To paraphrase The Beatles, the Taurus is getting better all the time. With fresh oil, transmission fluid, and filters, the Vulcan V6 has new blood running through its veins. And with four new struts it can now be driven much longer distances with confidence.
Plus, those weren’t the only maintenance issues addressed recently. But everything that’s been done has culminated in Miss Cougar (the Taurus formerly known as Raging Bull) running stronger than she has been for quite some time.
Like my previous experience working on the Taurus, the weather partially dictated when I decided to embark on this latest quest. New York hasn’t received much rain lately. No water means lawn mowing and weed trimming have become, at most, bi-weekly events. Which made June 27 the perfect day to replace some fluids.
First up was the oil change.
Thankfully, draining and replacing the oil and filter took maybe a half hour, at best. It was far less messy than I expected and I didn’t mind doing it at all. In fact, if the Focus needed an oil change right now I probably would have done it too.
I had also planned on replacing the oil level sensor because my mechanic said the Taurus needed a new one back in February. I’m not sure why he thought it needed to be replaced because right now everything seems to be fine and Miss Cougar is not telling me she needs oil even when that is not the case so for now I’ll just hang on to it. At $77, it was an expensive purchase, but I figure I might need it someday, so it won’t be returned.
I put some old oil into a cup to see how dark the old stuff was. Replacement wasn’t crucial but definitely a good idea.
With a successful oil change out of the way I tackled everything related to draining and replacing the transmission fluid and filter.
With no drain plug and 17 bolts to hold it in, draining and taking off the pan was no walk in the park. The confidence that built up after the oil change quickly evaporated. This was the start of a time consuming process that lasted pretty much the rest of the day. Loosening the bolts and tilting the pan in a way that minimized spills required careful planning and a slow, steady pace.
I somehow managed to spill a trivial amount of transmission fluid dropping the pan, which was a minor miracle. But I forgot about the fluid in the filter. That resulted in a decent amount of fluid being released all down my arm and back as I immediately turned away from the warm fluid bearing down on me. Some also made its way onto the cardboard and spill pad on the floor. This is an important detail for later.
Now came the task of getting out all the stuff needed to replace the fluid and filter. We initially thought I had ordered the wrong one but ATP included a handy little sheet that stated it was simply a redesigned filter. Interestingly enough, the new design seems to have been made for the AX4S transmission, which was the updated AXOD-E that Ford installed in the Taurus and other vehicles from 1993-2003. But the sheet said it was compatible with the AXOD from 1986 so we breathed a sigh of relief. I would have taken a picture of the paper but it got covered in fluids somehow and became unreadable.
With the pan out and the filter situation resolved, the next step was to clean up the extremely dirty pan. One lesson learned from this experience is that one should always have a decent amount of brake cleaner available when doing these types of jobs.
Both sides needed to be cleaned and I was pretty thorough when getting all types of dirt and old gasket off of the pan. These pics aren’t the finished product. I took a break while cleaning and decided to get some photos for posterity.
I also made sure to clean any gasket material off the area the pan is affixed to as well. Fortunately, there wasn’t much there. Cleaning all this stuff took quite a while and really zapped my energy. I was very happy once we were ready to put everything back together. One thing that was conspicuously absent was any type of magnet to catch any metal shavings.
The new filter fit perfectly into its connection with the provided bracket. Putting that in was a cakewalk compared to the effort required to properly torque all 17 bolts in a pattern that would ensure the gasket would stay sealed. Not only did my muscles ache from having to contort myself to get the bolts and wrench in position, I also rested my back and head right onto the pool of transmission fluid that spilled out of the filter earlier in the day. That doomed the shirt I was wearing to the trash bin (not a big loss because it was already a “work shirt”) and required me to use lots of shampoo on the back of my head for about twenty minutes in the shower in order to get all the fluid out.
But the outcome made the whole thing worth it. At 47k miles, it’s entirely possible that the Taurus has never had its transmission fluid replaced. Miss Cougar clearly needed it. She took about 6.5 quarts total. That’s about half the capacity for the Taurus, as the car requires 13.3 quarts total.
And I recently checked the fluid condition on the dipstick. The old fluid would have looked brown, so this was an encouraging sight. I have also properly checked the level since the replacement and everything looks good. That being said, I’m not sure I would do it again. The process took way longer than anticipated and I got covered in fluid, which obviously wasn’t great. In the future I may end up just getting it professionally done, provided they don’t do a flush.
