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Old 01-30-2015, 04:07 AM   #1
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1986 34.5' Airstream 345
Malibu , California
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 15
Overheating in stop & go traffic.

Just made a glorious trip from OKC to LA in my '86 345. Perfect weather (50s/30s), no wind, and 1/2 price gas! I even found a better route, jogging South off I-40 onto I-25 to I-10 to avoid multiple mountain passes. Highly recommend this option to avoid lengthy uphill crawls.

Once I hit LA traffic, the Unleaded Zeppelin began to overheat (hot light on and off depending on speed and engine rpm, no smoke.) It had run a consistent 210 up to that point. The outside temp was in the low 70s. I realized I hadn't heard the roar of the fan clutch the whole trip. I had put slightly more than a gallon of coolant in to top off each morning, though.

The fan clutch and thermostat are only 3 years old...replaced them I'm wondering if there's another possible issue.

My gut is to replace the radiator, fan clutch, thermostat and hoses in order to have some piece of mind in heavy traffic.

Any thoughts/ideas I should consider before doing so.

My only other concern is that no matter how good she runs I ALWAYS get 5mpg. I would kill to get 7mpg!!!

Any input is greatly appreciated!

Thanks for your time...


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Old 01-30-2015, 04:14 AM   #2
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I think I would determine the source of the leak. If going internally, this is much different than something like a hose, radiator, water pump. A gallon of coolant should be readily seen if leaking out to the atmosphere.

Happy trails and Good Luck
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Old 01-30-2015, 05:46 AM   #3
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
Hanalei, /Chino Valley , Hawaii / Arizona
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Posts: 678
My 345 came to me with two electric fans mounted on the front of the radiator that help in cooling when needed.

How did your two blown out tires work out near Phoenix.

Sounds like you have been having a classic trip.

Cheers Richard
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Old 01-30-2015, 06:23 AM   #4
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Oswego , Illinois
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Before throwing parts at it, get a pressure tester for the cooling system. Pressure check it stone cold and at full operating temp.(If you're not sure of how to perform the hot test, get it done....there is a scalding risk). A gallon a day is a lot to not see it on the ground, but sometimes intake gaskets leak to the valley and it just boils away. You should smell it though, if that's the case.

Check the underside of your oil fill cap for milky sludge. That would indicate a head gasket, intake gasket leaking into a cylinder or crankcase. Might also indicate a cracked block or head.

"If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." - Red Green
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Old 01-30-2015, 08:46 AM   #5
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1986 34.5' Airstream 345
Malibu , California
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 15
My rig has 2 electric fans, as well. I'll do the pressure tests first. Occasionally, I would see a small amount of fluid leaking out on to the ground, but it wasn't continuous so I just replenished each morning knowing I would confront the issue when I got to LA. No white smoke from exhaust, so I am hoping it's not leaking internally. That would suck.

Richard, as I was loading the 2 blown tires into the rig I noticed one was still fully inflated, even though huge chunks were missing from its sidewall. I decided to remount that one on the tag. It worked. I drove 69 miles @ 45mph to the tire shop, saved $1100 over the Good Sam quote!

Thanks for all the help.

-KeithClick image for larger version

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Old 01-30-2015, 09:54 AM   #6
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Honokaa , Hawaii
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Have seen more than one thread here on aftermarket fan clutches that did not last long.

Our MPG went from 4-5 to 6-7 when we had the carburetor rebuilt.
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Old 01-30-2015, 10:54 AM   #7
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If it is blowing out the coolant I would replace the radiator cap first. Then if that doesn't help have it checked for a blown head gasket, or cracked head.
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Old 01-30-2015, 10:59 AM   #8
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Aurora , Colorado
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Try using a "summer" thermostat 160 degree. Also, fan clutches do have a relatively short life span and should be replaced at around 12,000 miles of use. Make sure that your radiator cap has a good seal, otherwise the radiator will be under pressured. A pin hole leak in the radiator not only loses fluid but reduces pressure and allows air to enter the system. You might seal it with an additive. 15 lbs. pressure is normal required pressure for cooling. The coolant pump may not be moving fluid if there is air in the system or perhaps it is not working properly. However, in hot weather under stop and go traffic the engine rpm is often too slow to move enough air. Often, when stopped in traffic I will slip the transmission into neutral and press down on the gas pedal slightly to increase rpm so that the fan moves more air. The alternative to that is what the previous replies stated, to add electric fans.
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Old 01-30-2015, 11:09 AM   #9
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I agree with everything previously mentioned, but want to add: If you didn't "hear" your fan working, it needs to be replaced. Should be really obvious if it's working like it should. Also, if you have someone who can help you, someone can watch the fan as the engine is stopped. If it free-wheels for a long time after the engine stops, the fan clutch is bad.
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Old 01-30-2015, 11:10 AM   #10
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Hi from AZ. . .As my Daddy always told me, do the easy/cheap stuff FIRST ! Verify fans working, do pressure test, replace rad cap, etc, etc. . .always a good idea IMO, good luck, Craig
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Old 01-30-2015, 11:24 AM   #11
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Sounds to me that your 160 degree thermostat could be the culprit. I would try the factory 12TP1E 192/195 high flow factory recommended GM thermostat available from Rock Auto. The factory fan clutch is also available from Rock Auto, around 200.00 bucks but well worth it. The cooler you run the 454, the less mileage you are going to get. Your coolant loss tells me you have a leak from the weep hole in the water pump. If so, replace with a new Gates. Good luck !
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Old 01-30-2015, 01:32 PM   #12
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Hot Springs , Arkansas
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Sounds like the fan clutch...does it spin easily? I agree with bobmiller1. Check the water pump. I just replaced mine on the Ford 460 with a Gates pump and it it the best built water pump I have ever seen.

I have used Pusher fans in front of my radiator/oil/tranny/ac condenser with good results. Hayden makes a good setup that includes everything you will need.
Its especially nice when you start over the mountains, or moving slow in traffic on those hot summer days.
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Old 01-30-2015, 02:20 PM   #13
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We had the fan clutch on out 1985 Classic 345 go bad one rainy night in Alabama. After limping to our campground, we had the bad clutch replaced the next day. It went bad in the first 24 hours. (Sometimes they just do.) Had a second new clutch installed and it's been working perfectly for several years now.

To deal with overheating, we've done all the testing suggested by OPs at one time or another. Ultimately, the best fix was a new radiator. It was, after all, almost 30 years old.

With a new radiator, a new exhaust system (including a Banks), a transmission cooler, a super-fan, and the second new fan clutch, the old girl starts on the first try and runs like a Swiss watch. Which is not to say our mileage is that much better than yours, but around here gas prices haven't yet hit bottom. ;-)
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Old 01-30-2015, 03:42 PM   #14
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Easy thing to do: Unless you're gonna be in an area below about 20 degrees, run 25% antifreeze instead of 50%, and maybe Redline Water Wetter.

"Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?" - E.C. Bentley, Trent's Last Case
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