Van Troubles (Yeah, I know...) - OT


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 17, 2013 - 06:32pm PT
1990 Ford Econoline E150
5.0 Litre V* Engine

Issue: Running Hot

As may be recalled, the van had an overheating issue last fall. After much help in the forums, I got coolant system check which indicated the radiator cap was bad, and it was replaced. It was strongly suggested I replace the Thermostat as well, and though I procrastinated(greatly) I DID get that done.

Left Joshua Tree with the van running normal temps, for about 100 miles, and then slowly crept up into Hot range. I pulled over, cooled down and continued. Went again, running 100 miles and then getting hot. It seemed to be exacerbated by mountainous uphills, and kicking down when gear shift needed.

Unfortunately last night I was on a bad pass, and the needle was right at the top of "normal" when I was able to stop - about a half gallon fluid came out. I refilled with water, and got to Flagstaff (40 miles) with temp at normal range. Then, parked, walked Teddy and half hour later drove less than 10 minutes to a park. Didn't notice it happen, did not notice the temp being high(but may not have looked, since the van had been sitting and I had driven such a short distance) but there was a BIG puddle.

This morning got new fluid and put in about 3/4 jug. Drove a bit but not far enough to get warm. Then got in van and drove a few hours later, on cold engine. It took normal amount of time to begin registering temp, but once it did, it climbed right on past middle range normal. Pulled over. Waited maybe 20 minutes, started again and normal temps.

At any rate - I am in Flagstaff now, and know the issue is not going to go away. Will be calling mechanics first thing tomorrow.

How to proceed....?

From a person's help earlier:
 There is no obstruction in front of radiator
 The oil is not milky.
  I was told to see if the fan is running, but I cannot see into the shroud, and cannot discern which noise it would be making.
 Seems to be no leaks coming from engine or hoses. No spills on ground(except the spill from overflow tube)
 I looked at a link about water pump failure, but I cannot see much of the pump, much less the weep valve(it says to look at that to see if drips or drains coming from it. I DI notice a rhytmic sound coming from somewhere around there. It is a 2 part, not really a squeek but sort of. Have not noticed that sound before today.


Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Apr 17, 2013 - 06:44pm PT
Sell that POS to a mechanic for $1000, ship your stuff home and hop on Amtrak. The Southwest Chief eastbound stops in Flagstaff around dawn. Catch the Lake Shore Limited in Chicago, that'll get you to New York.

Good luck!

Trad climber
reno, nv
Apr 17, 2013 - 06:58pm PT
Have a mechanic check for a blown head gasket- this should be fast and cheap. Our shop uses a type of fluid that changes color, from yellow to blue when combustion gas passes through it. A small leak can cause excess pressure in the cooling system, and thus leakage/overheat, without getting coolant in the oil. That,ll help you eliminate that possibility.

Sometimes too, if coolants getting in the cylinder, you can pull the spark plugs and tell. One or more wet with coolant is a dead giveaway, but that doesnt always happen.

Apr 17, 2013 - 07:01pm PT
Also check the fan clutch and make sure it's not slipping.

Yowza!! .... so much trouble is not fun ......

Trad climber
Where the Hoback and the mighty Snake River meet
Apr 17, 2013 - 07:05pm PT
^^^THAT is the attitude I told you to watch for. ;-> Gary has no idea who you are or where you are going now does he?

You should be able to tell if the fan is going by the air it moves. Drop a handful of dirt right in front of the radiator while it is running (if it's not windy) and see what the dirt does. The dust coming off it should move, FAST, toward the van. OR, get brave and stick something like a long piece of straw in there, you'll know.

Go ahead and laugh guys, yes, this is how women's brains work. I KNOW how hard it is to take a shroud off, which is what most guys would say, right?

Anyway, your van is not cooling. Big bummer. Keep checking your oil. Get familiar with the level. I had a small head gasket leak in an old car once and the only sign, until it went all the way, was overheating and the oil level seemed to increase. It did not change color or look different until the gasket went all the way. I hope to God that is not what it is.
A fan clutch is a much better diagnosis. One that is going out will make funny little noises too. Then quit. Ugh, old cars.

Trad climber
Where the Hoback and the mighty Snake River meet
Apr 17, 2013 - 07:11pm PT
RON, well maybe. She did have that and the cap replaced last year. Aftermarkets go bad and original equip is old at this point, so yeah, maybe.

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Apr 17, 2013 - 07:11pm PT
so sorry to hear that you having problems with your van.

hillrat.... is correct. Time to figure if you have a blown HG.

If exhaust gas is blowing into the coolent, the stuff boils fast...

good luck....
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Menlo Park
Apr 17, 2013 - 07:17pm PT
Perhaps air trapped in cooling system? Does your heater work?

This was the case during a radiator flush and refill in my Toyota , I had to get the engine pointed uphill to get coolant into heater core ...

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 17, 2013 - 07:34pm PT
The thermostat is one of those Fail Safe ones, so if it failed, it failed open, and it was bad to begin with, since it is only recently put in.

The guy who replaced the old one said that one WAS bad. The little nipple thing was sticking out the side of the little cap at the top(non-technical jargon, for those who may not comprehend), instead of seating centered and beneath it, and so I assumed that was how he could tell it was bad).

While it could be a faulty thermostat, I don't know that it is likely. The "behavior" WAS seen last fall. I have only driven into Yucca and back, and once or twice into the park, so it never went a good number of miles since then and now.

I am making notes of the things you guys say, so I wil have it as needed when I talk to mechanics.

