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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey there, helpful people with knowledge.

Today, as I was pulled over at a road-side produce stand, my car started to smoke under the hood. I've never experienced anything like it, so I wasn't sure what to do. I immediately turned it off and waited for the smoke to clear before I opened the hood.

I immediately noticed my coolant reservoir was empty. This was shocking, because the morning of the last time I drove the car, I changed my air filter and noted that the coolant was at the max level. I had thought to myself, "It's weird that my coolant level hasn't gone down, when I can't even remember how long ago it was that I last put any in."

I then looked at the hoses and found one to be completely cracked off, severed! It wasn't melted or anything close. It was like something had crushed it, and it snapped. (photos attached)

I had AAA tow it to my home in hopes that I could fix it myself, because I'm out of work and must spend conservatively.

However, once I got it home and was seeing things more clearly, I realized it's not a hose issue, but some plastic thing (possibly called a 'boot'?) inside the hose that connects to something that is too covered in grease for me to make out.

I don't want to do anything foolish and make things worse than they are. This is my only vehicle, and I'm pregnant. I need this car. But I also can't afford to not be frugal if at all possible.

Any advice on fixability would be greatly appreciated. If this isn't something I can do myself, is there a ballpark estimate of how much it's going to cost a garage to do?

PS. Just an FYI of something I learned the hard way yesterday: AAA isn't authorized to transport people with their vehicles due to Covid-19. 6 miles doesn't seem far until you have to walk it. In the summer sun. 馃樀
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you! I felt the same way. It looks like someone deliberately cracked it or something. I would have expected it to have been melted if anything.

I'm trying to decide if there is any way on Earth that I capable of fixing this. A tow on top of labor is something i really need to avoid if possible. It's such an inexpensive part, and the YouTube video I watched makes it look easy...as long as you have the right tools!

Looks like the thermostat housing cover broke off, not sure how that would happen but there are aftermarket ones available.
 

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It's really not that hard of a repair and you don't need a ton of tools to replace it, which you could get loaned from the local autopart store. You should plan for about two-three hours of your time if it's your first time digging around in there. I had to work on mine a couple of times - there were issues thermostat housing seals on the '00-'03 ZX3s and I had a thermostat stuck open. If it was me, I'd not only replace the housing, but put in a new thermostat (it's cheap) and replace that upper radiator hose, while you are at it, unless you're sure it's not brittle/showing signs of wear. I've had that split open on me on the highway; not fun.

On a side note, it looks like you got a bunch of oil caking up around that housing. Is your valve cover gasket leaking? It was pretty common for those to fail on those Zetecs and had to replace mine every 40k miles or so.
 
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Thank you, Riceman.

I had no idea tools can be rented from auto body stores. I wish I had one close by. I unfortunately live in farm land. 馃槚 I am thinking of ordering online, but I'm worried I'll start taking things apart and realize it's more than I'm capable of. I still think it would be less expensive than having it towed and then fixed at a garage. But maybe not...?

From what I read online, the hose should be "not hard but not soft"? I think mine is okay, but with what you said, I should just replace it now if it's going to be a repeat of the amount of effort to already be doing the temperature housing.

Thank you for mentioning replacing the thermostat. Does it add much more trouble to just doing the housing?

I was very concerned about all that oil build up when I saw it. Looking at the paperwork from my last oil change on 6/30, (I feel I should mention, my car didn't seem "right" driving home from that appointment, and it continued to seem "off" the only other time I drove it 3 weeks later. I have wondered if they messed something up.)

They listed:

鈥 Oil leaking
鈥 Transmission Fluid Leak
鈥ower Steering Fluid Leaking
鈥asher Fluid Reservoir Leaking
鈥alve Cover Gasket Leak with Heavy Residue On Top of Motor

Is the valve cover gasket what you're referring to?

I was going to have my dad look at all of that because he's always been the only person I trust with my car, but due to family drama, it isn't possible right now.

