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Old 05-30-2009, 09:38 PM   #1
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Need advice - Tow vehicle overheating

My big black van (95 Ford E150) overheated on me today. We weren't even towing! What gets me is the weird way it did it. Just for further info, the van got a new radiator and hoses in December or January.

I drove from our store towards home and saw the temp gauge creeping up, and stopped at the feed store, and when I got out I heard hissing and smelled antifreeze. I popped the hood and saw a fine spray coming out of the overflow bottle (I think).

When I came out of the feed store things had settled down, so I started driving home. As I drove the temp crawled up up up. I turned on the heater full blast to try and pull some heat out of the engine, but the air coming out of the vents was lukewarm at best, and the temp kept going up. I was about to pull over when suddenly the air coming through the vents turned into a blast furnace, and the temp dropped fairly quickly all the way back to normal.

I continued home (I only was a couple miles from the house) and the air coming from the vents stayed hot, then suddenly went back to just warm, and the temp started climbing quickly again. It was pegged on hot by the time I pulled into my driveway.

Any advice? We're working the store and Dave's doing a trade show in town (in fact we have a big merchandise display set up at a convention center over in Portland), and we desperately need two cars tomorrow, and particularly the van to get our merchandise home! Why do these things always happen on the weekend!
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Old 05-30-2009, 09:44 PM   #2
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Stephanie,

A stuck thermostat perhaps. You might try removing it if you're unable to pick one up at the auto supply. It should be located in the housing where the upper radiator hose goes in the engine. A new one is around $10.00.


I'm dealing with leaky compression fittings on my transmission cooler this weekend myself.

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Kevin
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Old 05-30-2009, 09:51 PM   #3
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Thanks Kevin. I read that if the thermostat is stuck the upper radiator hose won't be hot (because the thermostat keeps the coolant circulating in the engine until it opens and lets it into the radiator). And the upper radiator hose is hot, so I assume the coolant is circulating.
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Old 05-30-2009, 09:53 PM   #4
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Steph

I know the weekend traumas. I have found that if you need help on the weekends dealers and big shops are worthless. I have used the Pep Boys shop on the road...got a free look see and they were able to repair from parts in stock. Other auto supplys have same mech services...even Wally Worlds. Good luck.

I think its the thermostat too...its the cheapest of the possibilities....if thats any consolation.
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Old 05-30-2009, 10:23 PM   #5
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Hi Steph,

Could the problem have started with a leak from somewhere? Like a freeze plug or something? You said you saw and smelled coolant. The system should never leak under any situation. So, maybe the thermostat stuck and caused overheating or maybe there was a leak and low coolant caused overheating. If you could get to a shop where they could add water and pressure test the system to see where its leaking and correct that, then replace the thermostat because either way its toast now and see what happens. It might be a good idea for them to do a quick block check with dye. This will check the head gaskets to see if one is blown.

A competent shop should be able to tell you whats going on.

Good luck

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Old 05-30-2009, 10:35 PM   #6
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Still sounds like a bad thermostat even though that top hose was hot.

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Old 05-30-2009, 10:47 PM   #7
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Thanks for the advice. I called around and found a friend who had an SUV to loan us for tomorrow. That way I can just wait on the van and get it to our mechanic on Monday. I looked for the thermostat, but the engine is set so far back I can't even see it without removing the whole upper air plenum box. Vans are so hard to work on compared to a truck where the motor is right under the hood. I'll let the mechanic dig into that.
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Old 05-30-2009, 10:50 PM   #8
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Or a faulty new radiator or hose or hose clamp.

I think the first thing to do is find out exactly where the leak is coming from. Then work back from there.

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Old 05-30-2009, 10:56 PM   #9
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They are bad about the plastic, pressurized overflow tank cracking and letting the coolant out. That would account for the hissing, steam, and coolant smell. It would also account for the erratic heater behavior. When the (really, really hot) coolant made its way into the heater, it would blow very hot, until the blower cooled off the coolant. Then the heat would cool off until another blob of superhot coolant hit the heater. It could also be simply a split hose.
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Old 05-30-2009, 11:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
Thanks for the advice. I called around and found a friend who had an SUV to loan us for tomorrow. That way I can just wait on the van and get it to our mechanic on Monday. I looked for the thermostat, but the engine is set so far back I can't even see it without removing the whole upper air plenum box. Vans are so hard to work on compared to a truck where the motor is right under the hood. I'll let the mechanic dig into that.

Could it possibly be a fan clutch?

Andy
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Old 05-31-2009, 12:31 AM   #11
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1995 model? Is the water pump in there the original? Not sure if you would make any noise if it lost some of it's ability or not.
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Old 05-31-2009, 01:38 AM   #12
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I'm wondering if the water pump is going (pumps sometimes.. circulating to the heater.. then not). In my van, the thermostats stuck open... most evident in the winter... the van was hard to warm up... but the heater still worked.

My money's on the water pump. Sorry you've had troubles!
Marc
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Old 05-31-2009, 03:06 AM   #13
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it's unlikely to be the water pump as they usually either work or don't. Not the thermostat either as the heater is not controlled by that. Could be the viscous fan or more likely the fan belt slipping as it is intermittent. The leak is just caused by excess pressure in the cooling system due to overheating if you're lucky, if not there could be a head gasket problem. I would recommend doing a chemical test on the coolant system before jumping into any major work. Hope this helps, Keith
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Old 05-31-2009, 05:10 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
Thanks for the advice. I called around and found a friend who had an SUV to loan us for tomorrow. That way I can just wait on the van and get it to our mechanic on Monday. I looked for the thermostat, but the engine is set so far back I can't even see it without removing the whole upper air plenum box. Vans are so hard to work on compared to a truck where the motor is right under the hood. I'll let the mechanic dig into that.
The thermostat should be up front by the coolant pump follow top hose from radiator the thermostat should be between hose and engine block.
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