2002 overheating AGAIN

Joined
Jun 21, 2021
Thunderbird Year
2002
My 2002 is overheating, AGAIN! I just got it back from the shop for overheating. I've had the resevoir replaced & this last time the gauge didn't go up but I smelled it. When I took it in they said there were bolts that were loose & oil was leaking which is what I smelled. They also noticed & replaced the drive belt. It was fine for a week, but now I drove it for less than a mile & the gauge is heading up to the red (I didn't let it get there). There is a loud revving noise also when I accelerate. The air bag light came on & I was told there is no way it is overheating & that the airbag light (which they had checked before) was on because I need to replace the passenger side seatbelt. I don't care about the seatbelt or that light but I am very afraid to drive my beloved car with the high rev & temp gauge going up. Any one have any advice or ideas before I have to get a new car because I can't afford to keep fixing this one????
 

WesTxStoner425

2004 Platinum over Sand interior
Joined
Mar 8, 2020
Thunderbird Year
2004
That revving sound you hear might be your hydraulic fan running at high speed, trying to lower the radiator temp. The 2002 is a unique animal, since 2003 and up Birds have electric fans. There are numerous postings about overheating on this forum; I suggest you read through them, You might also post everything you had replaced. Did they change the thermostat, thermostat housing (known to leak), and hoses? The coolant tank is a known leaker, but there are other plastic parts that also cause coolant to leak out through cracks that are very tiny and had to locate. I recently had the waterpump, t-stat and housing, hoses, and cooling hose flange replaced. This solved the overheating (temp gauge doesn't go above midpoint even in El Paso's 100+ temps). Finally, did the mechanic bleed the system after replacing the coolant tank. It is easy to do, and to forget to do, and will cause overheating issues, too. Do you trust this mechanic, does he regularly do good work on your other cars? If not, ask around or post your location; there's bound to be someone on this forum who can make a recommendation. Good luck, don't give up on your car; they're finicky, but they are also sooo much fun to drive when properly running.

I forgot to mention that I also had the head gasket replaced. I wanted to touch all the bases to ensure no future issues. Now I just need to get the COPs valve cover back on.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

JohnS

Active Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Thunderbird Year
2003
I'm sorry that you are having this problem. It sounds to me like you need a new mechanic. The loud noise is most likely the fan coming on due to the heat. If you just had radiator work done there may be air in the coolant system due to it not being re-filled properly.
 

RDH

Active Member
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Thunderbird Year
2003
If you have a 3.9 Engine, have some check your head gaskets. Mine went into the limp home more about 5 years ago. Not once but twice. I took it to my mechanic and he thought thermostat, no then radiator, so his guy said he saw water coming over the bell so they drop the engine and found the head gaskets leaking, so 5000 dollars all was fixed. Lots of money but if you love your car fix her up
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
Thunderbird Year
2004
My 2002 is overheating, AGAIN! I just got it back from the shop for overheating. I've had the resevoir replaced & this last time the gauge didn't go up but I smelled it. When I took it in they said there were bolts that were loose & oil was leaking which is what I smelled. They also noticed & replaced the drive belt. It was fine for a week, but now I drove it for less than a mile & the gauge is heading up to the red (I didn't let it get there). There is a loud revving noise also when I accelerate. The air bag light came on & I was told there is no way it is overheating & that the airbag light (which they had checked before) was on because I need to replace the passenger side seatbelt. I don't care about the seatbelt or that light but I am very afraid to drive my beloved car with the high rev & temp gauge going up. Any one have any advice or ideas before I have to get a new car because I can't afford to keep fixing this one????
Had same prob with 2004. Solved it (I think).

Hopefully you've already changed the thermostat.

Put on glove (hot hoses).

With engine running (from cold) turn heater on high hot in DUAL" mode.

Remove the coolant reservoir cap and open bleeder valve with a flat head screwdriver. Bleeder is located right next to the reservoir. Mark the valve with some paint or marker so you know when you close it you are returning it to original position. Open it slowly. If coolant doesn't immediately drip out you are successfully bleeding air out if system. If coolant drips close immediately.

With that open and cap off, squeeze the hose going into radiator on the left (with gloved hand) Keep squeezing in and out. You are getting the air out. Watch the reservoir and the bleeder valve. Make sure always coolant in reservoir. If it goes down and you need to add it means you are getting air out.