Aside from the 6 miles I drove the day it broke down, I've only driven the car one other time since the oil change. I thought as long as I only went to the grocery store once a month, I could hold off until things with my dad were okay. I guess not. 馃槙

It's mileage is only 82,200, but being 20 years old, I guess this was inevitable. 馃槙

It's really not that hard of a repair and you don't need a ton of tools to replace it, which you could get loaned from the local autopart store. You should plan for about two-three hours of your time if it's your first time digging around in there. I had to work on mine a couple of times - there were issues thermostat housing seals on the '00-'03 ZX3s and I had a thermostat stuck open. If it was me, I'd not only replace the housing, but put in a new thermostat (it's cheap) and replace that upper radiator hose, while you are at it, unless you're sure it's not brittle/showing signs of wear. I've had that split open on me on the highway; not fun.

On a side note, it looks like you got a bunch of oil caking up around that housing. Is your valve cover gasket leaking? It was pretty common for those to fail on those Zetecs and had to replace mine every 40k miles or so.
 

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I had no idea tools can be rented from auto body stores. I wish I had one close by. I unfortunately live in farm land. 馃槚 I am thinking of ordering online, but I'm worried I'll start taking things apart and realize it's more than I'm capable of. I still think it would be less expensive than having it towed and then fixed at a garage. But maybe not...?
Get yourself a cheap metric tool kit, at least a ratchet set and some wrenches and that's all your going to need for shadetree mechanic work on those. A Haynes manual will be helpful; I'd offer to put mine in the mail for you, but I'm pretty sure I trashed it after I traded in my other ZX3.

From what I read online, the hose should be "not hard but not soft"? I think mine is okay, but with what you said, I should just replace it now if it's going to be a repeat of the amount of effort to already be doing the temperature housing. Thank you for mentioning replacing the thermostat. Does it add much more trouble to just doing the housing?
Nope. It's right there. That spring looking thing inside the housing is the thermostat.

I was very concerned about all that oil build up when I saw it. Looking at the paperwork from my last oil change on 6/30, (I feel I should mention, my car didn't seem "right" driving home from that appointment, and it continued to seem "off" the only other time I drove it 3 weeks later. I have wondered if they messed something up.)
If all the did was an oil change and a multipoint inspection, then it's probably a false reading on the butt-o-meter.

鈥 Oil leaking
鈥 Transmission Fluid Leak
鈥ower Steering Fluid Leaking
鈥asher Fluid Reservoir Leaking
鈥alve Cover Gasket Leak with Heavy Residue On Top of Motor

Is the valve cover gasket what you're referring to?
Yes. That's the first thing to change out. Next thing is to clean up the engine bay (gently because you don't know the state of the rest of the plastic and rubber bits in the bay). Check out ChrisFix on youtube (ChrisFix) and watch his super clean an engine bay video. Once that's done you can trace the leaks easier.

Another thing... that engine oil leaking from the valve cover will speed up deterioration of the rubber hoses and gaskets that it seeps into, so addressing that valve cover gasket should be your first priority after the thermostat housing.

It's mileage is only 82,200, but being 20 years old, I guess this was inevitable. 馃槙
Yeah, that plastic and rubber is going to get brittle and break after 20 years. But, those Zetec engines are almost damn near bullet proof. You'll be able to put a hundred thousand more miles on her if you keep up general maintenance.(y)
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Get yourself a cheap metric tool kit, at least a ratchet set and some wrenches and that's all your going to need for shadetree mechanic work on those. A Haynes manual will be helpful; I'd offer to put mine in the mail for you, but I'm pretty sure I trashed it after I traded in my other ZX3.
So I realized I have a tool kit, but it's not metric and it's not even complete. It only has a 3/16 ratchet wrench. :-/

According to the many YouTube videos I watched today, I'll need a 10mm ratchet. Though they don't specify if it should be 6pt or 12pt, if it should have a flex-head, the number of teeth it should have, or what 掳 movement it should have. There seem to be so many different factors. Do you have any suggestions? Am I over thinking this?

If all the did was an oil change and a multipoint inspection, then it's probably a false reading on the butt-o-meter.
I feel like the butt-o-meter is a joke that is going over my head...馃

Yes.That's the first thing to change out. Next thing is to clean up the engine bay (gently because you don't know the state of the rest of the plastic and rubber bits in the bay). Check out ChrisFix on youtube (ChrisFix) and watch his super clean an engine bay video. Once that's done you can trace the leaks easier.
Thanks for recommending that ChrisFix video! That was super impressive. It made me excited to try it. Someone in the comments mentioned it was the equivalent of YouTube Make-Up tutorials, and I couldn't agree more. 馃榿

Yeah that plastic and rubber is going to get brittle and break after 20 years. But, those Zetec engines are almost damn near bullet proof. You'll be able to put a hundred thousand more miles on her if you keep up general maintenance.
That's great to hear about the Zetec engines. 100,000 more would be amazing!

Thank you for taking your time to help me with this. It's really easing my anxiety.
 

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So I realized I have a tool kit, but it's not metric and it's not even complete. It only has a 3/16 ratchet wrench. :-/
According to the many YouTube videos I watched today, I'll need a 10mm ratchet. Though they don't specify if it should be 6pt or 12pt, if it should have a flex-head, the number of teeth it should have, or what 掳 movement it should have. There seem to be so many different factors. Do you have any suggestions? Am I over thinking this?
I don't recall ever seeing a 12 point bolt on that car. It's either going to be a standard 6pt hex bolt or a 6pt star bolt, which you can use a regular 6 point socket on either. Don't over-think it, just a cheap metric socket set, and if you have another $10, get a basic metric wrench set. You're not looking to get a mechanics set that you can pass down to your grandkids. ;) Since you live in a rural area, it might be worth to check your local Fleet Farm or Tractor Supply Company - they usually have free loaner or tool rental services. I think you might be able to rent tools from your local Ace Hardware, or see if your neighbors can loan you some tools for a weekend?

I feel like the butt-o-meter is a joke that is going over my head...馃
The butt-o-meter is that subjective tool we all sit on that makes us think we're accelerating faster than we really are, braking shorter than we really are, tells us that we're pulling over 1g on the skidpad, and generally lies to us about all sorts of mechanical issues it thinks we're having, but we're really not.

Good luck with your repairs!
 

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I don't recall ever seeing a 12 point bolt on that car. It's either going to be a standard 6pt hex bolt or a 6pt star bolt, which you can use a regular 6 point socket on either. Don't over-think it, just a cheap metric socket set, and if you have another $10, get a basic metric wrench set. You're not looking to get a mechanics set that you can pass down to your grandkids. ;) Since you live in a rural area, it might be worth to check your local Fleet Farm or Tractor Supply Company - they usually have free loaner or tool rental services. I think you might be able to rent tools from your local Ace Hardware, or see if your neighbors can loan you some tools for a weekend?



The butt-o-meter is that subjective tool we all sit on that makes us think we're accelerating faster than we really are, braking shorter than we really are, tells us that we're pulling over 1g on the skidpad, and generally lies to us about all sorts of mechanical issues it thinks we're having, but we're really not.

Good luck with your repairs!
Ha ha ha. Butt-o-meter. That is great. I have a very anxious butt-o-meter.

I have to order whatever tools I need online since I don't have a way to get anywhere and don't have anyone I can borrow from. I'm crossing my fingers that what I get is the correct stuff. 馃馃
 

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PS. Just an FYI of something I learned the hard way yesterday: AAA isn't authorized to transport people with their vehicles due to Covid-19. 6 miles doesn't seem far until you have to walk it. In the summer sun. 馃樀
How could anyone think that making a pregnant lady walk six miles in the summer heat is preferable to taking the minuscule Covid risk of giving her a ride home??? Talk about unintended consequences. SMH

Riceman is giving you some good advice. There are a couple other things you'll need to replace the thermostat and housing.
First off, don't use a razor blade to clean off the gasket surfaces, as sutures are much more expensive than a gasket scraper. o_O
You'll also need anti-freeze and distilled water to replenish the cooling system. 1 gallon of each should be enough, and you want to mix them half and half. You can also get pre-diluted anti-freeze, but you end up paying more than mixing it yourself.
One more suggestion. Talk to your neighbors to see if someone could help you with this relatively simple job.
Most country folk are pretty friendly, and they usually have some tools and a bit of mechanical know-how.
You never know, you might make a new friend in the process.

