coolant leak | Ford Escort Owners Association (FEOA)

coolant leak

Discussion in 'Tech & Repair' started by Marlena, Nov 12, 2019.

  1. Marlena

    Marlena New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Hi there! So I have a coolant leak and at a car shop they diagnosed it and said it is probably from a freeze plug and that to be able to fix it they would have to take the transmission out :( Is there any way to fix it without having to remove the transmission? I don't know much about car mechanics so I have no idea...I have a 1998 ford escort wagon. Any ideas/help would be greatly appreciated...Thanks!
  2. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,861
    Likes Received:
    2,647
    Trophy Points:
    563
    Location:
    south TX or northern VA
    Welcome to the forums! ...and I am sorry to hear of your problem.
    The engine block has five freeze plugs. Two of them are on the front side behind the exhaust manifold, two of them are on the back side, below the intake manifold, and that last one is right on the end of the block; on the driver's side. It is hopelessly inaccessible until the transmission/engine are separated, and the flywheel is removed. So replacing it is a very big job. The only plan-B would be to put in a small amount of a stop-leak, and hope it will slow or stop the leak - for a while. That would only be a temporary fix; it might well work for a month, but probably not as long as a year.

    If your wagon has the automatic transmission, its feasible to remove just the engine, leaving the transmission in the car. This way all 5 freeze plugs could be replaced. To me, engine removal is slightly easier, since to remove the transmission the CV axles have to removed from it, after their outer ends are extracted from the front suspension. And while the engine was out would be a good time to replace the water pump, the timing belt, and the top and bottom radiator hoses.
    If your car has the 5-speed manual trans, the manual trans has to come off the engine, and be lowered downward.

    I dont know what you plan to do about your Escort. Do you have any relatives who are mechanically inclined? I can tell you that aside from replacing the freeze plugs, with a car over 20 years old, issues will continue to come up that dont have low cost fixes.
    zzyzzx likes this.
  3. zzyzzx

    zzyzzx FEOA Member

    Messages:
    14,608
    Likes Received:
    1,063
    Trophy Points:
    463
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD USA
    I would try some sort of stop leak.
    Having written that, we would probably need to know about how bad it is leaking.
  4. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,861
    Likes Received:
    2,647
    Trophy Points:
    563
    Location:
    south TX or northern VA
    The usual way to tell if its the freeze plug on the end of the block leaking, is if its showing up as drops of green at the drain hole in the bottom of the bell housing. When the engine is running, any small leaks from that freeze plug get blown away due to the wind from the spinning flywheel (or flexplate with auto transmission cars). But after shutting down a fully warmed up engine, the cooling system is going to be under pressure, a few psi at least. That is when I would expect to see a leak that is minor.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2019
  5. zzyzzx

    zzyzzx FEOA Member

    Messages:
    14,608
    Likes Received:
    1,063
    Trophy Points:
    463
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD USA
    You can try a 5PSI radiator cap to see if that slows down the leak. Having written that, that might not work if you live someplace hot and use the air conditioning.
  6. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,861
    Likes Received:
    2,647
    Trophy Points:
    563
    Location:
    south TX or northern VA
    By putting in a small amount of stop leak, I meant like a tablespoon filled level. My favorite is the Barr's stop leak, but not their heavy duty liquid; which must be meant for 18-wheelers. I use the kind that used to come in gray plastic bottles, and wasnt a globby black muck.
    But like I said above, no one other than the sellers would consider this to be a permanent fix.
  7. Marlena

