Last post on Jan 25, 2011 at 9:40 AM
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Ford Expedition, Electrical, Engine, Heating / Cooling, SUV
#1 of 5 03 Temp sensor malfunction
Aug 10, 2009 (2:47 pm)
I have a 2003 Expedition with the 5.4L engine. During normal driving and at normal operating temperatures, the needle on the temperature gauge sits approximately in the middle. On a recent trip to the mountains, after driving at interstate speeds around 70mph I watched the needle on the temp gauge go from its normal position to the extreme hot (needle pegged) in approximately 2 seconds. Once the needle is pegged, an audible alarm sounds and the engine goes into limp mode, with a message telling you this in the message center. After pulling off the highway, there was absolutely no indication that the engine really is overheating. After switching the ignition off for approximately 1-2 min. and restarting the engine, the gauge goes back to its normal position and I can drive the vehicle again until the same thing happens. On a 2 hour trip, this can happen 3-4 times. I took it to my mechanic and after checking that the gauge was fine, he replaced the temperature sensor located in the block. This requires the removal of the intake manifold and is quite expensive. Assuming that the problem was fixed, I took it on another 3 hour trip and it was fine. However, on the return trip the same problem started again. I took it back to the mechanic and this time they cleaned out the radiator exterior of all dirt, grime, bugs, etc. and flushed the radiator. This had no effect and the same problem remains. I'm wondering if anyone else has any ideas. I'm starting to think perhaps the wiring to the sensor is bad, but the mechanic says he checked and everything looks fine. I know it's not beyond the realm to think the new sensor is bad, but since the problem is basically identical as with the old sensor, I have problems believing that. I do not think it is actually overheating since there is no visible sign of this (steam, overflowing fluid, etc.) and because I can continue to drive the vehicle without any problem immediately afterward and it doesn't overheat quickly. Any help would be appreciated.
#2 of 5 Re: 03 Temp sensor malfunction [test1328]
Jan 24, 2011 (1:50 pm)
Did you ever find out what was wrong with your Expedition? I've seen similar posts, but never any with a resolution.
I have a 97 Expedition 4.6L with similar symptoms. The temperature appears to spike, but does it in a fraction of a second -- far faster than what would be physically possible. The engine never actually overheats, but appears to and then the truck goes into 'limp' mode. You pull over. Shut down. Wait. Start up and then you are good to go. Sometimes, the gauge goes back to normal before you hit limp mode and before you shut down. I've replaced the temp sensor as well. It seemed to do better for a bit, then went back to its old tricks. It seems that it is worse in stormy weather.
Every time you talk to a mechanic about it, they say "replace the thermostat. Flush the coolant." Been there, done that-- they don't hear you when you tell them "the truck is NOT overheating" The wires look good, but more and more, it seems like that must be the problem.
In the meantime, anyone want to buy a 97 Expedition?
#3 of 5 Re: 03 Temp sensor malfunction [97expedition]
Jan 24, 2011 (3:54 pm)
It took a while to find the problem. I had to resort to taking it to the dealer and letting them troubleshoot it. It took them about a week and several conferences with Ford headquarters to determine that it was a cracked block near the temp sensor. It was a very small, hairline crack that would only open under the right circumstances and was small enough that it didn't cause the entire cooling system to overheat. The result and only solution was a complete engine replacement (long block) that cost me about $6K. Needless to say, I was extremely unhappy. This is my wife's car, which she depends on to haul around a bunch of kids during the day so my wife was the one who authorized the go ahead. I'm not so sure I would have spent the money otherwise. I was highly disappointed that Ford did not offer to even discount the work since it was obviously not caused by abuse. The vehicle had a little over 60K miles on it at the time. Of course, I haven't had any similar problems with the vehicle since this work was done and my wife is happy, so I suppose alls well that ends well (except my checkbook). To say that I'm soured on Fords and their customer service would be an understatement. I'm not sure that I'll ever buy one again due to their attitude that it was just my tough luck that this happened to me.
I hope this isn't what your problem is. It seems like testing the wires should be relatively simple if that is the problem, so you might try that next.
#4 of 5 Re: 03 Temp sensor malfunction [test1328]
Jan 25, 2011 (5:50 am)
Thank you for responding. I'm sorry to hear of your troubles with your Expedition. Mine currently has 167,000 on its original engine, so I hope that your new engine will last you a while.
I have been concerned that maybe I have something major like a cracked block or a head gasket on its way out. These symptoms seemed so odd that I was hoping that this problem was some simple $100 fix and I'd be on my way. Considering how long we've had this truck, I'm probably due for something big
#5 of 5 Re: 03 Temp sensor malfunction [97expedition]
Jan 25, 2011 (9:40 am)
Yeah, I think my problem with that engine is actually fairly rare. There are enough of the 5.4L engines out there that if it was common, everyone would know about it and Ford would have fixed it. That was one reason that I was disappointed that Ford didn't step up and help out since it was so unusual. Best of luck to you in fixing your problem. I hope it's not too expensive for you.