My fluid mishap forced me to do some other cleaning as well. On the June 29 I went into the Taurus for a reason I can’t remember and quickly realized that the driver’s seat had transmission fluid on it. I had driven the Taurus around in my soiled state to make sure the car was fine but must have not realized how much fluid had soaked into my head and back.
Once I realized what had happened I immediately set out to clean the seat. And I didn’t just clean the driver’s seat. I did all the leather inside the car. Curbside Classic’s 2020 MVP Bill Gardner recommended Lexol several months ago and I fortunately ordered some based on that advice. It worked extremely well. You can see several white stains on the previous picture. I didn’t think those would come out but the cleaner took them right off. Thanks Bill! This stuff is great.
You can sort of see the difference between driver’s armrest, which at that point had been cleaned, and the passenger side armrest, which had not. Basically, every leather surface had a thin layer of dirt on it and I never really liked sitting inside the car until I cleaned it. I still need to go over everything again to eliminate some caked in stains and to apply the conditioner, but the seats are now pretty damn clean. I am also relieved that the cleaner didn’t wipe out the natural leather smell emitted by the seats. It disappeared for a little while but eventually came back.
The next project involved replacing the struts. I initially decided on replacing them myself but realized having the struts professionally installed was the better option. Besides, my local tire shop said they’d perform another alignment free of charge if I had the struts done there since I had them do one when I bought two new tires for the Taurus back in early March.
So why did I buy these particular struts myself? Three reasons. First, KYB offered a $75 rebate to anyone who purchased a complete set of struts between April 15 and June 30. As you can see from the above screenshot, that basically makes the KYB struts cheaper than the Monroe Quick Struts. Second, the KYB struts seem to be pretty popular at the Taurus Car Club of America. That thread is just one of several where members chimed in to say that they’re the best ones for the Taurus. They were also cheaper than whatever struts the shop would have put on. Previously, they quoted me $440 for the struts. I unfortunately forgot to ask them which struts they’d have gone with. Which brings me to my last reason for getting them: the shop apparently could not order the struts themselves. I have no idea why that was the case. But they said they’d install the struts if I brought them in so I promptly went to Rock Auto and purchased the complete set. With taxes and shipping the total cost for the struts was just under $400.
Surprisingly, the struts arrived at my doorstep exactly 48 hours after they were ordered. Turns out they didn’t have far to travel as they came from a warehouse in Hempstead, New York. After receiving the struts I made an appointment to drop off Miss Cougar for what I assumed would be one day. The Taurus ended up staying for two days as they were busy. Having Fishkill Tire professionally install the struts set me back about $481.
An extra day wasn’t a big deal at all. Although I didn’t exactly want to spend $900 (before rebate) on new struts so soon, I would have had to swallow that pill sooner or later. The old struts were pretty far gone up front and the rear units were clearly way past their prime. They might have been the original struts too.
Besides, it’s hard to argue with results. The car is now a pleasure to drive. Miss Cougar has officially regained her footing. With the new struts ready for action I am now much more likely to take the car out on a regular basis. And I already have to a certain extent. She received her first highway cruise with yours truly at the helm, as you can see in the above video. There’s nothing especially remarkable about the video itself. I just drive Miss Cougar up to 79 mph. At roughly 1:00 in you can hear me laugh because my brain realized how special it is to own a first year Taurus in such good condition. Finally, the Taurus has lived up to the potential it presented when it showed up to my house on that extremely cold night back in February.
Big ticket items aside, there were also some small victories. Fishkill Tire fixed the trunk torsion bars at no cost. The trunk now opens and stays up on its own. A tip of the hat to Jim Klein for his valiant attempt to assist me on that matter. I also replaced the windshield washer pump. That was extremely easy and I didn’t even have to drain the wiper fluid out to do it.
But Miss Cougar still needs a little more TLC. Despite the title of this update, I haven’t replaced every fluid in the car. A power steering drain and fill is in order. I also need to drive the car more because it tends to buck and stutter around 10 mph. My assumption is bad gas but if that isn’t the case I’d like to figure out why Miss Cougar is behaving a bit badly. And speaking of gas, the analog gauge doesn’t work. That’s another reason to drive the car, because it’s being treated with Techron fuel cleaner, which I’m told might fix the issue. The driver’s side door cannot be opened from the inside and the air conditioning is dead. The controls for the digital dash don’t work either. And there’s other things that I have probably forgotten about too.
Regardless, Miss Cougar is a delight to be around and I’m extremely happy she’s able to be regularly driven now. Stay tuned for more Taurus updates!