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Old 11-07-2006, 04:58 PM   #1
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454 cid engine Radiator Life?

Ten years & 63,000 miles ago I installed a new, AC-Delco radiator in my 7.4 liter, 3/4 ton Suburban after the original radiator sprung multiple, pinhole-sized leaks. Seeing as how my primary tow vehicle's original owner had let the 'Burb fall into disrepair after the death of his wife, I thought the original radiator had deteriorated due to a lack of corrosion inhibitors commonly found in a regularly serviced cooling system.

In our first long-distance trip this year towing my Overlander, us, AND the kitchen sink, I noticed the temperature gauge reading higher than usual. Chalking it up to towing in near 100 degree air temperature at 65 mph, I did nothing in spite of wondering why the coolant in the overflow reservoir was not being sucked back in at night.

In our second long-distance trip, a leak was spotted in the radiator close to where the driver's side tank is soldered on. After the trip, the radiator was removed & taken to a local shop where The Man advised me that, while the radiator is now leak free, the next time I have trouble I should replace it.

I have regularly serviced my Suburban's cooling system since installing the OEM radiator, and am taken aback over its service life.

Is this a normal service life for a radiator for a hard working engine? Am I expecting too much out of an AC-Delco radiator?

Thanks,
Tom
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Old 11-07-2006, 05:12 PM   #2
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Tom,
While not an expert, (I don't trust 'em ) I worked for 7 years as a mechanic (now days they call them "Technicians") in a Olds/Cadillac shop and removed many radiators for repair or replacement. It is not unusual to find a radiator leaking with that sort of time and mileage. This of course has many maintenance related variables. How often it was flushed, what kind of water was used to refill, etc.
Based on my experience, it seems about normal, though some people get much more service out of them, some less.
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Old 11-07-2006, 05:59 PM   #3
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Tom,
I can't comment on the AC/Delco radiator specfically, but the plastic and aluminum radiator in my 1997 F150 was getting replaced on 100,000 mile intervals just like clockwork. That particular truck has around 350k on it now. And all of the radiators installed on it came from Ford...they weren't available aftermarket for some reason.

Aaron
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Old 11-08-2006, 01:40 PM   #4
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Tom

I took the heater core out of my 70 SS Chevelle I'm restoring to a local radiator shop. I could buy a new replacement for $80 or have mine rebuilt for $120. My intent with the Chevelle is to keep it as close to original as possible so rebuild was the option but had to ask him what he'd do if it was his car and he wasn't concerned about originality. His response was that the newer radiators and heater cores are not built with the same quantity of copper, and are "built cheaper", and that most of these come from overseas. He figured the rebuilt core should last another 35 years, a replacement likely single digit, if both are serviced properly. He showed me a radiator he was rebuilding for a 1950's car and the weight of it, then we held up one of the replacement radiators he carries for those who don't particularly care - the weight difference was definitely significant. Again he suggested that the original, rebuilt using an original core would last 3 to 4 times longer than the new replacement. So, with that in mind, IMHO, getting 10 years out of a replacement seems reasonable given you actually use the vehicle the way it was intended.

Barry
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Old 11-08-2006, 02:41 PM   #5
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I agree with safari57 - rebuild vice replacement on older units. The radiators that are on the market today for resorations on older cars are not up to snuff. Several years back I ordered a replacement for a 66 Mustang. The box came and I tought it was empty until I opened it up. The box WAS 50% of the weight. The old one weighed a ton. Had it rebuilt and put in the next car.
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Old 11-08-2006, 06:18 PM   #6
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Aftermarket radiators, as well as many OEM supplied replacement radiators, are made in the country with the cheapest labor rate, and usually the lowest quality control. The current batch seems to be coming from Thailand, with a smattering of Korean and Chinese units thrown in the mix. I really, really, REALLY hate most of these, as they are not exact replacements. They are close enough to (usually) work, with some effort needed to make them fit where they belong. Some need more effort (read jamming it into place, and cramming the hoses and transmission lines on) to make them fit. With any luck, they don't leak.
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Old 11-08-2006, 06:54 PM   #7
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Radiators

