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CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
8/26/23 11:51 p.m.

Vehicle: 2006 Ford E250, 4.6L, on its second engine and trans. 340k on the chassis. Rust free. Its fully built out for living in, with a high top conversion, 12V DC solar power, fan, big bed, sink, refrigerator, water, etc.

So back in April, I made a post about the van using coolant and making occasional smoke, along with a P0420 CEL. Based on that info, I was hoping the intake manifold was where the leak was.

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/what-say-you-about-a-ford-46-smoke-low-oil-and-coolant/241608/page1/

I finally had a shop do some diagnosis, as I just haven't had time. They called me yesterday with some very bad news: low compression on the left cylinder bank--the headgasket is blown. Ugh! They believe the head is likely warped, and that it makes more sense to pull the engine and put a new one in, rather than try to fix the HG. The rough estimate was $7-8K all in. He said he could do the numbers and let me know the exact estimate. 

I really love this van, and it's super useful/functional as both transportation but also for living.

So what to do? I see three options:

1. Do nothing for now. It drives fine, just some very intermittent smoke (usually after idling when the engine is warm), I could throw some seal tabs in there and see if that helps. It uses about a half gallon of coolant every 1k miles currently. CEL is on, but I could just ignore it.

2. Save my money, and have a "new" engine put in. The thing is, it's also going to need a new cat, so add another ~1k onto the price. And there are other issues, like the suspension needs some attention. 

3. Sell it as is. I got a killer deal on it ($6,500) and I might be able to recoup some of that cost. I don't really NEED this van anymore, as my wife and I are no longer doing the vanlife thing full time anymore, even if it is super handy to have around.

I'd love to hear your thoughts/suggestions/questions.

 

 

calteg
calteg SuperDork
8/27/23 8:12 a.m.

Sounds like you're staring down the barrel of $10k  in repairs. Sell it.

Indy - Guy
Indy - Guy UltimaDork
8/27/23 9:45 a.m.

Head gasket repair in a bottle?  Blue devil brand I think.

jfryjfry
jfryjfry SuperDork
8/27/23 10:18 a.m.

If you like it and want to keep it, option 2 sounds good.  Plus once you've put the money into the cat and suspension, you'll have new suspension and a new cat that won't need attention for another 340k

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/27/23 10:21 a.m.

In reply to jfryjfry :

Only if you get an OE cat, not a parts replacement.  Aftermarket converters do not last nearly as long or work as well.

 

I have done a few engines in these vans because conversion vans, especially ones with raised roofs, are hard to come by.  IIRC it calls for 24 hours of labor and if you've never done one before, it will take every bit of that and more.  Cylinder head R&R is probably doable in chassis, and shares a lot of overlap with engine R&R, I wouldn't doubt if labor is the same or more. 

 

The gotcha is all of the whileyou'reintheres.  The radiator has to come out, a new one is fairly cheap and helps prevent future cooling issues.  Reman engines should come with a new oil cooler, but if they don't, you should replace it.  Stuff like that.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/27/23 10:36 a.m.

$1000 used junkyard engine, cut-rate shop to install it.  Amazon catalyst for $200.  Shi... for $8000 you can buy a sweet used class-B motorhome and let the old one rot in a field and be better off in the long run.  Spending $8k on a van with 340k means you'll be left with a van that's still worth the $1000 it's worth now.

The shop is quoting you based on what they MIGHT find.  It could be a head gasket and done.  They have to cover their butts in case it needs to be resurfaced.  But in the end, they will do the minimum work required and still charge you $8000.  That's how shops work.  You're lucky that it's the kind of shop that hits you with that number ahead of time instead of quoting $3000 and then later, "oh, we need to do machine work and it will cost $8000," after it's torn apart in their shop and you're over a barrel.  The chances that the head is warped on a 4.6L are slim, but it's possible.

If you're one of those people who considers your own time billable, you're sunk.  If you're like me and see it as an opportunity to save $6000 by doing the work myself for "free", you can come out of this shining like a new penny.  I say that with the caveat that I don't have the garage to do my own work right now.

I would say either strip out your goodies and look for a new van to put them in, sell it as-is, or find some cheaper way to fix the problem.

 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
8/27/23 10:55 a.m.
CyberEric said:

They believe the head is likely warped, and that it makes more sense to pull the engine and put a new one in, rather than try to fix the HG.

I'd want to hear more about why they couldn't just skim the head or replace it, instead of tearing the whole engine out.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
8/27/23 11:09 a.m.
stuart in mn said:
CyberEric said:

They believe the head is likely warped, and that it makes more sense to pull the engine and put a new one in, rather than try to fix the HG.

I'd want to hear more about why they couldn't just skim the head or replace it, instead of tearing the whole engine out.

Have you ever worked on the engine in a Ford van?

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/27/23 11:16 a.m.

In reply to stuart in mn :

A lot of places do not want to touch internal engine work.  If they pull the head, replace the gasket, and it drops an exhaust seat two months later, or it leaks, or the other side fails, or the bottom end has a failure, or any number of things, they don't want to have to deal with that.  So it's a reman engine (that someone else will pay for the labor if it goes TU) or nothing.  Especially at 340k miles.  Reading iATN is funny, a lot of those guys don't even want to fix oil leaks on anything over 100k miles, just replace the engine.

Without the SI info at hand, it's probably just about the same labor.  I don't know if head R&R requires pulling the nose off to get at the timing chains in that chassis, but engine R&R and head R&R both require stripping all accessories off as well as the intake manifold.  At that point the engine is ready to come out, but head R&R requires further work.

 

I can't speak to the value of these now, but one of the customers I had confided in me that it was worth spending $20k with us to replace the engine and trans (with ALL of the whileyou'reintheres) because he couldn't replace his van for $40k, and this was not when it was new.  Turtletops are hard to come by.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/27/23 2:55 p.m.

