OT - Van Diagostic Time. Again! Overheated


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Social climber
Douchebag Central
Dec 3, 2012 - 12:17pm PT

Not to worry Happie!!!...

Your Van's being repaired as I write this...


Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Dec 3, 2012 - 12:30pm PT
Stuck thermostat. Easy repair. Do not idle the engine with no coolant in it. If you hear a pinging noise it means you ran the engine with no coolant and bent the valves, lifters and other important parts connected to the heads. That's how one of my old cars died in Death Valley, when the radiator plug blew out. The fix for that, supposedly is to carve a potato into shape which apparently swells up with the hot radiator water. But it doesnt seem like you have a leak.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 3, 2012 - 12:39pm PT
When it rains, it pours.

According to all that's been said - it looks like the overheat may have been low fluid level. I filled it up with coolant. It took about 2/3 jug between yesterday and today, maybe even a full jug, which seems a lot to me.

So I drove it around town back and forth, but not on highway or at that speed, for at least 20 minutes before stopping and turning engine off. The temp moved pretty quickly up to the middle of gauge. Not immediately upon starting. But within a few minutes it started to raise, and then steadily went to the middle. It's a lot hotter and sunnier here than I have been at, so I don't know if that is the way it would normally raise.

But it stayed at the middle, and went down slightly when idling and not moving.

I guess I will be cautious and see what happens.

Now part 2. I stopped and noticed one of my tires needs changing - the belst are showing in a section. I feel So damned stupid right now for not even noticing this wear, though I did know the van needed alignment and ignored it thinking "welll, I will have to get it don in CA."

So, I am pulled over in a shady spot, but this town is not crawling with local and pedestrian traffic(meaning guys who will help).

I figured I would start to get ready and someone would see a girl pulling a spare tire out, getting the wheel chocked, a tire laying in front of the van.

A guy even drove in to the business next door and looked at me and ignored, and the man working in the business also saw me, looked and turned back inside(which is okay - people have reasons they cannot or will not immediately help).

So I thought "well - let's see what I can do!" And I got the key to unlock the tire cap and I cannot budge it. WD40 did not make it any more possible for me. I worry there is some trick I don't get, because it doesn't feel like it is seating as evenly and solidly as I would expect.

So....I am going to look up where I can go to get it changed, and take a little time at it hoping someone who is interested in helping might stop in the interim.

This is not a big deal on the scale, and I should be really grateful the problems I am having didn't happen a week ago when I was broke.

But Teddy is very sick. My friend Sonya called and has offered to help front money for his vet trip and work. But he has been not good for two days now, and so I know it isn't just a bump in the road as it has been in the past when he was feeling down.

The vet visit is at 2pm, 20 miles away, so I guess I had better get a move on.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2012 - 03:43pm PT
You should not be traveling without AAA coverage, the 200 mile towing package. If you made it from NY to TX without adding fluid then it is a very slow leak. If the temp rises then stops rising it sounds like the thermstat is good. Keep the radiator topped off

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Dec 3, 2012 - 03:45pm PT
Sweet Lord...enough already...

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Dec 3, 2012 - 04:07pm PT
As long as your temp guage stays approx mid up and down a little you are PROBABLY good to go.. check your fluids daily and keep close eye on things.

My guess still is a slow leak somewhere. Hopefully you find it and it's something simple. Unfortunately slow leaks sometimes become blown hoses or worse at an inconvenient time.

Good luck.

Oh and check to see your fan is working. It should cut on occasionally.. double check that k.

If by any chance you get within a couple hundred miles of Reno pm me through this forum ahead of time.. be glad to take a look at things for ya and replace your thermostat just to be safe.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Dec 3, 2012 - 04:24pm PT
Maybe the problem is your van is OK but the village you are at SUCKS !

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 3, 2012 - 04:24pm PT
You can even just temporarily remove the thermostat and run without it for a while.

If you can get to the Thermostat to remove it, you might as well replace it. It's not so easy in a van. I have a Ford Econoline E250 and the book says it takes over an hour for a qualified mechanic to replace the thermostat. I'm kinda screwed in my van suddenly because after an overheating problem they couldn't get the thermostat out due to severely corroded bolts so they just disabled it so my flow is open all the time now.

Also good to replace the cap. It's cheap and sometimes that's it, but the thermostat is the kingpin of tons of stupid car problems that can lead to disaster

If it's the head gasket (and it could be) that sucks because it's very expensive to repair. If you, like me, have a vehicle that's not worth a thousand or two or more to fix, you can try what's worked for me in two cars so far, an acura legend and a subaru legacy wagon, Steel seal

It's $100 of magic sauce that mechanic distain but totally fixed the two head gasket issues and they ran for years afterwards, before they overheated in 15 minutes. It's a no brainer for any non-mechanic to use


a non-mechanic dirtbag's friend



Social climber
joshua tree
Dec 3, 2012 - 04:30pm PT
A lots of times when you're losing water is because it's steaming out..
Those old systems need to be "burped". When the engine and radiator are not COMPLETELY
full. The engine will have trapped air. Which gets hotter then the engine actually is.
Corresponding with the tempature gauge to rise rapidly. Once uv driven enough to warm the engine, turn the heater ON. The water in the heater core circulates with the engine water. A lot of times this wil cause ur radiator level to go down. Top it off. Problem solved!
Everytime your car heats up U should IMEDIATLY turn the heater on. FWIW

Sorry to hear about Teddy...
You know I lost Jake a few months ago.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 3, 2012 - 04:33pm PT
There are cheaper leak fixers than Karl's. But if it is the head gasket
then $100 is cheap. Hard to believe it only leaked 2/3 gal from NY to whereever
you are now. You need to get that thermostat out now and get a new one in.
Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
Dec 3, 2012 - 05:10pm PT
Good luck with Teddy....so sorry he is sick..
Hope he is ok....
He is a good puo

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 3, 2012 - 05:19pm PT
Well, it was running good but just started to get hot again.

After the last post I made, I drove a 55-60mph for about 20 miles and it stayed at the middle. Then continued on another 40 miles, at 55-60. Had been watching it and it was staying in middle, but then began to rise.

The manual says that the level CAN get up into the higher range of the section marked "normal," but if it passes that line and goes by the H, trouble. As it was staying at just about above the the "a" in normal, or at about 70% towards the top of the normal section, I kept going to the town, about 2 miles. Sitting in the shade now.

I am thinking I will fill up the fluid if low, and try to get to Amarillo, which is about 60 miles away, with two towns and a rest area spaced in between. I would think that a leak has developed. Will replace the cap, but if looks are any clue, this one seems in very good condition.

The tire - it was a good thing I did go to have the tire guys change it, because the lugnuts for the regular rims didn't fit when he put the spare tire on. Interesting, because when I looked at the van, the spare was not inside. The lady said it was in the garage, and when I picked the van up, they had put it in the van. But my friend noticed that the spare tire was a 225/15 when the ones on van are 275.

One of the van's 275/15's became damaged and so I bought a set of used tires and put the still good 275 on the spare tire rim and through out the 225 tire. At any rate - the place in Shamrock had no new or used tires in the size, and so I am without a spare until I get to Amarillo and find a used one, hopefully. Plus I guess I need the lug nuts that will work. I had no idea this could even be an issue. FYI - the guy at the shop had to use all his might to get that wheel lock to loosen. So, I don't feel too bad I couldn't do it. At the time I was mad at myself for giving up so easily.

I am exhausted emotionally. Teddy went to the vet and he got some medicines for stomach and antibiotics under the assumption that he ate something gross which is causing the distress. The vet felt it was not an obstruction in his bowel, which was one possibility.

Now to see if he perks up and wants food. If he isn't improved by Wednesday, then they need to do tests to see what is wrong.


Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 3, 2012 - 05:55pm PT
Okay - cooled and checked. It was not really low by much. Maybe a little less than when I added to it, but covering the cores.

I filled to about 1/8 inch from where the neck comes out of radiator, so should be able to easily tell if some is used, but wouldn't know if it is leaking or going out that 0overflow hose.

The sun is down and it is much cooler if that wil make a differnece. I am so tired. Not going to try for Amarillo until tomorrow morning, but will look for fiusr suitable stop for night place along the way.

Social climber
Douchebag Central
Dec 3, 2012 - 06:10pm PT

Your determination is cool...

Hard core...

You'll be fine...

Social climber
The internet
Dec 3, 2012 - 06:27pm PT
If the van overheated, your thermostat was damaged. Get it replaced, or destroy your engine. Simple as that.