When my 1971 olds(455 ci) sprung a lead in app. 1982 I had it repaired. The shop told me then the radiator was corroded away. They would not guarentee their work. Two years later when the thermostat broke and slammed shut, the tanks blew off the core. New radiator.
My used 79 Olds radiator developed leaks around the tubes in 89. New radiator.
My 1985 Olds radiator developed leaks around the tubes and tank joints around 1996. New radiator.
My 1982 Dodge van radiator gave up the ghost around 1996.
Am I the only one seeing a pattern here? They were all Harrison radiators.
My 1991 Olds is still ok but I'm watching it with a jaundiced eye just waiting.
No problems with the 1990 GMC van as yet.
My 1984 Camaro required a new end tank(crimped, not soldered aluminum core).
I replaced all with Murray(spellling?) radiators which were all heaver than the Harrison replacment and never had any more problems. All had been maintained with the proper anti freeze mix prior to me purchasing them.
I just wrote them off to cheap.
Beginner
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Old 11-08-2006, 07:00 PM   #8
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Unhappy I think I am expecting too much

Terry has, I believe, offered the experience I suspected but did not want to hear.

I checked in with another friend who has, IIRC, a '94 'Burb & he replied:

Quote:
I have replaced the radiator in my Burb twice, and had the second one repaired once. I don't know why it goes through radiators so fast, but it is very discouraging. About 8 months ago I had it welded again, and I fear that it is still leaking slowly. Very slowly fortunately, but I know that with a leak, the temps runs a little higher and I have noticed my gauge running hotter than normal.
[snip]
It is a nice sunny day here in Florida, and will only top out in the upper 70's. Ahhh, paradise!
Neither paragraph brightened my mood.

I just hope I get enough miles out of the repaired radiator to make it worth the effort it takes to reinstall it.

Tom
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Old 11-08-2006, 07:11 PM   #9
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Radiator

When you replace the current radiator, replace it with the largest capacity fff (fit, form function) drop in quality radiator you can get. It shouldn't cost that much more and it won't hurt a thing, but it could get you the west in the summer with the air running reliably.
Also, at the begining of every season dump the proper amount of water pump lubericant/rust inhibiter in the radiator. Wards off evil spirits.
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Old 11-08-2006, 07:22 PM   #10
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A better replacement?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beginner
When you replace the current radiator, replace it with the largest capacity fff (fit, form function) drop in quality radiator you can get...
I thought I was getting quality with AC-Delco. What is the best replacement choice?

Tom
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Old 11-08-2006, 07:27 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beginner
When you replace the current radiator, replace it with the largest capacity fff (fit, form function) drop in quality radiator you can get. It shouldn't cost that much more and it won't hurt a thing, but it could get you the west in the summer with the air running reliably.
Also, at the begining of every season dump the proper amount of water pump lubericant/rust inhibiter in the radiator. Wards off evil spirits.
Beginner
Don't just dump more in without draining and flushing first, your concentration will become too high. Mixture should remain at 50/50.
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Old 11-08-2006, 07:34 PM   #12
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Radiator

Anti-Freeze:
I only dump in 50/50. I mix it my self and verify the function of my anti-freeze hygrometer as I go along.

Water pump lubericant/Rust inhibitor:
Proper amount for the cooling system capacity every year. The Murray radiators that I replace the Harrisons (AC Delco) with so far have lasted more than ten or so years.
I also seem to bet much better life out of the water pumps.
I hate changing a water pump on a van.
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Old 11-08-2006, 07:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomW
I thought I was getting quality with AC-Delco. What is the best replacement choice?

Tom
Check into Modine radiators. Even though many of them are "imports", I have had better luck with them overall than Murray, Circle, Performance, even (gasp!) Harrison and Delco.
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Old 11-08-2006, 07:44 PM   #14
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Most all the readiators now offered are cheaply made as has been posted .
I have used Modine for many years as they WERE the best choice besides the
OEM radiators which were the best .Now modine is basically china made .The radiators from Kragen Auto zone ,all crap .A long time customer of 25 years
put 3 Kragen bought radiators in his suburban and they all started leaking in a years time .I don't have a good source anymore for quality radiators for my
customers except OEM ,but then alot of crying about the high cost and I can
understand that ,but it is what it is after all .The AC Delco may not have been OEM level ,sometimes they can be built for Delco (labled) and not be
true GM .I still have vintage car / truck radiators rebuilt from original unit if possible ,the tanks will be the best .My IH radiator has a rebuilt radiator that
is a new style ,high fin count core, as new cars and trucks with the original tanks as does my 50 chevy COE service truck ,no problems in many miles and many years of service.Its all about cheap product and cheap parts and it
appears that thats the direction the USA has taken in many cases .You just
cannot seem to get quality these days ,we ought to be demanding it though.

Scott
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