1999 K1500 Chevrolet Suburban Overheating/Heater Issues

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  #1  
Old 12-17-10, 01:21 PM
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Unhappy 1999 K1500 Chevrolet Suburban Overheating/Heater Issues

About a month ago I was driving home from work. It was a bone chilling 30 degrees outside (practically the same inside my car). I could not get my heater to blow hot air. I also watched my temp gage go from a normal temp to almost overheating. The gage would get all the way into the red and my "check gages" light would come on. I stopped at the local gas station to fill my reserve tank. I have had to fill the tank about once a month and it had been about a month since I last had. As I looked at the reserve tank I noticed it was still very full, which was unusual but ALSO the tank was no longer the whitish/yellow color. The inside walls of the reserve tank were brownish/red in color (almost like someone had painted the inside of the tank walls that solid color) and the water was also light brown but still clear in color. Not knowing what to do, I closed the hood and continued on my way to pick up my kids and praying my car would not over heat and we could all just get home safely. During my 20 min drive I had the heater running though only freezing cold air would come through the vents. Sporadically the heater would kick on and we would be blessed with warm air for a min or so, at the same time my temp gage would drastically drop within normal range. The next min- freezing cold air and a near overheating temp gage. It continues to keep going back and forth every time I drive my truck. I try not to drive my truck at all right now but its impossible with that being our only transportation. I drive it maybe 3 days a week and it doesn't run for more then 20 min each day I use it. ALSO, when I shut the truck off I can hear a bubbling sound coming from under the hood on the passenger side next to, if not, the reserve tank. A bit of steam also seeps out of the engine compartment but its not a lot and only lasts for a few min. One last thing, I do have a small exhaust leak. Not sure if that has anything to do with anything. I'm just throwing in any extra details I can to help figure this out. Being a single mom with 4 young kids I don't have the money to get it in the shop for expensive repairs right now. I'm hoping it wont be too expensive to fix but the more I talk to people I hear it could be. I've heard things from water pump issues to a broken hose all the way to a cracked something or other. I am not completely knowledgeable when it comes to cars/trucks but I'm not a sissy girl. I do change my own oil and do my own brakes. Basically I just need help diagnosing the problem and any suggestions to help keep my truck running til tax return time

Thanks for any and all help!
 
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  #2  
Old 12-17-10, 02:34 PM
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Likely you have an air bubble in the heater plumbing. When you refill the reservoir is it always plain water or do you use antifreeze? If you are simply filling it with water, your corrosion prevention and freeze protection are probably non-existant. The brown water is the inside of your engine rusting.

Couple of things you need to do:

1. Find & fix the leak.
2. Drain the system and refill with antifreeze.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 02:40 PM
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A little additional info on trying to get heat. After you drain all the crappy water out and refill with fresh antifreeze, park the truck on as steep an incline as you can find (pointing uphill) and remove the radiator cap. Start and warm up engine until the thermostat opens. As it warms up you'll get some overflow from the radiator filler neck, let it go (when you're refilling initially if you leave the level a little low, but visible, in the radiator it won't overflow as much as the engine warms up). When the thermostat opens you should notice a couple of things; generally you'll see the coolant level in the radiator drop and you'll probably see flow in the radiator itself. Also the upper hose will get hot as the coolant begins to flow from the hot engine. As soon as this occurs quickly top off the radiator the rest of the way and install the cap. The air in the system should have been expelled (burped) when the thermostat opened.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 02:46 PM
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And a little money-saving tip; when you buy antifreeze get the full-strength stuff. Do NOT buy the 50/50 prediluted stuff; that's one of the biggest ripoffs going in automotive supplies and you end up paying about 25% more (at least) for the same amount of actual antifreeze.
 
  #5  
Old 12-20-10, 10:15 AM
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Thank you for all your help! Over the weekend I did what you suggested. I couldn't believe how low my radiator was. I would say maybe 1/10th full (I'm an idiot). I drained it out then flushed it with the flush solution. I was having a hard time trying to get it up to temp so I ended up replacing the thermostat as well. It was not functioning properly. I also had to replace the cap. That fell apart when I removed it. So much rust. I flushed, back flushed and ran the water through with the thermostat off and the heater on until it eventually ran clear. It took about 10 min. I was finally able to put it all back together and fill with the coolant and water. My truck is running like a champ. The heat kicks on almost instantly and my temp stays below 200 consistently. My other concern is that my temp seems to fluctuate from about 150-200. Is that normal? If I'm driving on mostly level ground and cruising it stays around 150. If I'm accelerating and/or driving uphill the temp rises quickly to 200. Any additional information would be helpful. Thank you again "the_tow_guy"
 
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Old 01-30-11, 12:39 PM
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If the thermostat is working correctly, then it should warm up to the opening point of the thermostat (usually 195 to 215 degrees) and stay within 10 or 15 degrees of that point. If it is full of coolant with no air pockets, and still fluctuates down to 150 after warmed up, then you may have a problem with the gage or sender.
 
  #7  
Old 01-30-11, 03:40 PM
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i understand it is an old thread, but...

1. you should not have radiator cap, but expansion canister cap only.
2. you definitely boiled your enigne
3. sorry for caps. YOU NEVER EVER MIX DEXCOOL WITH ANYTHING ELSE BUT DEXCOOL. dexcool is official GM coolant that is super sensitive to any additives, should it be water, or a different kind of coolant. it gellyfies and turns into goo.
4. we know you have a leak; those trucks are known to have unnoticeable water pump leaks, as it drips down onto hot parts and evaporates. you MUST locate leak and fix it, or you'll boil engine again.
5. i am afraid that you have exhaust blow-by into your coolant. bad engine head gasket or both. that will explain rust and brown residue.
6. if you do not have blow-by exhaust problem, then that truck was driven on water, or very low water to coolant ration fro long time. that explains brown=rust residue. expect major water pump failure soon. also, your heater core will get plugged with rust and mineral deposits from water.
 
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