Places that a Zetec motor can leak oil... | Ford Escort Owners Association (FEOA)
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Places that a Zetec motor can leak oil...

Discussion in 'ZX2 1998-2004 2.0L DOHC' started by coonmanx, Mar 7, 2020.

  1. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    Got this newer to me 1999 Escort ZX2 recently. The previous one, which I still own has been a good car for me and very reliable. I was looking at buying something newer but most of the stuff like the newer Focus just didn't seem to have the build quality. So I found this one on Craigslist in Denver and drove up there and got it. Everything seemed to be in order and I got it for $1500. I was considering getting one shipped across the country to me but this way I saved on shipping.

    One of things that I noticed was that the sensor on the top left of the motor was sealed off with some kind of hard substance in an effort to prevent oil leaking from there. My other ZX2 that I have put 200,000+ miles on used to leak from that location so I guess that is why they sealed it off there. The plugs were dry (I checked) so the valve cover gasket appears to be fine. But I am definitely getting an oil leak somewhere as evidenced by oil drips under the car when sitting. I guess I will just have to take it in and have some one qualified tear into it to find out what the deal is. I'm hoping I didn't get a lemon with more issues than I bargained for. BTW, what is that sensor on the top left of the motor? Does it deal with the variable valve timing? That being sealed off is going to be an issue if the valve cover needs to be pulled since that sensor needs to slip through the cover in order for the cover to be removed. The car drives fine but does seem to have a bit of a rough idle at times. Also the tach is not functioning quite right so I have a new cluster on the way. It appears that someone has already been into the cluster area on this car since there is a small crack in that part of the dash. I had to change the cluster on my other car and there is a crack in exactly the same place on that one.

    The odometer says 135,000 miles now. I have put just under 3,000 miles on it since I bought it. I will need to do an oil change soon and want to go with full synthetic. So I do want to get things straightened out before I do that. Also I want to make sure that this is indeed a good car before dumping more money into it.

    The crazy thing about my older car (in terms of mileage since both are 1999 units) is that it runs great. I actually drove it back and forth to Iowa last year (1600 miles round trip) and it did great. Odometer said just under 308,000 miles at the time but I have no way to know actual miles because of the cluster swap. I also don't know if that car ever had an engine swap. So all I know about the previous car is that I have put more than 200,000 miles on it and it is still going. The valve cover is leaking bad on it right now and it is also due for a plug change but I have been putting that off since I got another ZX2. But it still runs great and honestly I am thinking that I could take that car to 400,000 miles if I could control the leaks out of the top of the motor, which is surely a sign of engine wear.

    But I guess I need to find out what is going on with this car and I hope I didn't buy me some lemonade. LOL. Will report back if I get a good answer on where that oil leak is coming from. Appears to be over on the timing belt side of the motor. Timing belt was supposedly done at 90,000 miles so that should be good for now. And this newer to me car runs great on the highway and even has cruise control...
  2. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    I'm thinking that I should also get the engine mounts checked out while I am having everything inspected. Now just to find a good and honest mechanic in this town. LOL. The crazy thing about my other car is that I have never had any issues with it as far as vibrations or engine mounts. And I have had that car for 6 or 7 years now and have put 200,000+ miles on it.
  3. novanutcase

    novanutcase FEOA Member

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    The sensor on the left side of the valve cover is the oil control solenoid. It works with the VVT although I've unplugged it and run the engine without any issues but it was only for a short time, like a minute or two at the most, so I can't say what sort of long term damage it may present if you leave it unplugged or "sealed off".

    My guess would be that either the head overheated at some point and warped the head enough to present a leak at the VC gasket although I would also think that if that happened you'd probably also have a head gasket leak. What does the radiator fluid look like? If it looks like a milkshake because oil and rad fluid are mixing together then your head gasket is blown. The other option would either be the valve cover itself is not true due to overtightening the bolts or the gasket has eroded. I would first replace the VC gasket and see if that alleviates the problem. Then the VC itself if the leak persists.

    I would change the timing belt and tensioner it's on. I noticed rubber timing belts don't show wear much until they fail. Better safe than sorry.

