Blown Head Gasket?

courtesy of Bob, The Auto Answer Man

Dear Bob,
I'm writing regarding my 1987 Mercury Cougar. Bodywise, the car is mint. Unfortunately, the other day I blew a head gasket. The Ford dealer told me the engine is shot as a result and quoted me a nice $3200 replacement cost. I promptly informed them I wasn't interested and began engine shopping. So far my best quote has been $2200 for a remanufactured engine- the same thing the dealer was going to give me for $3200. My question is this though. I've checked my engine oil, there's no coolant in it. The engine is burning the coolant though as it discharges plumes of white smoke and reeks of antifreeze. Is it possible that all she needs is a replacement head gasket? The dealer "assured me" that that wasn't the case. They actually refused to replace the gasket stating they couldn't guarantee the repair in good faith. IOW, the engine, in their opinion, could go the next day and they wouldn't accept that liability. At least that's how I'm perceiving it. Of course the engine may last another 2 years as well. AMOF, the engine runs fine except for the smoke. So what do you think? Is it worth my while to have the gaskets changed out for $1000, or should I get a new engine and be done with it? The car has a lot of mileage (110k), but as I said it's in great shape.

Dear Steve,
Well, this is exactly what your dealer meant. Since you most definitely blew a head gasket, and you are burning coolant, there really is no way to tell if the block is warped or the head itself. You might try just sending out the head and have it check, but what if it checks okay but after it's back together something else blows. That's a choice that you have to make. If you are mechanically inclined and have the resources, try it yourself, but remember that it is going to be a project that will last longer than a weekend. Maybe you could get a beater car as a temporary use.
Good Luck!
Drive Safely!
Bob, The Auto Answer Man

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