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CitizenPete 04-09-2012 06:53 PM

Help. 2000 Zetec spitting out coolant from plug holes on valve cover!
I am not familiar with this vehicle or engine. [dunno] It is a new used car.

After this Zetec engine heats up steam and sometime coolant come up from the plug holes into the space in the valve cover between the two OHCs. There is a hiss and even when coolant is not flooding out you can see steam. There is no foaming present on the dipstick nor excessive white (or blue) smoke from the tail pipe, just the vapor and fluid streaming from around the spark plug wires the center of the valve cover. The spark plug "wells" have residue of coolant and the plugs are coated in a brown/cream crystalline powder, much like the valve cover.

I have new plugs and wires but I won't replace them until this coolant problem is solved.


Similar thread with no conclusion:

My guess is that this is a probably a fairly negative situation [nutkick] that is probably going to put me well over my budget to fix up this "new" used vehicle.

Is this a gasket or even worse?

I'm in for almost $900 already (out of a $1700 total budget). Is this going to be a lost cause with never ending problems? Do I punt?

Attempting to "fix up" a 2000 Focus ZX3 Sport, 3 Door, (90+K miles) -- doing simple things myself (filters, bulbs, wipers, wires/plugs, mats, etc.) and then taking to mechanic for "real work". Invested $880 so far: $700 in body work (fender and hood R&R) and $180 in misc parts and filters. Car body and interior are clean.

Was planning on paying for timing belt R&R, 2 tires, oil and lube, fix sticking throttle, coolant flush, PCV.

Need a car that runs dependably for my daughter at school (4 hours away).

pasta 04-09-2012 06:56 PM

sounds like head gasket

CitizenPete 04-09-2012 06:58 PM

no foam in oil, no steam in exhaust

So the "channel" where the plugs go are sealed off from the cam heads by the gasket on valve cover. So where (and how) can coolant get from the water jacket below into this channel without the head being cracked???


" Coolant is very slowly Leaking and filling up spark plug hole in 2005 1.6 Ford Focus Zetec Climate Auto? Could it be rocker (valve) cover gasket? "
"I have a 1.6lx that had the same problem; it was the core plugs that were corroded, they cost 87p each from Ford and took a garage to 2 hours to fix; replaced my ht leads and spark plugs and blasted the car on the motorway problem fixed "

This sounds like this may be the problem!?

Found these two posts as well (again, both from the UK):

"Found my problem to be one of the 2 core plugs or also known as frost plugs to be leaking. These are located between spark plug 1 & 2 and 3 & 4. They blow if engine freezes. Screwed in with hex key.
Could not get plug out, tried Block sealant fluid, Lasted for about 2 days then blew again.
Replaced 3 plug and leaks stopped. Huge hassle getting plug out ended up drilling and chisel.
Sealed new plug with copper gasket sealant and nylon threaded PTFE tape. Still going."

FOCUS 2.0i Zetec X Reg (2000) Engine Light/Misfiring/Water in spark plug wells [...]

"It is usually a core plug in the cylinder head inbetween the spark plug wells that leaks , using the rad weld may of cured it ( for now ) . The current misfire could be the coil packing in because of the amount of time the H.T leads were immersed in coolant or it could be If the coolant level is low the cylinder head temperature sensor shuts cylinders down to keep the engine temperature down and allow you to drive home with the misfire. Would be well worth quickly checking the coolant level as it may of settled a bit , hope this helps a bit ."

"Previous post is correct. Remove the core plugs (big hexagonal screws between spark plugs) seal threads and refit. [...]"

amc49 04-10-2012 04:05 PM

Are you SURE it's coolant? VERY common for road splash to end up in these holes.

CitizenPete 04-10-2012 06:11 PM


Originally Posted by amc49 (Post 4102535)
Are you SURE it's coolant? VERY common for road splash to end up in these holes.

Yes. Car has been sitting idle in a garage for 3 months, but has been started.

We were holding the RPMs steady at 4500 while adding some cleaner to the motor (via the throttle intake) and the coolant started to gurgle and spit up though the channel.

