about my car.

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Because I autocross and occasionally track my car, I’m really anal about what’s happening under the the hood. I routinely check things that I know most people never even think about unless a dummy light shows up on their dashboard, and change oil and other vital fluids on a much more frequent schedule than the factory service manual indicates.

The ultimate result of all of this repair drama is that I will no longer be taking my car to Ford for anything. Their local dealer service network is crap, and won’t cover much under warranty unless they have no other choice. I have a couple of performance oriented repair shops near me that are happy to do work on my car, so they’ll be getting more of my business from now on.

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