    John
  4. zzyzzx

    zzyzzx FEOA Member

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    I don't know about this engine, but when I was fixing oil leaks on my 1995 LX, I replaced the oil pressure sensor due to leakage. One thing that I learned doing this is that it's a common problem with a lot of cars, possibly most. At least Rock Auto lists it in bold indicating that they sell a lot of them.
  5. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    No head gaskets issues on either car. Oil looks great on both of them. I will probably dig into the old car some time here soon. I don't believe anything ever overheated on that car. There is zero indication of that at all.

    Interestingly enough a friend of mine said that vacuum leaks might make the oil leaks worse. So I had the new car with me and when we looked at the vapor canister purge valve behind the motor sure enough the vacuum lines there were all crap and barely even hanging on at all. I trimmed off the bad ends and reinstalled and then went to the parts store to get some brand new vacuum line. The crazy thing is that on the old car when that vacuum line was bad it threw a code for "too lean" The new car did not throw any code but the idle was really bad. That cleared up after installing the new vacuum hoses.

    It looks like they just used some black RTV to seal off that sensor so it should be no problem scraping that off when I do the valve cover next time. The oil leak appears to be on the left side of the motor so maybe a cam seal? Will have to dig in there and find out.
  6. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    Where exactly is that located? Crap you were talking about an LX and not the ZX2...
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2020
  7. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    I have had zero issue with doing the timing belt at 100,000 mile intervals. The last one I took off still looked great. Besides they are non-interference motors and I have roadside assistance. The old car is due for a timing belt change in about 8,000 miles or so. That will put it right on the 100,000 mile interval. I just have to decide if I want to keep it and push it for another 100,000 miles. It has a few issues right now but still runs great.
  8. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    That sensor is not unplugged in any way. I was just saying that someone used some black RTV to seal it off. No leak at all on the new car valve cover gasket. It is only the old one that is leaking. I also have another valve cover that I got from the JY so when I do that job I can simply swap them and not have to worry about cleaning anything up.

    I think I will probably do this job soon but I need to figure out why there is so much oil coming out of the top end. I don't believe the engine is worn that much since I still have plenty of power and the trip last year to Iowa used no amount of oil at all. But it is evidence that the oil is coming out of not only the bad valve cover gasket but also the oil cap and you can see where some is reaching the intake. The PCV is obviously fine since the oil is getting past it to the intake.
  9. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    I hope everyone can distinguish between when I am talking about the old ZX2 with 325,000 miles vs. the new one with only 135,000 miles....
  10. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    It is impossible to overtighten those valve cover bolts because they are made to be only tightened so much and there is a metal stop that prevents overtightening so that is not an issue either.
  11. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    New cluster on the way to deal with the tach issue on the new car. The old car had the same problem and I swapped a cluster into it as well, removing some 67,000 miles from the odometer. LOL.
  12. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    The only thing I can say about the mileage on the old car is that I have personally contributed 200,000 miles to it. I believe the cluster I removed when I swapped a different one in may also have been a replacement from a junkyard so that means I really have no clue of any actual mileage on that car. I can only account for miles that I have put on it.
  13. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    If I can get the oil leak problem fixed on the new car then I believe it will be a good car. Right now I am just finding the maintenance issue that were apparently ignored, like really crappy vacuum lines.
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  14. zzyzzx

    zzyzzx FEOA Member

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    They are not that hard to find if you look. For one thing, it has to be mounted on the engine block. Look up what the part is supposed to look like, then go looking for it. I suppose that it could be hidden behind a manifold.
  15. novanutcase

    novanutcase FEOA Member

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    Pics go a long way in diagnosing issues.....

    John
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  16. coonmanx

    coonmanx FEOA Member

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    Just wanted to say that on the my newer ZX2 I had the valve cover gasket replaced because it was leaking oil onto the serpentine belt which was then slinging oil onto the alternator. Had a front wheel bearing done at the same time. All seems to be good with that right now. Not going to mess with the older ZX2 at the moment.
    zzyzzx likes this.

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