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Old 10-04-2003, 08:34 PM   #1
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I am an idiot!

If anyone read about my radiator replacement saga why oh why did I not replace those darned heater hoses while I was in there? I know why...because they where on the "fix heater controls" part of my to do list and not on the "fix cooling system" part of my list.

So there I am driving down I-65 for a three day camping trip with the family...pulling 70 mph at 180 degrees...very proud of my repairs I might add when three things happen all at once: 1. I smell coolant. 2. the "low coolant" light comes on and 3. My son screams "there's smoke coming from the couch!"

After a momentary panic I realize its not smoke its steam. Pull off at the next exit, temp climbs immediately to 220 hard turn into a strip mall and shut her down right in the middle of the parking lot. BTW - you can really harang a 345 around when you're motivated!

My only saving grace was that I had two gallons of distilled water, heater hose, clamps, tools and a gallon of Prestone antifreeze on board. I also happened to be in an AutoZone parking lot (I don't know about you but I'm usually never this prepared or lucky when things break).

Open the storage compartment doors under the couch and there is a good gallon of boiling, foaming brand new coolant (with water wetter) staining my otherwise perfectly good carpet. After explaining several times to my hysterical children that this is NOT smoke from a fire...its steam and steam can't light the RV on fire. I let things cool down and began figuring out what happened.

Of course I immeadiately remember a post from someone when I first got the coach to check the aux heater hoses - as they are a weak point and commonly smell of coolant inside the coach and thinking to myself "people on the forum are smart - I should do a better job of listening to them - I am an idiot".

OK looks like the inlet hose was a PO masterpiece so pop into AutoZone buy a $1.68 heater hose double ended plastic connector and a package of hose clamps, get out the knife and the screwdriver and five minutes later I'm filling up coolant and water and we are on our way. Campground is only fifteen miles away! Dad is smart!

Five miles down the road and the light comes on again. No smell no steam so it must just be pulling coolant into the system from the reservoir - right? OK...pull into BP station, fill up the tank with water and keep on truckin'.

Five more miles down the road, light on, coolant smell, steam, more coolant on the now green, formally brown, carpet and an increasing panic from the wife and kids...pull into a church parking lot and repeat process. Oh yeah - its pretty darn dark now. This time I cut the hoses below the floor and use the plastic tube to rig up a bypass. Refill with water from the Church hose (thank you Pastor Mike) and off we go.

Finally made it to the campground...had the best trip ever, came home today with no low coolant lights - phew! Pretty sure the kids don't need therapy over this one as the overall weekend was a blast.

Tomorrow I'll be replacing the heater hoses, the heater control valves and installing some shut off valves as close to the output as possible.

People on this forum are smart - I am an idiot - but I'm learning
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Old 10-04-2003, 11:10 PM   #2
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Thanks for the info.

I will be doing that type of preventive maintenance soon, so this came right on time. Your experience is our lesson, and since nothing extremely harmful happened, especially to your kids, then I'd say you Guardian angels were there with you.

By the way, I said I was an idiot once in front of my 8 year old, and he told me that the devil makes people say that. He learned that at school. So now I make it a habit of saying that I meant for something to break so I could learn how to fix it and learn patience. Still feels bad tough!
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Old 10-04-2003, 11:35 PM   #3
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You did good - grace under pressure (no pun intended or did I)... Thats the thing about learning things from the forum - you read enough and end up knowing enough - that you prevent yourself from being a captive of the situation.... You handled it the way it should... great job!
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:00 AM   #4
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Thumbs up

Steven, remember the recent exchange we had about 'state of mind' and getting to know your rig.
Imagine what waiting for the tow truck would have done to your weekend. Well done!
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:20 AM   #5
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I used ball valves, they don't take a lot of space and quarter turn to off. While you are working on the aux heater, don't forget the main heater. Doubtless that will be the next thing to go.

John
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:29 AM   #6
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Good job, Steve.

BTW, does anyone know where the "low coolant" sensor is located?

