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Old 02-18-2014, 08:23 PM   #1
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Chrysler 300 - The Saga Continues

The saga continues with a big FAIL on the first hill climb. After getting the WD right, the anti-sway bar mounted, and everything cleaned up on the hitch, we wanted to get out on a grade, in the heat, and make sure the rig will get us over these California mountains. It turned into an afternoon in hell.

We chose the medium grade from I-10 up to Yucca Valley on CA 62. This is maybe a 12 mile climb from 400 feet to about 3400 feet and very average for around here. It was about 85F outside. We hustled up about 9 miles at 55MPH in 3rd gear. I had the trans temp gauge selected and was watching it like a hawk. An easy drive. Suddenly in 30-seconds everything changed. I first smelled a foul smell, then alarms went off on the dash for overheating. Dash lights were warning, buzzers going, I slowed immediately and moved to the very skinny 8 foot shoulder and hoped I could climb to a straight part of the road. No luck. The car died on a hard right uphill turn. I could now see steam and smell coolant. The trailer wheels were against the asphalt berm on the right. I didn't dare open my driver door as cars were whizzing by at 65MPH or more.

I was able to get out the passenger side and raise the hood. A mess of blown coolant under the hood. We waited 30 minutes. Two Airstreams motored by and honked (a little disappointing actually). A big commercial tow rig stopped and he was very helpful. He knew the road and told me a big flat spot 1/4 mile ahead had 30 feet of shoulder. If only I could start the car. We took water from the TT and eventually filled the radiator and moved the rig up to the big flat spot, where it was at least safe. We waited another hour then crippled to the next possible place to turn back and go downhill. That was a mile up. We coasted downhill with the temp reading 225F, got home at 245F and unhitched and put the car in the garage.

Took it to the dealer. Turned out the coolant reservoir was cracked and had been leaking coolant (I had smelled a weird smell a few times before in the weeks before. I didn't know it was coolant hitting the exhaust manifold). Also, the rad cap was bad and only holding 10# when 17# was the spec. All warranty repairs. I tried to insist they thoroughly road test the car and look for any other cooling issues. They said they did.

I now have the car back and frankly, I am quite nervous. I will first try the car alone up that same grade. Then I will try the trailer on a smaller, shorter grade somewhere to see if there is any sign of heating. What worries me is that we went from "green light to China Syndrome" in like 30-seconds with basically no warning, no time to do much.

I dunno.
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Old 02-18-2014, 08:28 PM   #2
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That's terrible! What a horrifying situation. I am so glad no one hit you when you were stranded. just awful. Has your blood pressure recovered yet?
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Old 02-18-2014, 08:50 PM   #3
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Airstream Life's latest edition featured an article by Andy Thompson , who wrote about why the 300 is a better TV than an F150 or 1/2 ton truck.

Do you believe the cooling system problems you are experiencing are related to towing? What modifications were made to your transmission to tow your rig? Thanks.
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Old 02-18-2014, 08:53 PM   #4
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The first nine miles sound encouraging but a cracked coolant reservoir or faulty radiator cap can't hold the pressure so overheating is sure to happen sooner or later. In spite of the bad situation, you found the faulty components and got it fixed.

Keep us posted next time out.
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:26 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJtoNC View Post
Airstream Life's latest edition featured an article by Andy Thompson , who wrote about why the 300 is a better TV than an F150 or 1/2 ton truck.

Do you believe the cooling system problems you are experiencing are related to towing? What modifications were made to your transmission to tow your rig? Thanks.
The article was my inspiration for going to the 300. It's been a long haul and process so far. Transmission is stock. The areas of change were the custom receiver mount and the air shocks in the rear suspension. Everything else is stock.
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:27 PM   #6
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Yea, a bad radiator cap will let the coolant boil, and then the engine will overheat.

But, one of the things that automotive engineers consider when deciding on a vehicle's towing capacity is the capacity of the cooling system.
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:33 PM   #7
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I'm sure pulling the load hastened the failure on the 300 but it doesn't sound like the cause. I'm glad you managed to get back in one piece and have the problem sorted under warranty.

For what it's worth we've not had any overheating issues with the Sienna in our three seasons traveling, and the engine cooling is stock. Sure, we don't have the hills in this part of the world but we can end up driving into a 40 mph headwind for hours at a time, which certainly puts some stress on the whole set up. The temperatures do climb but never go into the red and, comfortingly, will return to normal very quickly as soon as the conditions alter.

Thanks for sharing this with us
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:38 PM   #8
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Frustrating. Did you have a transmission cooler added to the stock setup?
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:10 PM   #9
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Was there any indication of transmission overheating?
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:57 PM   #10
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Yea, a bad radiator cap will let the coolant boil, and then the engine will overheat.

But, one of the things that automotive engineers consider when deciding on a vehicle's towing capacity is the capacity of the cooling system.
Put a similarly bad radiator cap on a pickup and punch a hole in the coolant reservoir and you'd probably get similar results.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:27 PM   #11
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The tow wasnt the cause of the cracked reservoir. It was cracked before. But the tow did put the system to work, amd once the leak and bad cap couldnt hold, she blew sky high.

The trans was the only thing that did not overheat. For the first 9 miles, the car performed very well. 55 mph in 3rd at 3200 rpm was very comfortable.

Many grades out here run for 12 - 15 miles at 6%. Temps hit 110F regularly all summer long. I have one report from an Arizona man witj a 300 that has towed these conditions all summer with no problems. Thats my reference point. Fingers crossed.

Typing on a pad, sorry!
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:58 PM   #12
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Hi, a leaking recovery tank is not a good thing. As you probably already know, Coolant expands with heat and goes into the recovery tank. As the coolant cools, it is sucked back into the radiator. This system is designed to keep the radiator full at all times. This helps with cooling and reduces rust/corrosion. With coolant going into the recovery tank and leaking out, it will be less than full and overheat. Because of the recovery type system, radiators and their tanks can be, and are, smaller. Smaller radiator tanks allow for more pressure and can contain the coolant to a higher temp.

212 degrees, water boils. 212

3 degrees more per pound on cap/system. 15lb cap= 45

30 more degrees with proper mixture of coolant.** 30

Max temp before boil over 287 degrees.

**Note: the coolant increase only works under pressure.
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Old 02-19-2014, 05:43 AM   #13
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Put a similarly bad radiator cap on a pickup and punch a hole in the coolant reservoir and you'd probably get similar results.
And so would a Kenworth, but that doesn't make my statement untrue.

mstephens lives in the desert Southwest, and his test at 85 degrees is nothing. If he does the same test in the same area in the summer, the temperature will likely be 15 to 20 degrees hotter.
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Old 02-19-2014, 06:12 AM   #14
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Towing did not cause the leak, but I wonder what did.? I would be absolutely sure the whole cooling system is flushed a pressurized to insure no leaks. Once the system is checked you should be okay, although paranoid the first time out. Good luck you have a fine tow combo. Jim
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