As you can hear (hissing noise) and see (steam from the plug channel) in the video link above this happens after it heats up. The channel starts dry and then fills up with coolant. I think the metal "plugs" in the head (NOT talking about SPARK plugs) or a possible a cracked head -- I don't believe it is any gasket.

whynotthinkwhynot 04-10-2012 07:04 PM

Can you see anything now that you have the VC off? I'm not super duper familiar with the Zetec, but those look like they might be freeze plugs, or at least threaded plugs into cooling channels between cyl 1&2, and 3&4.

Let me know, maybe I can advise.

CitizenPete 04-10-2012 07:35 PM

Thanks for reaching back to me.

I can see the two freeze plugs from the open holes in the valve cover where the plug wires go and one for the freeze plugs looks pretty badly corroded -- I believe this is the culprit! (...but maybe I should R&R both, just to be certain?) I started "treating" the plug with WD-40 to prepare it for removal.

If it is this plug (and it comes out), it should be a inexpensive repair.

(The photos with the cover removed are not from my vehicle. I need the parts first)

I went to an auto parts store (AutoZone) today and they had no clue what a core plug or freeze plug was and could not find a part. I called a Ford dealer and got the same result? WTH? Everyone within ear shot at the AutoZone told me I had a blown head gasket. (Baloney!) A mechanic who was at the store (who happened to be picking up parts to fix another 2000 Focus), offered his moonlight services and would bring over the equipment (w/ screw adapter for overflow reservoir) to pressurize the coolant system, to verify where coolant is leaking from. I will probably take him up on his offer.

I have to find some place to order the plugs! Should not be so difficult to find these!

I will follow up on this post, so others with this issue can benefit from this. Any input, thoughts, rants, raves, questions of any kind would be appreciated.

winterbeater 04-10-2012 08:29 PM

The "freeze plugs" , actually core plugs to clean out casting sand, come in standard sizes. Once you get one out, you will be able to check the size and replace with generic.

Odd though, I scoured the FSM, and they don't show up.

Checked Rockauto - they call them cylinder head plugs - in the general category.

1turbofocus 04-10-2012 09:33 PM

If I am not mistaken they screw in and out , they are VERY hard to get out and most times the strip the torex out , I hope there not that much trouble for you to get out

And winterbeater is correct they are there to dubp the sand from the inner core which is also what freeze plugs in the blocks are there for , freeze plugs are not there for when the block freezes


whynotthinkwhynot 04-11-2012 05:20 AM

WD40 is an inferior rust penetrating lube. Use PB Blaster or Aerokroil for better results. Never use WD40 on hinges, latches or any other moving metal part because it dissolves grease. Use silicone grease or lithium spray grease instead.

There you have it from the Zetec experts, remove the plugs and replace. Now you might have a problem re-installing the plugs and getting it to seal correctly. I can't think of any industrial compounds to use to seal the threads. I don't think thread lock would be a good idea, and I'd worry that thread sealant would last in that environment. The only thing that I can think to use would be Permatex Indian head gasket tack which should be available on the same aisle as RTV in any parts store. It's in a brown bottle about 2" tall. Paint that on the plug threads before you screw it back in. Finding a replacement plug could prove very difficult, so I hope you don't have to damage that one to remove it like 1Turbofocus wrote.

Another point to note, since you're new to repairs and such on vehicles. While you're there getting some gasket tack, get you some anti-seize for your spark plugs as well. It should always be used on spark plugs in aluminum heads, and I also use it on outer CV shafts. You can also find anti-seize at hardware stores, but make sure that you purchase the nickel based type, sometimes labeled as "Nuclear grade", which is good for 2400F. Copper based is only good for 500F, and not suitable for spark plugs. Blue thread lock is good to have around, but you have no need for red. The difference is that blue can be removed with extra torque, but red must be heated with a propane torch to be removed. You also have no uses for high temp copper RTV. Blue (coolant), black (oil), and grey (both) are all you'll ever need. Gray is the most effective/long lasting from my experiences, but has extremely long dry and cure times, so not always the best idea for driveway repairs.

You could use blue RTV on the plug threads as well if you can't find gasket tack.

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