A very common problem on the 1996-1998 3.8L equipped Ford Mustang (96-97 3.8L T-Bird and 96-97 3.8L Cougar) is the intake manifold gaskets leaking coolant.
No doubt this little problem has been a gold mine for Ford and the auto repair industry as a whole (Ford isn't the only one making vehicles with coolant leak prone intake gaskets -just ask any owner of a 3.1L or 3.4L GM equipped vehicle).
So, you might be wondering, is there a way to prevent this from happening again? Unfortunately, at this point in time, there's is no permanent solution to this problem.
If you own one of these Ford vehicles, your only option is to keep an eye out for coolant leaks emanating from the intake manifold corners and replace them as soon as possible.
Let's find out more about why these intake manifold gaskets are so coolant leak prone...
In a nutshell, it's because the Intake Manifold Gaskets are made out of a composite material (the technical name for plastic).
What tears them up, is the fact that these gaskets are sandwiched between the intake manifold and the cylinder head, both of which are made of aluminum metal that expands and contracts as the engine heats ups and cools down (all during it's normal operating cycle).
Over time and thousands of miles, this expansion and contraction of the surfaces that the intake gaskets are sandwiched between (plus the rushing/moving coolant) starts to eat away and/or tear the intake gaskets at their coolant ports. The end result is a coolant leak or coolant leaks and intake gaskets that look like the one in the photos I'm using in this article.
If you have owned your 1996-1998 3.8L equipped Ford Mustang (96-97 3.8L T-Bird and 96-97 3.8L Cougar)for any length of time.. chances are that you have already experienced this ‘intake gaskets leaking coolant’ condition (and have repaired it), or you're experiencing it right now or will be soon enough.
Gasket maker Felpro usually sells re-designed metal shim-type manifold gaskets that you can substitute the original plastic O.E. ones for... for example, all of the GM 3.1L and 3.4L equipped cars and mini-vans use coolant-leak prone plastic intake manifold gaskets and Felpro makes an updated gasket with a metal shim type core (which of course means that it's not made out of plastic).
Such is not the case for the 3.8L equipped Ford vehicles covered by this article. The only solution, at this time, is replacing the intake manifold gaskets before it leads to a major repair headache (as in a blown head gasket).
One last piece of advise I want to share with you is: don't use a coolant leak sealer to try and plug up this coolant leak. It simply won't work and it'll lead to other problems down the road (like clogging up your heater core and radiator).
I'll repeat it one more time: You're best option, for the short and long term, is to replace the leaking intake manifold gaskets.
So, in conclusion... I know it sucks that you're having this particular problem with your 3.8L Ford vehicle (and worse, finding out that there's no permanent fix)... but, the most important thing to remember is to replace the coolant leaking intake manifold gaskets promptly before you have a bigger headache on your hands (like a blown headgasket).
“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more
intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much —the wheel,
New York, wars and so on —whilst all the dolphins had ever done was
muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely,
the dolphins had always believed that they were far more
intelligent than man —for precisely the same reasons!”
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy