Engine hot ~radiator had good flow ~ but it WAS bad radiator

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Old 05-03-07, 04:35 PM
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Engine hot ~radiator had good flow ~ but it WAS bad radiator

I'd like to share something that could perhaps save people with a similar problem, some time and money.

My 91 Dodge Spirit car, with lots of miles, was gradually getting hotter and hotter over the months.

Coolant was disappearing.

First order of business was to put in stop leak. 4 bottles over the course of several months.

The coolant still was disappearing. The coolant also was being blown? out of the radiator as if.....

Well, it was acting like maybe it had a blown head gasket and exhaust gas was forcing out the water.

To rule out the thermostat, I simply removed it. This did nothing, as I suspected...but I had to be sure. The engine was still runing hotter and hotter. On days where we hit the low 70's and sun out, I'd get to within 2 miles of home on my 20 mile trip home, and the red warning light was coming on.

I was living on pins and needles, constantly out of fear of wrecking my engine.

I went to two garages plus called a couple auto parts stores. They all had their theories. But the best advice I got was from a mechanic who advised me to see if the car misfires ONLY for the first few seconds in the morning and to also check the plugs to see if any has rust on the tip and perhaps look for signs of coolant laying on the piston..indications of a head gasket going out.

I did check. No signs of anythign going on at the plugs. No visible signs of wet on the piston tops. No misfire when I first started it up in the morning. (HOPING it's really really not the head gasket as he said my car is notorious for blowing them)..and actually it was replaced about 60,000 miles ago, and the mechanic said the mechanic who did the work maybe ONLY put in a head gasket without machining the head or checking the block surface or maybe not replacing the stretched head bolts.

I really did fear this as when I ran the engine with the radiator cap off, I was getting foaming and it wanted to spill over the top of the radiator. (Possible sigh of head gasket leaking. (You don't always get coolant in the oil...at least in the early stages)

I told everyone I talked to that I had the thermostat out, I had to add coolant. I made sure the belt was not slipping to the water pump. I told them it takes miles for the temp to climb to warm and to near hot. They said these are the toughest problems as the problem could be a little of this and a LITTLE of that. I also told them that last fall I disconnected the lower radiator hose and as fast as I could pour a pail of water into the radiator, it would flow out the bottom hose...indicating the radiator could flow good.

But I still had a hunch and a theory. That it was possible I had 2 problems. The first being that I never sealed the leaky radiator and this could account for the coolant disappearing. The foaming action could be a result of 4 bottles of stop leak (although the guy at the parts store said he doubted that and really thought it was my head gasket.) The supposed good flow through the radiator might be a false indicator, I told myself, because I made this one real important discovery, and this is what you might want to check for under similar circumstances: When the electric radiatror fan would kick on, I felt warm air blowing through it only at the top.

So I theorized that perhaps the first 4 or 5 top cores were clear and this could explain why I could dump water through the radiatror freely, yet it could still overheat, as not enough cores were letting water through them that could get heat stripped from them.

On a hunch and gamble I bought a new radiator for $110.

But before installing it I made sutre the water pump was pumping good by running a garden hose in the lower hose and watched it fly out of the upper hose in spurts. It will go in spurts because the water coming out my garden hose could not keep up with the demand of the pump. But every few seconds I'd get this huge gush to come out, so I knew it was good.

Then I did a side by side test with the old and new radiator. Both felt the same weight. This started to scare me. I thought the old one would weigh more if it had clogged up cores. Then to scare me further, when I blew through the old radiator as fast as I could, and blew through the new one as fast as I could...they were exactly equal. Exactly. Not one bit of restriction on the old one, as far as this test went.

But I went ahead and installed the new radiator.

It WAS the radiator! It runs way cool now. I have to get my thermostat back in, even. My theory about some of the cores being open while many were plugged was correct.

So, even if you think you are testing out some old radiatror and you think by tests of air and water that it flows good, remember this post.

...............

If any of you have any similar stories to share where you think you could save somebody time and money on things, feel free to post them here.

Sorry for this length. I'll try to make up for this by not posting so much tonight.
 
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Old 05-03-07, 06:49 PM
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OK, I'll admit that I did not read past paragraph #4, but it sounds about like the story of my wifes Subaru Legacy. The first bottle of stop leak worked for a month. The second bottle plugged the radiator... That was an expensive lesson to learn.
 
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Old 05-04-07, 08:32 AM
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I'm generally a pretty observant person. I never noted a correlation, suddenly, between dumping one bottle in, and then having it suddenly get hot after pouring in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th bottles. That is the thing. It took months for the temp to gradually work my gauge up to about 7/8ths towards hot, on the gauge.

I also wish to point out while I am here, that I may be off some in assessing that only 4 or 5 cores up top were clear. Perhaps 2/3 were clear. But nonetheless, I reached some point where the bottom portion was plugged enough to cause the engine to start running quite warm after I had driven about the first 8 highway miles.