$8000 probably buys a fresh reman engine installed with $2000 to spare.  You would have $8000 in just a head gasket on an old engine.

I'll say it again.  Find a good, low-mileage junkyard engine and swap the whole thing.  There are millions of T-boned F150s in yards in this country with low miles.  Just getting to the head gasket in that engine bay is 3/4 of the way to an R&R anyway.

759NRNG
759NRNG PowerDork
8/27/23 3:11 p.m.

"3. Sell it as is. I got a killer deal on it ($6,500) and I might be able to recoup some of that cost. I don't really NEED this van anymore, as my wife and I are no longer doing the vanlife thing full time anymore, even if it is super handy to have around."

Move on......you'll thank yourself 

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
8/27/23 3:18 p.m.

I don't really NEED this van anymore, as my wife and I are no longer doing the vanlife thing

This seems like the right answer.

340 K  is the major factor.   So many things are near the end of their duty cycle.  It could turn into one of those "one thing after another"  problems, all for something you say you are not using much anymore.

Turbo_Rev
Turbo_Rev Reader
8/27/23 5:53 p.m.

https://barsleaks.com/product/blown-head-gasket-repair-hg-1/

We poured that in a 4.6L Grand Marquis with 250K on the (broken) odometer and a blown head gasket. Drove it around another 100,000 miles before we sold it. I know it made it at least another year after that.

 

Y literal MMV.

wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L)
wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/27/23 6:23 p.m.

Red91sc
Red91sc New Reader
8/27/23 6:37 p.m.

Punt it, seems like you got your money worth and it doesn't really fill a need for you anymore. Why sink a bunch more money in a well worn out chassis.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/27/23 8:08 p.m.
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) said:

340 K  is the major factor.   So many things are near the end of their duty cycle.  It could turn into one of those "one thing after another"  problems, all for something you say you are not using much anymore.

I'd counter this by saying that by 304k a lot of components have been replaced - possibly multiple times. If it's a solid vehicle it's probably better to keep it & continue to replace what it needs vs. buying something else.

Since it's drivable, maybe shop around for quotes on installing a used engine, then go from there. 

dxman92
dxman92 SuperDork
8/27/23 11:57 p.m.

Send it packing..

NY Nick
NY Nick GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/28/23 8:31 a.m.

I would send it because you don't need it. You won't add $8k in value to it with the change. You could probably buy more vehicle for your 8k plus whatever you sell that running van for. If it's me that thing is gone YMMV. 

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
8/28/23 2:18 p.m.

Thanks for all the responses. A lot to digest here. I have so much going on in my life right now, so I think in the short term I'm leaning toward the do nothing option and adding the HG product Turbo Rev mentioned. 

Then exploring a JY engine like Curtis suggested. 

I definitely may end up selling it though. My only hesitation is it's very hard to find a van like this for any price, as Pete alluded to, and it drives great right now. I need to look again but last I did, it was hard to find something like this for even $15K. It's completely customized to my needs, and Pete's point rings true, a lot has been replaced. There's some sentimental value wrapped up in it (not that I want to make an $8k decision based on that) along with the high utility it offers.

Anyway, the last question I had was about doing it myself, but it sounds like, as Curtis said, I may as well just replace it for all the work it takes. Plus, I don't have the time. I thought about one of those come to your house techs, like Yourmechanic, and have them just replace the HGs, but it sounds like they may as well do the whole motor. 

I hate it when a vehicle I've tried really hard to maintain has something like this happen!

 

 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/28/23 4:50 p.m.

Well, it had a long life. 340k is a lot to ask of a vehicle.  I say try the Bars Leaks.  If it works, sell it as a running, driving van with the caveat that the head gasket's days are numbered.

I got lucky buying my van just at the beginning of the pandemic before prices went nuts, but just as a price point, 12-passenger Chevy AWD Express, 5.3L, driver's side rear doors, and 80k on the clock I found for $6500 three years ago.  (Actually, John Welsh found it and I bought it.)

porschenut
porschenut HalfDork
8/28/23 4:53 p.m.

This van has taken you into the emotional decision zone, happens quickly with a van that you can live in.  Have a disinterested third party go over it bumper to bumper and see what it will cost, compare that number to a used class B and see what the numbers say,

NickD
NickD MegaDork
8/28/23 4:55 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

In reply to stuart in mn :

A lot of places do not want to touch internal engine work.  If they pull the head, replace the gasket, and it drops an exhaust seat two months later, or it leaks, or the other side fails, or the bottom end has a failure, or any number of things, they don't want to have to deal with that. 

Also, not familiar with the Ford 4.6L, but a lot of newer engines there's a lot of "disposable" parts. Cylinder bores that can't be refinished (like the GM 2.4L and 1.5L) or cylinder heads that have no allowable amount of resurfacing (I believe GM 3.6Ls are like that. If the head has any warpage, you bin it)

81cpcamaro
81cpcamaro SuperDork
8/28/23 5:09 p.m.

Owning a 370K S10, even with the engine and transmission having been replaced, it is a game of what is breaking next. Everything is just wearing out on it. Might be a good time to pass your van on while you can. Do like Curtis suggests.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
8/28/23 9:22 p.m.

Thanks everyone. I'll try the Bars Leaks. I like your idea too Porschenut.

This van would be easier to sell if it wasn't fully built out (much of it by me) exactly to my tastes. The kitchen, the sink, the shelves, drawers, solar, battery, bed, even the mattress are completely custom and not easy to part with. I have a hard time believing I can find something like this for less than what it would cost to replace the engine. But then I'm back to "Do I really need this van anymore?" 

I can't believe I don't know this, but what will eventually happen to an engine with a blown HG?

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