Car tech talk

Hey there... Didn't see a forum folder for this so I was told "throw it somewhere, see if it sticks" .. So here it is.

I have two Ford Focuses.. The one I drive is a 4 door sedan, with a dual overhead cam (dohc) engine. It runs good but has recently developed a valve (I hope) cover oil leak. I also wrecked it in light snow a year and a half ago, hitting a curb sideways as I said into it at about 40 mph. Ouch! .. With help it took a few weeks to fix and has been... Decent.. Since.

The other car I bought is also a Ford focus, this one a station wagon. This car had the single overhead cam (sohc) engine and worse, split port injection. I found out as I arranged to buy it that these engines are very notorious for dropping the valve seat, thus destroying the engine because it rams against the valve head top, doesn't have room and either breaks the head, the valve top or the piston. Now, I bought this car broken, k owing it was broken, in January for $250. It was believed to be either a dropped valve seat or a broken timing belt. The hope was I would be able to buy a $300 kit to restore it..... Ha!!

After I got the engine head taken off I discovered a multitude of problems, the chief of which was that the 4th piston was no longer it's normal size but instead an exploded chunk of metal laying in pieces in the chamber, which, had been completely destroyed in the process and had holes big enough in the sidewalls for my fist to fit through, letting coolant and oil mix in together. AFAIK there's no way to fix something that bad? (I've heard of sleeves but haven't done research on them)... There was also what I thought at first was a bullet hole, a exit hole in the oil pan.

So I decided to get a loan and replace the engine instead of the notorious spi engine, with a dohc zetec engine, the same my 1st car has.. They have the same engine bays etc.
It has been a long process, getting stalled at certain points because me, a computer nerd, is trying to figure out how to find a car??!?! ..
I guess I've added a lot here so I'll stop for now.. But I also wanted to add a couple pictures.. One is the piston and the other is sawing through said piston - which became crucial because I couldn't remove the engine from the transmission without rotating the engine - which was stuck because of the broken piston part. :O
Looks like fun! For certain definitions of fun, anyway.

I'm currently letting my big van rot because it's apparently got a bad bearing inside the engine. All the car guys I've talked to straight up say not to try to replace the engine myself because apparently it's a real pain on these savanna vans.

So we are a one car family until we replace or fix it. And the one working car doesn't curently hold the entire family, but surprisingly we've been able to make it work out so far. Will definitely need something bigger for summer vacation though.
I googled it and found several different styles.. And a memory or two came back seeing a white one with no rear windows.. Just like the one we had when I was real little (the horrors!!) .. Hehe.. But what kind is yours, how old, etc?

My project has been quite task consuming and at times very slow going... I apparently am claustrophobic so getting under it has been extremely difficult... When I managed to overcome my fear, I managed to separate the engine but then forgot to undo the bolts for the transmission from the engine (inside a covered slot) ... Getting ahead of myself and causing a further month or two of aggravation since against the original plan, we now have had to drop the engine and the transmission. Doh.. All for four bolts. (it pulled the transmission out of position and would not realign to separate and drop).
Ah, the fun of learning on the job! Well, at least it isn't a huge 8 cylinder engine.

The van is a 2001 savanna 5.7L V8. Complicating factors, the rear ACA isn't connected, and the van doesn't have enough seats for my family anymore. It's a conversion van with 6 captains chairs and a three person bench in the back. We could modify it in a number of ways to fit our now 10 person family, but we are oscillating back and forth between fixing it and upgrading it as needed, or just getting a cheap 12 passenger van. My wife would really miss all the conversion van features though. Leather seats, lights and air vents at each seat, tv and dvd, high top and extended, etc.

We've got some time before we need to solve this problem though, summer vacation plans would be difficult with the 6 passenger car.


Staff member
I grew up in a long line of mechanics. Dropping in a replacement engine used to be a chore, but not terrible. On some of those older cars, with the manifolds off, you could stand next to the engine in the engine bay. Now, you're lucky to be able to get a standard set of tools in where they need to be. On the other hand, they're lighter now, so at least you don't need an industrial A-frame and a chain hoist to pull the thing.
Man, I miss those old engine bays. Heck, even my '84 corolla had a little bit of room. The engine bay on a 2007 or 2008 Fusion is so bad that in order to replace the passenger side headlight, you have to either pull the entire light assembly out, or take the wheel-well cladding and skid-plate off and go at it from beneath. I really do need to re-replace my wrench sets so I can do some of my own maintenance, though. I don't want to completely lose the skill.
<= Former PT Cruiser/current HHR owner. The word "shoehorn" comes to mind when dealing with either of these cars.
I had a PT Cruiser - really shitty design - the gas mileage for it really sucked considering it was a 4-banger. Our new Impala gets better gas mileage with a 3.6 V-6 than the PT did. Of course, they rated the PT as a light truck because of how heavy it was.

I do most of the basic maintenance myself (oil changes, spark plugs/wires (if I can get to them), brakes, etc) and some advanced stuff - I just replaced both front steering knuckles (with the press-in hubs and bearings) on my Saturn.

I'm actually surprised that the 2013 Impala we just got isn't bad - the things I'd replace myself are mostly easily accessible (serpentine belt it a bit more problematic, but I should hopefully not have to change it for a long time). The oil filter is really easy - it's right in the front of the engine - I don't have to go underneath it to change it.

My 2000 Saturn SL has a lot more open space even for being such a relatively smaller car (though it doesn't have near as much crap inside it too). I still have it because it still gets pretty damned good mileage - currently averaging 35-36 MPG on the winter grade gas here in WI - last summer I hit 43 MPG - I just have to keep adding oil to it because of the design flaw that the oil doesn't get to drain back down around the pistons correctly and gets burnt up all the time.
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A Saturn is the reason why I'm driving the HHR.

The PT got horrid gas mileage for what it was, yes. That's something I've noticed about the HHR - it was designed better. Though the little spoiler on the back tailgate of my LT is annoying for its uncanny ability to suck rain, dirt, and snow through its cowl and cover my tailgate.
Found a replacement bracket cover for the right axle today.. Not sure how the last person broke the previous one?!?! ... And who the heck put a different size nut on the other end?! 13mm and a 12?! Wtf..
Found I was missing a fuel line regulator too.. Had to slice at the junkyard so hope the lines aren't too difficult.?
This is Ford! :p
Bought a Mondeo last year. Build 2014 - 2.0 litre TDCI. About 15k Miles. On the way back home after 40 miles... The piston rod said hello to the oilpan! ;)
That was my first and last Ford! :D
I've had pretty good luck with Fords. I had a Taurus and a Ranger; both ran >250k w/o engine issues. The Ranger was quite easy to work on and the Taurus wasn't bad either.

I am not super skilled, but I have done on my own:
-water pump
-simple maintenance (fluids, plugs, etc)
-brake pads
-some ignition switch thing

With help from my dad
-complete steering column in my wife's Grand Prix

I would like to learn more, but I don't have time right now or the space for a fixer-upper.
I would like to learn more, but I don't have time right now or the space for a fixer-upper.
I would always like to learn more, but my car first and foremost needs to work and get me back and forth to work. I can't afford a) the expense to buy a second fixer-upper to play with or b) to have my main car down an extra eight hours because a project took longer than expected.

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Was paid to drive a moving truck to California last week so now I have / had money to buy all the remaining (I HOPE!!) parts I've needed... last one was a transmission harness today. I foolishly sent the other one with the engine that I used as a core at another junkyard. Doh! .. Ford quoted me at $400 (!! WTF FORD?!?!) for this line this morning.. I checked the junkyard, thought I found two, but they both had snipped wires on a unknown junction, so I finally searched Ebay.. and found it quickly (and bought it quickly) for $20. SOOOOOOOOOooooo looking forward to putting this monster back together next week!