WASHINGTON - Some head gaskets have been giving headaches to Ford Motor Co.
The gaskets are in 3.8-liter V-6 engines used in various car and truck models from 1988 to 1995.
Ford approved an extended warranty for 717,000 of the vehicles in mid-1998, but critics say the effort isn't enough.
The Center for Auto Safety, a Washington consumer group, accused the company of having a secret warranty for customers who did not qualify for the extended program but who complained loudly enough.
Ford spokesman Mike Vaughn called the secret warranty claim 'absolutely not true,' but said Ford does have a pool of 'after-warranty assistance' money dealers can use to correct problems for loyal customers.
The center asked Ford to provide free repairs for failures at any time up to 120,000 miles and to reimburse owners for past repairs. Center officials said replacement of the gaskets costs up to $1,600.
Vaughn said the extended warranty spans six years or 75,000 miles for the 1994 Lincoln Continental and five years or 60,000 miles for the 1994-95 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable and 1995 Ford Windstar.
The owner of a 1995 Windstar, Chuck Catanese of Independence, Ky., has created an Internet site (http: home.att.net/~ccatanese/ford) to provide owners of 3.8-liter engines with tips on how to get help.
On auto-related Internet bulletin boards and in chat rooms, owners of the affected vehicles have discussed the possibility of a class-action lawsuit.