How To Test For A Blown Head Gasket (Ford 3.0L, 3.8L)

If your Ford 3.0L, 3.8L Taurus (or Aerostar, Mustang, Windstar, Sable, Cougar, etc.) is overheating, and you have already verified that the thermostat, the fan motor (or fan clutch), the water pump are not the problem, you may have a blown head gasket on your hands. This article will help you to get to the bottom of the issue with four easy blown head gasket tests.

All four head gaskets tests are explained in a step-by-step way and more importantly, they include and interpretation of your test results (after all, what good is a test if you don't have the info to interpret what you just did and the results you got?).

Two of the blown head gasket tests I'm gonna' describe here, are done with no tools at all. The other two head gasket tests are done with an engine compression tester and a block tester (combustion leak tester).

Symptoms Of A Blown Head Gasket

The most common cause of a blown head gasket is that the engine overheated because: 1) fan clutch or fan motor is not working, 2) All of the coolant leaked out of the engine and you kept driving it this way. 3) Thermostat went bad and is stuck closed and the coolant could not circulate. The most common symptoms a blown head gasket are:

  1. Your 3.0L, 3.8L Ford car (or mini-van, pick up) is overheating. You know it's not the fan (or fan clutch) or thermostat.
  2. White smoke is coming out of the tail-pipe and it smells like anti-freeze being cooked.
  3. Your 3.0L, 3.8L Ford car (or mini-van, pick up) won't start.
    1. You have already verified it's not an ignition system problem because you have spark coming out at all of the spark plug wires.
    2. You know it's not a lack of fuel, because you have verified that the fuel pump is delivering fuel to the fuel injectors.
  4. The engine oil is thick and tan to off-white color (mixed with coolant).

TEST 1: Oil The Color Of ‘Coffee With Too Much Creamer’

How To Test For A Blown Head Gasket (Ford 3.0L, 3.8L)

The first to two tests are the easiest and will take you less than 5 minutes to do. In about 90% of the time, these two first head gasket tests will positively confirm a blown head gasket on your 3.0L, 3.8L Ford Ranger (or Topaz, Probe, Tempo, or Mazda B3000, etc.).

If this first head gasket test confirms that the head gasket is burned, you don't need to do the other tests. OK, I'll stop yakking and we'll get this show on the road, this is what you need to do:

  1. 1

    Open the hood on your 3.0L, 3.8L Ford car (or mini-van, pick up).

  2. 2

    Pull out the engine's oil dipstick.

  3. 3

    Check the color of the oil.

  4. 4

    You'll see one of two things:

    1.) The engine oil will be a creamy tan/off white color and as thick as syrup.

    2.) The engine oil will be a normal color and viscosity.

Now, let's find out what each of the two results mean:

CASE 1: The color of the oil is a tan/off white color. This is not good and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the head gasket is blown on your 3.0L, 3.8L Ford, Mercury or Lincoln vehicle.

Why does the oil look like this? Mainly because your 3.0L, 3.8L Ford car (or mini-van, pick up) over-heated and:

1.) The overheating caused the cylinder head (or heads) warp. This in turn causes the head gasket (or gaskets) to burn.

2.) Now since the head gasket's job is to keep everything separated and sealed (engine oil, coolant, compression and exhaust gases, etc), when it gets blown, stuff starts to mix.

3.) And so when coolant mixes with engine oil, as the engine runs or cranks, the resulting mix turns into an off white/tan color.

CASE 2: The color of the engine oil is normal. So far so good, but you're not out of the woods yet. You'll need to do the other two tests to further confirm a bad head gasket or exonerate the head gasket. Go to: TEST 2: Exhaust Gases Shooting Out Of An Open Radiator.

Here's why: Any automotive mechanic or technician will confirm that one of the most common results of a blown head gasket is oil mixing with the coolant. This usually happens in about 90% of the cases of a blown head gasket. In the other 10% of the time, you're not going to see this happening. And so, further testing is required to make sure that the head gasket is really blown or not. The next test is to see if the engine's compression/combustion gases are escaping thru' the radiator.

Ford Vehicles:

  • Aerostar 3.0L
    • 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
  • Mustang 3.8L
    • 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004
  • Probe 3.0L
    • 1990, 1991, 1992
  • Ranger 3.0L
    • 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997

Ford Vehicles:

  • Taurus 3.0L, 3.8L
    • 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
  • Tempo 3.0L
    • 1992, 1993, 1994
  • Thunderbird 3.8L
    • 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997

Lincoln Vehicles:

  • Windstar 3.0L, 3.8L
    • 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

Lincoln Vehicles:

  • Continental 3.8L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994

Mercury Vehicles:

  • Cougar 3.8L
    • 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
  • Sable 3.0L, 3.8L
    • 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
  • Topaz 3.0L
    • 1992, 1993, 1994

Mazda Vehicles:

  • B3000 3.0L
    • 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997