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I have a 2003 Ford Escape V6. I'd have to say a couple of months ago my oil light popped on (most of the time only when I hit the brakes), then it would kind of blink a lot until I was on the gas again. Over time, after I drove for probably 20 minutes or so it would pop on and stay on while driving.

I checked my oil level at least once a day and it was always between the minumum and max line (also it is time for a oil change but I wanted to try and fix this first because of its chance of being major). I kept driving and keeping an eye on my levels. A few time it got a little low where I would add a half a quart and it would be fine again, but never low enough that my oil light should come on.

Then, after some time my coolant light would pop on and off. I also checked my reservoir and my coolant isn't low at all and my car does not overheat. They both came on at same time for a while but neither were low. Then, after some time my oil light quit coming on, but now my coolant light is on and stays on but the car is not low on water and my car never overheats. I looked under the hood at this point more thoroughly (I know I should have done so ahead of time but since it was not low on oil or water I just figured it was a sensor) because I noticed after driving that when I park there is white smoke coming out from out from underneath the hood for a minute or so after turning off and you can smell in the AC air and heat of something burning, but I cant tell if its coolant or oil.

When I looked both were still full, my oil was just above minumum mark but that shouldn't cause the oil light to come on previously, even though it hadn't been coming on for a while, only the coolant light is on now, but it is still topped off and fine and there are no obvious leaks. On the cover to my engine you can see a big dark spot were some kind of fluid had been leaked on to it and got hot and burning on there, but I dont know if it could have been oil from before or coolant from now.

But to remind you my coolant and oil has never got low enough to cause light to come on, my car does not overheat. It does however have a burning smell in the AC and heat when driven for a while (I would say at least a 25 minute drive), when you stop white smoke comes out of hood and lately I've been noticing it sounds like it is running kind of rough when idling (kind of got a bit of vibration or maybe something else like it shakes the care a little bit when idling and engine doesnt sound normal when idling) so I parked it until I figure this mess out.

Anybody got any ideas?

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2 Answers

Firstly, on most cars (I don't know about the Escape) the oil and coolant warning lights don't warn you of low levels - The oil light warns of low pressure, and the coolant light of high temperature. Therefore, you could easily have low oil pressure while still having plenty of oil.

The first symptom you describe (the light coming on under braking/idle and flickering) is a classic sign of low pressure. The oil pump runs at engine speed, so when you're at idle, it runs slower and so pumps less oil round the engine. If the pump is worn out or the filter is partially clogged, the pressure could easily be low enough to cause problems.

Is it actually smoke that is coming out from the engine bay or steam? You should be able to tell from the smell (but be careful obviously, it'll be hot!). Smoke and a burning smell would normally point to oil, as coolant tends to evaporate as steam rather than burning. Coolant doesn't normally leave a dark stain, that sounds more like oil - coolant deposits are usually reddish or bluish depending on the type of coolant.

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I've seen similar symptoms a couple times before in other cars (I have no Ford experience). In one case it was the oil pump failing (pump later suddenly seized up). In 2 other cases that come to mind it was actually an alternator going overvoltage and freaking out the ECU causing it to pop lights when it shouldn't.

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