The 345 gives me that indication (low coolant) on occasion, and I always thought it was similar to the "water in fuel" intermitant light (no Water in Fuel sensor installed, that was a Diesel option), which I simply ignore. I had assumed (that word again) that the low coolant indicator was in the overflow reservoir, and, since my reservoir was replaced shortly before I bought it, it was simply not replaced. Granted, an overflow reservoir is not the best place to put a "low coolant" sensor, but I have been unable to locate a fluid sensor in the active cooling system. The only sensor I have found in the radiator is on the aft port side where the temp sensor for the aux radiator fan is located (at least I think it is the temp sensor).

Thanks again for the story, Steve. I now have renewed interest to identify and locate ALL of the sensors (real and imaginary) in the system.

IMHO the engineer who designed the forward access to the engine should be forced to change out the belts on a hot engine while standing on the side of a busy interstate. (Expletive inserted), THAT requirement should be mandatory in every Mechanical Engineering 101 Course!

Thanks for the heads up on your experience. The couch heater hoses, as well as the engine hoses going to the hot water heater, are scheduled for replacement this winter, but those are among the things that tend to get put off for one reason or the other. -- (Greasy wheel....and all else that "needs" to be done.)
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:32 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by 74Argosy24MH
I used ball valves, they don't take a lot of space and quarter turn to off. While you are working on the aux heater, don't forget the main heater. Doubtless that will be the next thing to go.

John
Steve... welcome to the world of old motorhomes! I was fortunate with mine... all I had to change on the road (parked on the street in front of a NAPA store in Fort Dodge IA at 6pm) was a fan belt. Nasty, but doable. You did admirably!

John...

That is, without a doubt, one of THE most sanitary plumbing installations I've ever seen! Congratulations! Airstream stock stuff should look so good!

Roger
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:39 AM   #8
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Dennis

The low coolant sensor will be in the radiator itself, single wire and very near the top.

John
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by 74Argosy24MH
I used ball valves, they don't take a lot of space and quarter turn to off. While you are working on the aux heater, don't forget the main heater. Doubtless that will be the next thing to go.

John
Look at that plumbing!!
I used the brass ball valve myself for the heater core shut-off. Besides ease of operation they tend to actual work when you need to use them (they don't freeze up as easily as others).
Talking about heater cores. IMHO they should be recored at the same time as the radiator.
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:44 AM   #10
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Expletive!Expletive!Expletive!

The low coolant sensor.

Mine keeps coming on. To me, that is an indication that I'm losing fluid, the only time I see a loss is at shut down, soooooo....

Theory...Exhaust gases creeping into the coolant system.


Please, please, someone tell me I am wrong.
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:51 AM   #11
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Quote:
Talking about heater cores. IMHO they should be recored at the same time as the radiator.
You bet. They are made the same of the same material and under 16 lbs. of pressure. When the radiator goes they can't be far behind.

John
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Old 10-05-2003, 06:00 AM   #12
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Dennis

I know this is nearly an impossibility, but if you have pressure in the coolant from the combustion chamber you will see bubbles in the coolant when you pull the radiator cap (the impossible part).

Do you let it idle for a few minutes before shutting the engine down? I would bet the engine heat is building after the coolant has stopped circulating and the cap is releasing pressure. You could change caps and see if that helps.

I wired my electric fans straight off the battery instead of the ignition. If the senders still show enough heat in the engine, or heat builds after shutdown, they will keep running.

John
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Old 10-05-2003, 06:09 AM   #13
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Re: Expletive!Expletive!Expletive!

Quote:
Originally posted by 87airstream345
Mine keeps coming on. To me, that is an indication that I'm losing fluid, the only time I see a loss is at shut down, soooooo....

Theory...Exhaust gases creeping into the coolant system.


Please, please, someone tell me I am wrong.
Exhaust gases creeping into the coolant system=coolant creeping into combustion chamber=small puffs of white smoke???
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Old 10-05-2003, 06:23 AM   #14
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It's always the little things that get you

Quote:
I used ball valves; they don't take a lot of space and quarter turn to off. While
John - somehow I knew you would have dealt with this already in your Argosy. We need to figure out how to get you a job at Airstream. I'll be trying to replicate your setup today on the MH.