No idea what other cooling system related problems you have or what the root cause of the overheating is, though suggest you get that fixed as well.
Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
Dec 3, 2012 - 08:45pm PT
She is a hard core adventurist and traveler - not knowing where her head will rest next, if her dog is ok, or even when her next meal with come..
Hard core...like the ol wagon train travelers...
Except they couldnt Hitch...
Something many or you "reservation climbers" could learn a thing or two from..

Happy watch the gap betwen Amarillo and Albaquerque - there is a long stretch with nothing- I went flying through Amarillo last year rocking out to tunes and by the time I looked at the gas gage I was in the middle of nowhere....LOL ...I ran out only 5 miles from a gas station and a trucker picked me up immediately and drove me in....but I was lucky. The gas station manager told me ha has had people come in who walked all night long.....LOL....

Amarillo is nice - my kids and I just went through there last week...


Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 3, 2012 - 08:56pm PT
That seems like good advice. I did get to Amarillo and was surprised at how quick moving and non-congested the HWY 60/40 corridor was. It would be very easy to think "I'll stop soon" and then be out of town. I ended up on the west side myself, coming from northeast, and will have to backtrack to do what I need to do tomorrow.

I did see a tire guy back up the road, quite a bit but still in the city, and hopefully I can get that taken care of early and ask them about people to check the van issue out.

The temp stayed at middle way the entire portion of this, but yeah - the next section until Albequerque is pretty bleak. Last year I left Oklahoma through Hollis(if ever I have seen a god-forsaken town, that was one). And there was no thing, not even a sign that anyone lived up a gravel road over the horizon - for a long, long, way.

I screwed up that one bad by deciding not to stop in what turned out to be THE one town along the way. At dusk, no less. Because I had gotten an uncomfortable feeling and thought "well, maybe the other side of town." Which, there really wasn't one of. I don't know how many miles I went down that road with seeing maybe three or four semis and that was it, but I was up way past my bedtime that night, and ended up at this tourist trap restaurant/gift shop in the middle of nowhere, like 30 or 60 miles south of Albequerque.

edit: And as for hard core adventurer, I don't know if a person who can't even change their tire can qualify there... But, I was very nice to the tire guys, and even gave him a little jolly. He told me the lug nits didn't fit, and he'd see if they had some to use for the spare rim. He pulled out a box of add and end ones and found one or two, but gave up. They also got some other customers, so had to do that.

So, I say as he is finishing putting the tire in and puts the empty rim in the van, "So you didn't find enough lugnuts, then?" He goes, "No, I got no nuts."

I don't think he realized the double entendre, but I thought Oh, what the hell, these guys have been very nice" and said "Well, you got nits, but not the kind I need right now." He smiled and said in a sorta Texan voice, "Yeah, those ones won't work for this job."

And then he charged me, for switching out the spare to the regular rim and putting it on the van, $15. Maybe that's what things cost in Texas small towns, but it seemed a pretty good deal to me. So I gave him a twenty and then said "Keep the rest as a tip. I really appreciate you;re helping me so quickly and being so nice." And he was genuinely appreciative of that unexpected tip. I think that was the first time I ever saw someone have that look. I t was pretty clear that a $5 cash extra for him that day made a difference in SOME way.

Dec 3, 2012 - 09:09pm PT
What year is the van? Where is the coolant leak; you keep adding coolant. Maybe the head gasket is a little blown and coolant is going into the crankcase. Pull the oil dipstick and look/smell for coolant. Is the oil dipstick higher than normal? Does the van have any loss of power.
Kinda sounds like a radiator; BUT that doesn't explain the loss of coolant.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 3, 2012 - 09:56pm PT
It is a 1990 Ford Econoline, E250 van.

I do not know where the leak is, or if there IS a leak. It may be that when I filled it this morning, I could have put in a bit more than I did. It didn't really seem lower than the recommended level when it ran hot this afternoon.

The oil is normal. Same amount as was in before the overheat(I had checked it that morning). It doesn't smell like coolant. The power seems fine. I haven't pushed it, like to kick down a gear for a hill, or to pass anyone, but the regular driving is normal as usual.

Thanks to everyone for the help and suggestions. I guess I do need to have someone take a look at it, and will do so tomorrow.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2012 - 11:11pm PT
For changing tires there is a reduction gear lug wrench which will allow anyone to change a tire. I have never tried it but it seems like a good idea, especially for the ladies who travel alone, or even some guys (gym climbers:)


Credit: Jon Beck
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