What also seemed interesting to me was in the fact that the gauge gradually climbed up to about 3/4 towards hot in those frist 8 miles when the temp out was like 50-some degrees in the morning (and that was even with the thermostat left out of the vehicle) on the way to work. But then that gauge would pretty much hold in that position, without getting any hotter. But on the way home when the afternoon temps reached about 70 and the sun was out, I was sitting on pins and needles as from about 8-20 miles, the temp gauge woud inch up more and more towards hot.

Luckily, I got the problem fixed (replaced radiator as mentioned) before ever blowing the head .and I never allowed the engine to start steaming.

Here is another oddity I am going to have to look into with this car: When I was having this overheating problem, I noted that my electric radiator fan was only coming on after it reached about the 2/3 way towards hot mark on the gauge. Now...this morning, I noticed that as I sat idling next to this guy, talking out my window (my neighbor across the street is driving his wife's '91 Spirit to the junk yard today and wanted to know if I needed to strip anything off the car), my fan was coming on, periodically with now the gauge only reading at about 1/4. Hmmmm. I'm wondering now if the fan is electrically tied in with the ECU system and certain functions have now corrected themselves since the new radiator, causing the fan to relay on when it should now..when before it was not.
 
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Old 05-06-07, 10:14 AM
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Here is an interesting update.

I finally got the thermostat put back in this morning. It is only in the low 60's out and windy. After I put coollant back in, to replace what ran out when I took off the thermostat housing, and I drove to the next town about 10 miles away, the temp went up to about 3/4 hot and stayed there. Sort of like how it was before I changed out the radiator!

But I did NOT make a mistake by needlessly putting in the radiator. I know that for a fact as I ALSO had the thermostat out well before I changed out the radiator and had often times transferred and/or added coolant not only to the radiator, but also to this riser pipe I made, coming off one of the heater hoses. Even on a day where I found the coolant level up all the way in the old radiartor, with the thermostat out..it still ran hot. So I know it was the radiator. My problem now (air bubble) just must be mimicking it.

It was only after I put in the new radiator that the gauge stayed way down by low temp and stayed there no matter how many milkes I drove, and actually got COOLER out on the highway.

So right now, I am hoping that I have that nuisance problem these types of cars go through that I have an air bubble in there after I put in the (closed) thermostat and topped off the coolant. There was probably air stuck BEHIND (engine side) of the thermostat. My 2 plugs on the stat housing are stuck (one is stripped), so that is one of the reasons I invented/stuck in the riser pipe off the heater hose. With that system I can undo the radiator cap and add coolant to the higher riser pipe and then watch the level rise under the radiator cap.

In a few minutes, I'm going back out to the car and do this procedure and see how much I had to add, and then run it for a bit, and retest later. I'll keep you updated. This will then show you and people with cars like this perhaps what such an air bubble can do. Hopefully I get rid of it, or that stat is coming out, for the summer!

...or I have a multiple probelm that either that stat is not opening all the way when it should (195), or the gauge is off.
 
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Old 05-06-07, 06:29 PM
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I know it sounds bad, but I'm glad I'm not the only one that has days (weeks) like this...

It took me a long time to burp a Subaru SVX. I finally resorted to some hard driving (fun) and letting it warm up & cool down several times.
 
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Old 05-06-07, 07:18 PM
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DaVeBoY, is your engine a Chrysler made 2.2 L 4cyl or is it the Mitsubishi motor ?
If it's the 2.2L 4 cyl , that motor is bullit proof and the Mitsubishi is well.......it's not bullit proof.
 
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Old 05-07-07, 07:07 AM
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It is not the 2.2. I had the 2.2 in my 85 Dodge mini ram van. It had the carburetor also.

I have the 2.5 engine with the TBI injection.

Here is a further progress report regarding the overheating and the issue regarding when the fan comes on:

So I'm at my friends posting here yesterday, after driving 20 miles to town with now the new radiator in AND today had put the thermostat back in. (It ran real cool as you recall with the thermostat out) It was about 62 degrees out, cloudy and windy; not conducive to engine overheating. So, within 10 miles of driving the temp climbed back up to it's old previous getting warm-hot self, where the gauge went up about 3/4 to hot. (Dadburn it!)

Now, here is the intersting part; the fan did not try to come on until about that point! And even when running, it had a hard time bringing the temp lower.

So while I posted here, I went out to my car engine and transfered coolant from the resevoir to the radiator to try to rule out an air bubble (maybe caused when I put the thermostat back in. I did this procedure TWICE yesterday before I went home. On the last fill, I noted the level of coolant under the radiator cap was about full. Indicating that chances are the air was gone.

I drove home and it was back trying to ge warm-hot againat even *over* 3/4 way toward hot. More like 7/8!

I let the motor cool in my driveway and re-removed the thermostat and then, without adding more coolant (I think all I lost anyway was less than 1 pint), I idled the car. The car warmed up to halfway between hot and cold on the gauge and then the fan came on. (Too high IMO.)

Now here is what is odd; before, with either the bad (for sure) radiator, even with the thermostat out which would make it very difficult to trap an air bubble...the fan came on only when the car got to about 3/4 hot. Yet now, idling, with the thermostat back out, the fan came on within half way between hot and cold.