Quote:
BTW, does anyone know where the "low coolant" sensor is located?
Dennis - the low coolant sensor in my 345 is in the reservoir...pretty simple: two bolts through the tank about four inches from the bottom connected by two green wires (same setup as the low windshield washer sensor). Iím assuming that the presence of fluid on the bolts provides enough continuity to the circuit to keep the light off. If yours are missing then your light will always be on. If the leads are attached to the new reservoir make sure they are tight. If there are no leads make sure the PO didn't "hot wire" them together.

I was definitely lucky....a whole lot more could have gone wrong. It's all about checking off the little things on all of our ďto doĒ lists to make our old beauties more reliable. I should have tackled thse hoses when the nose was off for the new WP, belts, hoses and radiator repairs - but I was in a hurry to get her back on the road. I learned that lesson.

I spent a great deal of time on big things so farÖtime to work on the little gremlins one by one.
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Old 10-05-2003, 12:25 PM   #15
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I am NOT an idiot!

When I first saw this thread topic, I thought it was a neat ploy to get responders, so "Iam an idiot" would show up in front of their names on the recent postings list.
Boy was I wrong. Great thread.
As a bonus, anyone who responds to my thread will get to see "I am NOT an idiot" in front of their name, thereby reversing any previous statements.
LOL-

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Old 10-05-2003, 12:38 PM   #16
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Unhappy sensor gone!

Your post made me look at mine and I don't have a sensor on the overflow tank....looks like PO replaced with an aftermarket bottle to save probably a bunch.....will have to keep a closer eye on overflow bottle at fillups and watch temp guage closer too...jem
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Old 10-05-2003, 04:11 PM   #17
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BTW, does anyone know where the "low coolant" sensor is located?

Dennis, the low coolant sensor is located on the right side of the radiator, about 2" from the top, on the engine side (the side that faces the fan). It shopuld be a crew-in affair, with a single wire and plug.
Terry
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Old 10-05-2003, 04:51 PM   #18
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The low coolant sensor is located on the right side of the radiator.

Terry:

I intrepret this to mean it is curb (starboard) side.

Thanks a lot!

I traced out the fan controls, and the aux fan radiator sensor is mounted midway up on the rearward (engine side) port side radiator head. It also is a single lead (activate to ground) sensor.

I took a test run with the 345 today. Filled the radiator, and marked the level of the reservoir. After an 80 mile run, the reservoir was at the overflow tube, but after total cooling, the reservoir level dropped to the initial starting point, and............. the radiator was also full! At least no evidence of head to radiator leakage today!

I'm paranoid about the engine head/gasket/water system thing.

That was the demise of a couple of my high mileage slugmobiles in the past.

With the engine temp normally in the 210-220 range, it is feasible that the radiator/coolant system could develope a hole, (or lose the radiator cap), allowing the coolant to boil out at 212 degrees, (I know, slim chance of that happening with 30-50% antifreeze, but like I said, paranoia has set in), and not noticing any abnormalities until serious damage has been done to the engine.

One of this winter's activities will be the installation of a fairly complete engine/transmission/coach monitoring system. At that point I may not be able to prevent serious damage, but at least I will know about it when it happens.

Thanks to everyone for all the great input.
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:56 PM   #19
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One of the best test tools I have had for the last 30 years has been a Stant Pressure Testing Kit. You would be surprised at at the number of quick fixes are accomplished by replacing a defective radiator cap or tightening clamps in the cooling system.

A bad radiator cap can cause your vehicle to run very poorly since it can never warm up until it runs out of fluid. Pressurizing a cooling system and watching the pressure gauge drop, allows you to really check for leaks without having the engine running and cutting your fingers off.

If you don't have one, find a "friend" who does!
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Old 10-06-2003, 03:43 PM   #20
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I'm paranoid about the engine head/gasket/water system thing.

That was the demise of a couple of my high mileage slugmobiles in the past.


Dennis, to put your mind at ease, find a reputable radiator shop, call them, and tell them you would like a "dye test". This is a special dye that when exposed to certain combustion gasses, will turn color. If no color change is observed, you are good to go.
If the dye changes color (usually from blue to green or yellow) it indicates a leak of combustion gasses into the cooling system, and further investigation is required.
Stay Cool...
Terry
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