Good luck, and I hope you can work things out with your dad. Nothing worse than suddenly realizing it's too late. 馃槩
 

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How could anyone think that making a pregnant lady walk six miles in the summer heat is preferable to taking the minuscule Covid risk of giving her a ride home??? Talk about unintended consequences. SMH

Riceman is giving you some good advice. There are a couple other things you'll need to replace the thermostat and housing.
First off, don't use a razor blade to clean off the gasket surfaces, as sutures are much more expensive than a gasket scraper. o_O
You'll also need anti-freeze and distilled water to replenish the cooling system. 1 gallon of each should be enough, and you want to mix them half and half. You can also get pre-diluted anti-freeze, but you end up paying more than mixing it yourself.
One more suggestion. Talk to your neighbors to see if someone could help you with this relatively simple job.
Most country folk are pretty friendly, and they usually have some tools and a bit of mechanical know-how.
You never know, you might make a new friend in the process.

Good luck, and I hope you can work things out with your dad. Nothing worse than suddenly realizing it's too late. 馃槩
Yes, Riceman has been so helpful.

Thank you! In his defense, I wasn't showing. 馃槙

Thank you for the tip on the gasket scraper! I ordered the housing and s 10mm wrench that should be here Sunday and I'll go place an order for a scraper. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime!

I already have 50/50, but I'll go with the diluting myself in the future. I didn't realize it's cheaper.

Thank you. I hope my dad comes around. I reached out so many times with no reply. 馃槩
 

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I'm not suggesting you do this because you have to be super careful about not letting debris fall into the engine (obligatory disclaimer), but I may have used a fresh, new pot scrubbing sponge to clean the engine block with no issues. :whistle:

Have you found any resources to assist with the gasket install?
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
I'm not suggesting you do this because you have to be super careful about not letting debris fall into the engine (obligatory disclaimer), but I may have used a fresh, new pot scrubbing sponge to clean the engine block with no issues. :whistle:

Have you found any resources to assist with the gasket install?
That does sound sound like living on the edge... :D

No resources for the gasket install. I feel silly because I did not realize where the gasket was located or what it looked like until a couple of days ago. That looks intimidating for sure.

So here's my update:

I got it out!!! It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, based on the YouTube videos, but it wasn't as impossible as I thought the day it happened.

Most of the difficulty was my mistake in buying the wrong kind of wrench. I thought I bought a longer ratcheting wrench but I ended up with a shorter combination wrench. I think my brain was so dead from all the Googling and comparing, combined with some websites giving conflicting names for torque, combo, and ratchet.

Also, I guess I wasn't fully awake yet because I disconnected the two hoses that connect directly to the coolant reservior for no reason :oops: (face palm) Anyway...

So I did my best to clean the area the housing connects to, which I have included a photo of. Do you think it looks clean enough? There wasn't any rust, only oil. This was surprising bc every YouTube video showed a good amount of rust but not really any oil.

The thing that is concerning me is the thing that I circled in the second photo. Is that something that shouldn't be there?
 

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Congrats! It gets easier every time you work on your vehicle. You did sufficiently clean the area, no worries there and you would only see rust if your thermostat housing gasket was leaking.

What you highlighted isn't "normal"; that crack shouldn't be there. The bigger question to ask is, "Does it matter?", and I can't really say for sure without putting my hands on it. My gut feeling is that it's not going to affect the operation of the engine in any significant way, because I believe that part of the head is there to direct the flow of the coolant around the cylinder heads and only allow the coolant to enter from that one direction. That crack shouldn't make much of a difference in cooling efficiency. I'm not so concerned that the metal breaking away it did any appreciable damage to the cooling system, as those metal bits could have been caught in the radiator and settled at the bottom of it, or ended up in the bottom of the block. If they were going to damage something, I should think that it would have already happened. Long term, is there a chance of further bits of metal breaking away? Probably. Will it cause a problem? I'm not a mechanic, but I play one on the Internet, and in my not-so-professional-opinion, if this was my car, I wouldn't worry about it too much and just keep on trucking. There's no way to fix that crack anyway, you'd have to replace the cylinder head.

Next bit of work is to tackle the valve cover gasket, and it's not really that difficult to do. Hardest part is cleaning everything up and tightening everything back down. Make sure you coat the gasket with oil after you've placed it in the valve cover and also the engine surface that you've cleaned. Just dab a clean finger in the engine and use that oil. When you install the valve cover, you want to hand screw everything slightly loose, then snug it with a tool, then tighten. I think there is a tightening pattern, but I can't remember what the sequence is.

Good luck!
 
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