Once coolant starts to drip out of bleeder valve close it.

Keep cap off res. and let car run for 10 minutes or so. Boost idle to 2000. Water should be moving around a bit in the res.

IMPORTANT!!! PUT AN ADDITIONAL O RING INSIDE THE RES CAP. Close cap. Turn off car. Let cool. Check under car for leaks. Check levels. Add coolant if needed when cool.

After complete cooling start engine. Check bleeder valve again. Repeat procedure if no coolant immediately leaks out.

I had to do this three times. Finally coolant level stable. No overheating. However, I bought a diagnostic tool. My bird runs at 215 degrees which is too hot as far as I am concerned. Examining the grill I noticed that only the top two rows of the grill are open to the radiator. I plan on changing that.
 
Joined
May 28, 2018
Thunderbird Year
2002
My 2002 is overheating, AGAIN! I just got it back from the shop for overheating. I've had the resevoir replaced & this last time the gauge didn't go up but I smelled it. When I took it in they said there were bolts that were loose & oil was leaking which is what I smelled. They also noticed & replaced the drive belt. It was fine for a week, but now I drove it for less than a mile & the gauge is heading up to the red (I didn't let it get there). There is a loud revving noise also when I accelerate. The air bag light came on & I was told there is no way it is overheating & that the airbag light (which they had checked before) was on because I need to replace the passenger side seatbelt. I don't care about the seatbelt or that light but I am very afraid to drive my beloved car with the high rev & temp gauge going up. Any one have any advice or ideas before I have to get a new car because I can't afford to keep fixing this one????
I have had that problem many times to the point that I am afraid to drive it for more than a half hour away from my home. It started 2 years ago when the light came on and the engine shut down some cylinders. At first my mechanic changed the thermostat, then the reservoir cracked causing all the anti freeze to leak out. Then it was the fan that cools the radiator which i replaced. Then a year later the fan stopped working and had to be replaced again (i bought them both on line). Then it was still over heating and my mechanic put in a secondary fan. Two weeks ago, it overheated 10 minutes away from my house and had to be towed to my mechanic (had to wait an hour and a half for a flatbed tow truck). The tow guy said that is friend worked for Ford and this overheating problem was a major problem with the car. This time my mechanic said there was a hole in the hose and my anti freeze leaked out. Hopefull it will be good now. Just picked it up 2 days ago and drovlocally and so far so good.
 
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
Thunderbird Year
2004
Just came back from driving 3 1/2 hours with AC on. No problem. It is my belief, from my experiences, that getting the air out is the number one priority. There is obviously a design problem with this cooling system. The number two priority, I believe is that O ring in the coolant reservoir cap. There needs to be a certain amount of pressure in the system and if the original O ring/gasket has perished, there could be a problem. Just a thought. As I said, mine seems fine now that I worked on getting the air out and adding an O ring to the cap. As the ratio of coolant to water increases, the boiling temp of the coolant also increases. Read the directions on the container and add anti-freeze to raise the boiling/overheating point.

One last thought...keep a gallon of distilled water in the boot.
 

biddle

Forum Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2003
. It is my belief, from my experiences, that getting the air out is the number one priority. There is obviously a design problem with this cooling system.
Here is a video that shows burping the Lincoln LS. There is not a design flaw, if there was a design flaw, everyone would have a problem with bubbling in the coolant reservoir. Another member reported a simular issue and posted his resolution here- https://forums.fordthunderbirdforum...hermostat-housing-water-pumps.9778/post-73424

It is definitely not as straight forward as some engines like our Inline 6 Jeep, which you just leave the cap off of and it burps via the reservoir effortlessly.

 
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Thunderbird Year
2005
I have been fighting this cooling system for a while after having to replace the plastic connecting pipe that had disintegrated at 50K, which I found was a common occurrence. Poor design meant taking off the intake to replace it due to the back bolts being about a quarter inch to long. I get this done replace the coolant, burp and I thought I had it beat and the upper radiator hose failed when part of the plastic connector gave out.

Put a new one on yesterday and ran through the "burping" three times and gave up and went to bed last night. It is not a simple system to work on at all and I agree that getting the air out seems to be the trick, but it is not a easy or intuitive task to accomplish.
 
