What to Look For when Buying an SC
Posted By Michael Albee
Beside the normal things you look for when buying a used car, the Super Coupe has a few problems that you need to watch out for. The purpose of this article is to inform you about these things and to point out a few other things that you should look for.
The first thing to look for is the head gaskets. On engines that have over 110,000 miles, these gaskets can fail if the cooling system has not been properly maintained. The best way to insure against head gasket failure is to change the anti-freeze every year. In a normal vehicle it is recommended every 2-3 years depending on the amount of miles driven annually. Head gaskets are hard to check, so you have to rely on the current owner to tell you if they have ever been replaced and how well the cooling system has been taken care of. A visual inspection can tell you if there are any current problems. Look for weeping our leaking around the head to block mounting areas.
The second thing to look for is excessive supercharger noise. With the engine running at an idle, listen closely to the bearing located just behind the SC pulley. A small amount of noise is acceptable, but if it makes an inconsistent growling noise the bearing will need to be replaced. This will cost about 150.00 dollars to have done if you have to take it somewhere. (Less if you are able to do the work yourself).
The bearing may not be bad due to abuse. It may just be that the oil level in the SC needs filled. It is very common for the oil level to be low because no one every checks it. The factory says that it needs to be changed every 60,000 miles, so everyone assumes that it doesn’t need to be checked either. The fact is, the SC will use a small amount of oil. The SC holds about 7 oz of special oil. So when it uses a small amount of oil it will get low reasonably fast. If it’s low for very long it can cause bearing damage. The oil for the SC can be purchased from the Ford dealer, but it is less expensive at your GM dealer. The GM Part number is: 12345982 and runs $5-$6 per 4 oz bottle.
The next thing to look for is the Automatic Ride Control system (ARC). There are 4 sensors, one on each shock. These sensors go bad from time to time, but the biggest problem is that the sensors get dirty and send out false readings. These false readings look just like one of the sensors has failed. When the sensor goes bad (or can’t read correctly) it sends a pulse to the “Firm Ride” light on the dash. It will flash the light 1,2,3 or 4 times. This number of flashes tells you which sensor is bad or not reading correctly. The Super Coupe has a separate computer system for the ride control so if the computer goes bad, it will continue to flash the “Firm Ride” light the whole time the key is on.
That’s about it for the things you need to watch out for on the SC, but there are a few thing to look for on all Thunderbirds.
First, the front brake rotors. One hard stop can warp the rotors bad enough to give you a pulsing peddle. The rotors can be turned once and after that they will need to be replaced. (Stock rotors are about $30.00 each).
Another thing to look over carefully is the front suspension. The upper and lower ball joints are not that substantial and they go bad from time to time. The aftermarket parts will last a lot longer than the factory parts. To check them, remove the front tires and put pressure (up and down) on the hub. If you see any movement in the upper or lower joint it will need to be replaced. To replace both upper and lower joints it will run about $700.00, and will require an alignment after they are replaced.
When the car is running it should idle smoothly and at a fixed RPM. Rough or pulsing idle could be caused by vacuum leaks, bad motor mounts or bad IAC. Motor mount replacement is quite a chore on these cars and can be labor expensive, if you cannot do your own work. To test the mounts have someone rev the engine in gear with the hood open. Watch the engine movement. If it raises up excessively toward the passenger side, the motor mounts may need to be replacement.
Also watch the ABS light and brake light that are on the dash when you start and apply the brakes while driving the car. If they stay on too long, you could have some expensive ABS problems to fix.
The last thing I can think of are the wheel bearings. Just make sure that they are not making any noise and they should be fine. Just be aware that they go bad at about 120,000 miles (sometimes even earlier if the cars has been abused).
This is the major stuff you should look at. I hope that you have as much fun with your new SC as I’m having with mine.
NOTE: The suggestions posted in this article were received from several different sources. These include postings on the SCCoA by George Davenport, TCCoA tech board, the TBU website among others.