Julia, I will look for the air movement, I guess I could probably feel the air it if I put my hand over the space between the radiator and shroud. Will try it next time I start.

Heater works.

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Apr 17, 2013 - 07:56pm PT
If you're going to live in your vehicle, you need a vehicle that works. I hope you can patch the van up enough to finish your trip. But start looking for something better. If it's your portable home, you need something that works.

I suggest a used Toyota Tacoma with a camper shell. Tacomas just keep trucking... Those Americans in Peru that were attacked (or not depending who you believe) that just about everyone here pissed on and laughed at--they may have made mistakes, but their choice of vehicle was not one of them.

Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Menlo Park
Apr 17, 2013 - 08:02pm PT
Yup , there's a reason the 1st gen Tacomas with the V6 and rear Elocker hold their value so well , and it will get you up so many gnarly 4x4 trails...
john hansen

Apr 17, 2013 - 08:16pm PT
You may know this already, and it will not fix the problem, but if you run your heater at full volume, with the fan on its highest setting, it does help mto take heat out of the engine.

I once limped home using this method. Still had to stop every 100 miles and cool it down but it helped. Sraying water on the radiator while parked at a gas station with the motor running and the heater on cools it down even quicker.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 17, 2013 - 08:26pm PT
Thanks for the advice. I tried the heater on high, but didn't notice a quick enough cooling to make it worth continuing onward. But that is how I know the heater works! Especially out in the middle of the Mojave on the bright and sunny day before yesterday.....

So - if any Flagstaffers are reading this-any mechanics you would suggest, or avoid? I asked at O'Reilly's when I bought coolant this morning, and the guy pointed to the two across the street, and one around the corner, and when I asked "So you feel these guys are all good, reputable mechanics?" he said yes, but I didn't get the feeling he was really doing more than pointing out the nearest ones I had seen driving into the lot....

Trad climber
Yosemite, CA
Apr 17, 2013 - 08:37pm PT
Not to get off topic, but if you do buy an old Toyota Dapper Dan there was confusing the V6 with the 22R/E. Buy the 4 banger, the V6 (3vze) blows head gaskets every 2,000 miles or so. Although, I just blew a hg on my 22R...

As far as the overheating goes - it might be something as simple as air in the cooling system. With all of the filling and refilling of fluid, have you "burped" the system? When the engine is cold, simply open the radiator and fill it up. Start the engine with the heater on high and let it idle for 20 minutes. Every time the coolant in the radiator drops, fill it back up. You will see it bubbling and "burping" over if there is air in the system. Once you fill it up and it doesn't drop anymore (and you can see the coolant moving fast in the radiator) you should be free of air. Oh yeah, and make sure you're doing it on level ground. Maybe it's that simple.
John M

Apr 17, 2013 - 08:41pm PT
Go to a shop that can pressure test the radiator cap. Some auto parts stores will do this for free. Even new caps go bad. I once went through 3 caps before I found one that would hold.

Trad climber
South Slope of Mt. Tabor, Portland, Oregon, USA
Apr 17, 2013 - 08:48pm PT
^Good point. Unless that radiator cap holds pressure you are going to have problems.

Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Menlo Park
Apr 17, 2013 - 08:58pm PT
The 1st gen 'Tacoma' (as I said) used the stronger 3.4 liter V6 , no rampant HG problems .

The earlier Toyota 'Pickups' or 'Hiluxes' had the 22r and the 3.0 liter V6 that had the HG problems you stated . Sorry to hear about the HG on your 22r, I have a 90' 4runner , 22re that has been solid for me so far .

^ x3 radiator cap holding proper pressure . Keeping coolant under pressure allows it to have a higher boiling point , insufficient pressure = easier for your coolant to boil out ...
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Apr 17, 2013 - 09:07pm PT
Good Luck Happy,
Can't offer advice but I 'm hopeful your trip home is a safe and fun one.
Hey post some pics from places you travel thru if ya can.
Happy Trails to you,

Trad climber
Yosemite, CA
Apr 17, 2013 - 09:16pm PT
Oh right, you said Tacoma.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 17, 2013 - 10:51pm PT
Khanom -I don't know why you had to take the wanker route when responding. Maybe next time, consider to refrain.

The pressure test was suggested last fall when this issue started. The pressure test was done. My first post even mentions that to recap the issue. You're right - it's not expensive, comparatively. It was $40 when I had it done.

The "top of normal" ISN'T normal when the car overheats and boils over at that level(which is what happened yesterday). The "top of nomal" isn't normal when previously the gauge ran at less than halfway up.

You're right- it isn't rocket science. But it does not make me a dumbass and deserving of vitriol that I don't know how to diagnose automotive issues. I have read every post ever made in a thread where I asked for help, and I followed through whenever I could. Sometimes, believe it or not, I was simply unable to follow every suggestion made. It wasn't that I ignored anything.

I did the "burping" thing, though we did run it after the thermostat change. There may very well be air in it now, but I have to think that was not what's causing it to run hot.

So, it took quite some time to heat to normal, and once it went to about the A on the word, it started gurgling. Slowly at first and the level rising up into neck and then sinking. Then it started to really gurgle, over. I was stupid, and didn't lay down anything to capture the mess(I would have needed a huge sized dish anyway). I was not in an area where it would be considered acceptable to pollute like that, another thing I hadn't considered. But as it was gurgling, it began making some banging sorts of sounds. I did not continue, because like I said, I was in a place where it would not have been cool to have someone come over and ask why the hell I was letting coolant drain all over the place. So, I stopped.

Oh, and the fan is circulating. The dust thing worked - thanks Julia!
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