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
Thunderbird Year
2004
Does the cooling fan of the Tbird run after you stop for a little more time to cool down
The fan seems to be unpredictable. Sometimes it will run at 60mph and won't in traffic. Strange.

I have been fighting this cooling system for a while after having to replace the plastic connecting pipe that had disintegrated at 50K, which I found was a common occurrence. Poor design meant taking off the intake to replace it due to the back bolts being about a quarter inch to long. I get this done replace the coolant, burp and I thought I had it beat and the upper radiator hose failed when part of the plastic connector gave out.

Put a new one on yesterday and ran through the "burping" three times and gave up and went to bed last night. It is not a simple system to work on at all and I agree that getting the air out seems to be the trick, but it is not a easy or intuitive task to accomplish.
Yep. One of the things I did was (put on a glove) squeeze the hose at the top left of the radiator, more than a few times. You can hear air bubbles coming out from the overflow (if it's in there.) This really might not have anything to do with the problem but I put an O ring in the cap of the res. After 17 years the gasket in there has been compromised. After I did that pressure built up in the res. Hadn't before. I think it helped. Anyway, my temp gauge stays at 3:00 BUT the coolant bubbles in the res container and the engine temp varies between 215 - 238 +-. That's what I am trying to fix.
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Thunderbird Year
2005
The fan seems to be unpredictable. Sometimes it will run at 60mph and won't in traffic. Strange.


Yep. One of the things I did was (put on a glove) squeeze the hose at the top left of the radiator, more than a few times. You can hear air bubbles coming out from the overflow (if it's in there.) This really might not have anything to do with the problem but I put an O ring in the cap of the res. After 17 years the gasket in there has been compromised. After I did that pressure built up in the res. Hadn't before. I think it helped. Anyway, my temp gauge stays at 3:00 BUT the coolant bubbles in the res container and the engine temp varies between 215 - 238 +-. That's what I am trying to fix.
I'm doing that as I write this and getting ready to start my second round. I am watching mine on my new connected SCT unit and when it's idling in the garage I stay at similar temp levels you mentioned and if they stayed there I would be happy. When I drive down the street they have hit 246 and the needle jumps. I'm hoping that I got a big air bubble out on the last cycle as I heard it but I could not tell if the coolant level dropped.

My radiator cap will not come off by hand
Mine was tight but eventually came off. You can use a rubber wrench strap to avoid marring the plastic and putting sharp edges on it.

 
Last edited by a moderator:
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
Thunderbird Year
2004
I'm doing that as I write this and getting ready to start my second round. I am watching mine on my new connected SCT unit and when it's idling in the garage I stay at similar temp levels you mentioned and if they stayed there I would be happy. When I drive down the street they have hit 246 and the needle jumps. I'm hoping that I got a big air bubble out on the last cycle as I heard it but I could not tell if the coolant level dropped.
Gotta be air in the system (my opinion.)

Gotta be air in the system (my opinion.)
Often the coolant level will drop when it cools. Very unpredictable.

You did open the bleeder valve?
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Thunderbird Year
2005
Another failed drive. Everything does exactly as it should sitting in the garage at idle and when I am revving it, heater open, etc. Then I drive down the street and the fan goes into jet mode and the heat spikes quickly. I turned around and it wat 250 and the dash light came on.

Now I am questioning if the new thermostat is working, as the upper radiator hose is under tremendous pressure and the radiator is cool. I pulled my laser temp gun and the cold radiator surprised me so after it cools down I will install the original thermostat. I had ordered a complete new housing and did not open it up to test since it is combined unit. I hope that is the culprit.
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Thunderbird Year
2005
So for the future searches, check your thermostat! I just installed the original 50K thermostat and it works great! The highest temp on my long test drive was 220, but it quickly cooled back down to 212, 210 and no issues. I still need to recharge the AC, which is another engineering debacle on this car, but today was a victory.
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Thunderbird Year
2005
Great news! Learned long ago, before I ever install a thermostat I always test it in a pan of boiling water on the stove. (Tip - make sure the wife is away or asleep first!)
I normally do that too but since these are part of the plastic I opted not to follow that procedure. I know it could withstand the heat but I just opted out and got caught by the new part failure bugaboo.
 
Top