    Marlena New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Thank you for all the replies, very helpful information! I forgot to mention it's an automatic. And the leak looked like a major one, emptying the coolant container at once :(
    So you say removing the engine is less time-consuming?
    Can I still use the stop-leak even if its a major leak?
    I live in BC Canada and currently only use the car in town, driving slowly, no long distances. I need it for my work though...
    My intent was to sell it in March next year, so looking forward to some lower-cost or temporary fix as I need it only for the next 4 months.
    denisond3 likes this.
  8. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,861
    Likes Received:
    2,647
    Trophy Points:
    563
    Location:
    south TX or northern VA
    Not sure. When you say"emptying the coolant container at once", that could indicate a very big leak, but could also mean that you added coolant to a system that was low on coolant, and it took half a pint or more to fill the air spaces in the engine head and heater core.
    If you filled the radiator all the way to the top, but the cooling system had previously lost a good bit of coolant, it would require another dose of coolant after shutting the engine off.
    For example, when I have rebuilt an engine I have to trickle about 1.3 gallons of coolant (50% mix) to bring the level up to the filler neck in the rad. If I then start the car and just rev it once to push the air pockets out, it would take another quart or so to bring the level up to the filler neck in the radiator again. I do this on a cold engine to avoid scalling myself!

    The Escort has the overflow recovery tank, and when my Escorts are working right, I epect to see a puddlle of coolant halfway up the slanted filler neck of the radiator, and to see about 2"-3" of coolant in the overflow recover bottle. I use a 12" twig to measure that depth. With mine, if I fill the overflow recovery bottle near the top, its all gone by the time I get back to my driveway. That 2"-3" is the stable level on a cold engine.
    zzyzzx likes this.
  9. marclar

    marclar Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,727
    Likes Received:
    443
    Trophy Points:
    383
    Location:
    seabeck WA
    i would personally advise against 'stop leak'.. it is a powder that will settle in the rad, and heater core and will clogg the bottom sections of the core. i know it's not what you want to hear but best advice here, pull the trans and replace the plug. if it is rusted out to the point it is leaking... it wont be long before the whole thing goes.
  10. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

    Messages:
    2,009
    Likes Received:
    879
    Trophy Points:
    363
    Location:
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Where in B.C. are you located?

    I'm in Victoria, if you are close to here I would be happy to take a look at the car, to give my free opinion.
  11. zzyzzx

    zzyzzx FEOA Member

    Messages:
    14,608
    Likes Received:
    1,063
    Trophy Points:
    463
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD USA
    As opposed to pulling the entire engine and transmission???
    Using stop leak is only really stupid when you have something like a bad radiator, bad hose, or leaking water pump seal, or anything else easily fixable or plastic that I might have forgot about.
    Mix the stuff with coolant before adding directly to the radiator right before a drive. And as per denisond3, use as little as you think you might need.
  12. rbailin

    rbailin FEOA Member

    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    363
    Trophy Points:
    333
    I would borrow a coolant pressure tester and pump up the system to 5 or 10 psi when the engine is cold to absolutely confirm that you have a freeze plug leak inside the bell housing (your mechanic said "probably", which wouldn't be enough for me for an expensive repair). Ensure it's not coming from the head gasket at that end of the engine and dribbling down.

    If it's a small leak that disappears at less than 2 psi, you can live with it by running a zero psi system during the winter by leaving the pressure cap at the first release notch and avoiding getting stuck at traffic lights or stop-and-go city driving for more than 5 minutes at a time between incidents. I know this from extended personal experience with my last Escort.
    zzyzzx likes this.
  13. Marlena

    Marlena New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    they did the pressure test, looks like it's a major leak and located where that non-accessible freeze plug is. I will let them pull the transmission out and hopefully fix it...
    Thanks everyone for advice!
    I live in Nelson BC, I think I'm the only one with an escort in this town :D
    denisond3 likes this.
  14. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,861
    Likes Received:
    2,647
    Trophy Points:
    563
    Location:
    south TX or northern VA
    If they were to pull the engine out instead, they could unbolt the exhaust manifold and replace the two freeze plugs on the front of the block, and by just tipping the engine over without removing the intake manifold) they could reach the two freeze plugs on the back side of the block, along the the larger one on the end of the block. The one on the end is 2-3/16", the other four are all the same size, 1-3/8".
    Good Luck
  15. Marlena

    Marlena New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    they told me it's easier for them to pull out the transmission. But I can let them know what you suggest!
    denisond3 likes this.

Share This Page