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Just recently my 1994 Escort Wagon, Auto, 1.9 began starting really hard. Sometimes it starts right up but other times I have to crank it for about 1 minute to finally get it started. When it finally does start it shoots out a big puff of white smoke and then smokes for about a minute. The car doesn't overheat at all. I just changed the oil and didn't see any moisture in it. Now my "Check Coolant" light is on, and I checked it and it looks full. I know, at this point it sounds just like a bad head gasket, right?

But my transmission is losing fluid quickly. I fill it up one day and then it gets so low that it won't go into gear a few days later. There are no signs of it dripping on the ground. My thought was that the engine was sucking transmission fluid up into the manifold via the vacuum modulator, but from what I read there is no vacuum modulator on this tranny. Is there any vacuum hose to the tranny at all?

Maybe I should stop denying a bad head gasket and just swap it out. Though I would check here first though.
Brian
 

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1998 ZX2
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White smoke is a sure sign that water is getting into the engine. Pull the spark plugs and look at them, if any look significantly cleaner than the others then you have a bad head gasket. It would also be a good idea to pull the plugs when your having the starting problem and check for moisture.

I believe there is a transmission cooler integrated into the radiator. Sometimes they rust through and the trans fluid and coolant mix. If it isn't poring out on the ground than this would be the next thing I would check. The trans fluid should float to the surface so you should be able to see it in the coolant bottle or under the radiator cap.
 

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What exactly does a vacuum modulator do anyway? Would it perform the same function as a kickdown cable (which these transmissions have?)
 
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