Now get THIS one: So, I shut off the car for the night, and this morning I noted that when I idled the car, it never got even to 1/4 up from cold, and the fan came on! I also noted that the coolant level in the resevoir was lower, like more coolant got drawn into the motor to change places with a possible air bubble? It's like there is more to these sensors than what most people realize. I idled the car a long time and it methodically came on at about the same point, ran a while and shut off with the temp now even cooler yet. I took an infrared reading to the stat housing of 194 degrees while this was going on.

So now, driving to town this morning, I noted that the temp, driving 60 mph into the wind, made the temp drop to just between cold and 1/4. But then when I sat at the stop and go light (only 56 degrees out) the temp got ABOVE the 1/4 mark before the fan came on!

So I'm not sure what the capabilities all are about the temp sensor and if the computer is tied in before it sends the current to the fan relay?..or if there IS some issue that the temp sensor MUST be not only hot enough but absolutely covered in coolant without an air bubble?

It be easy to say there are glitches with either the temp sensor or fan relay, but what throws that theory out the window, in my mind, is the fact that during all these tests of new radiator, thermostat in, thermostat out, etc., there is a consistency of when the fan kicks on. For example...when I was having that 3/4 towards hot reading?..the fan NEVER came on at less than 1/4 up from cold, like it did this morning. Never. It ONLY came on when the temp was about 3/4 to hot.

That is why I am wondering if the computer is involved with this more than what people realize.

I got some more talking to do with parts house people.

Oh...and then I boiled the thermostat in a kettle last night with an accurate candy thermometer that recorded 212 exactly at boil. My meager 7/8 inch diameter opening hole in the thermostat only opens 3/16 inch at 212. It BEGAN to open at 185. It is a 195 rated thermostat. I am going to ask the parts store if there is a high performance, larger opening thermostat...or perhaps try to get a cooler one. I am not going to flirt around anymore with those higher readings. And it is not even 80 out...or 95 out!

Hopefully the guy about the 91 Spirit in the Automotive thread reads this.
 
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Old 05-07-07, 01:45 PM
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After I left here from posting this morning, I went to the auto parts store, as they TOO are interested in my ongoing saga. I ended up buying a 180 degree thermostat, and tonight I will test it, in hot water on the stove, like I did the 195 one, and see if it opens up further the time it gets to 195 or so. Otherwise I am going to be driving without the stat in all summer long as it runs at a good even temp, at about 1/4 up from cold, or a little less, with the stat out.
 
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Old 05-07-07, 09:46 PM
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Dave,

Your fan should come on consistently at 212 degrees exactly. No more, no less. The sending unit sends the temp to the PCM which turns on the fan. The only other times it would come on are when the AC is on.
 
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Old 05-08-07, 05:18 PM
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cheese,

What does PCM stand for? (Is the CM part 'computer module'?)

Explain perhaps plausible explanation how fan comes on at times when at about 1/8-1/4 up from cold, on gauge, with engine running cooler with thermostat left out... and other times before this when I had the thermostat IN, and the temps were approaching 3/4 way to hot and beyond...that the earliest the fan would come on was at about 3/4 up towards hot, on the gauge. I caught it one time come on with the stat in the engine, at just over 1/2 on the gauge...but usually it would only kick on at about the 3/4 gauge reading mark.

And now, as I said, with the thermostat out, the fan kicks on at 1/4 or lower.
 
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Old 05-09-07, 12:43 AM
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PCM = "Powertrain Control Module"

The erratic operation of the fan could be due to a hundred things. Without plugging in an OBD scanner (not just a code reader) and reading the coolant temp sensor, and watching the operation of the controls, you'll only be guessing. The PCM is doing things based on the information it receives. That information is what you need to know to be able to diagnose this problem. I can only tell you that the PCM only turns on the fan when the coolant temp sensor reads 212 degrees.
 
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Old 05-13-07, 12:58 PM
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There are some posts in Automotive right now that relate to this:

As promised, I said I would report back with results of what I found out about my old radiator; the one I said I could blow through as good as with the new radiator, and also ran garden hose water freely through it (albeit water was probably only coming out about 4 gpm's).

I hacksawed off the entire plastic end cap this Mother's Day morning , and exposed every core without disturbing any cores. Over 1/2..maybe 2/3 of the radiator's cores were completely limed shut with tannish smooth lime. I could not even poke through it with my sharp tip of my jacknife.

Who knows how many owners of this car there were before me, and maybe others had run it in the summer with mostly water in the radiator, with perhaps some stop leak, for all I know. I wonder if a car that has always had 50/50 coolant in it coud leave such deposits as this. (Car has about 237,000 on it now.)

By looking at this, I scratch my head as to how I could quickly blow through such a radiator...as good as I could with the new one I compared next to it.

Of further interest to some of you: Have you ever cut through the transmission cooler inside the radiator? I did. It is about a 10 inch? long double-walled brass tube maybe over 1 inch in diameter and in between the tube layers, separated only by about 1/8 inch tops, is corrugated copper. That's it.
 
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Old 05-14-07, 04:49 AM
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I think that's enough on the subject; this is not a blog.

Thread closed.
 
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