This guy helped me so much. Thank you, "Bushougoma."
Last Thursday, I finally replaced the 138,000 mile original fuel filter on my '99 Sable. Such an easy job! Note to Dad and self - change these more often. I thought my car had been running perfectly before, but man! After all that back pressure was taken off the fuel system, the difference was astounding. I didn't even expect a difference in the first place. When I went out for the first drive, the idle rpm was so low - 600 as opposed to the 750 that I was used to - that I thought the intake had sprung another vacuum leak. Nope. It was probably because the idle air/fuel ratio got better. Also, throttle response improved dramatically. My wagon now shot forward eagerly at the lightest tap of the gas and no longer felt underpowered. Approaching and surpassing 3000 rpm, which I rarely do, the engine no longer sounded strangled. The deep, throaty exhaust note continued, as did rapid acceleration. My butt dyno thought the car had been reborn!
My reaction during the test drive.
On a related note:
While I was under the car, a startling discovery was made:
That's what you call progressive weight reduction.
To give some background, pictured above is the condition the left side rocker was in last summer when I was patching the brake line. The rockers were so badly rusted that when I tapped on the plastic covers, rust rained down from above. No surprise here though, I'd been aware it for years and 3rd and 4th generation (1996-2005/7) Sables/Tauruses are pretty rust-prone on the bottom corners. Many on the road have missing rocker covers and sagging rear suspension due to rusted-out shock towers. Luckily, my stronger station wagon shock towers are still in good shape.
Anyway, one more year was all it took for the right side rocker to completely disappear.
See how the plastic rocker covers below the doors are sagging a little in the photo above? That's because they're bolted to nothing but thin air. The covers are only secured by the front-most and back-most fasteners which will soon give away as well, as you can tell by the rust in the wheel arch. Dad is insistent that I leave the rocker covers there for aesthetic purposes, but I am convinced that letting them fall on the road is a bad idea and it may cause an accident behind me. For a man that so emphasizes prioritizing for practicality, I think he has his wrong for once.
I discovered this advertisement in a 1996 National Geographic magazine a couple years ago. I am now able to fully appreciate the title of the ad because even though the main structural element is no longer existent, my car doesn't bend in the middle and it hasn't broken in half. Ford engineers did a good job designing the unibody frame to spread the load around.
There has been a rectangle of rust for years now where my car is parked. It actually looks less prominent this year for some unknown reason. The fluid on the ground is from the sometimes-leaky transmission front seal and I've got that under control.
A summary of Thursday, June 26th for me. Also, I should stop using the actual jack points on the rockers.
To finish up what I was talking about in the first paragraph, I still don't exactly know what caused the electrical issues earlier and why they stopped happening. However, I can theorize that from now on, less strain will be placed on the starter motor and fuel pump because of a clean fuel filter. It is likely that these are already worn because we never changed the filter. Also, since idle rpms have been reduced, the transmission's torque converter will generate less heat and wear when sitting in traffic in Drive. I still throw it into neutral for long stops, though.
Any Taurus owners or mechanics have info to confirm my findings or inform me of mistakes?