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Fixing This Car's Heater Is Easier Said Than Done

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Digerati Ohm
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Silver
Nohing new...
Digerati Ohm   9/8/2012 1:22:08 PM
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I've often said that automotive engineers should be forced (yes, forced) to perform routine maintenance tasks on the cars they design using standard tools.  Such the case of a 1982 Buick Skyhawk I owned.  To change the thermostat, it was directly using a pressure relief cap (radiator cap) on top of the engine.  However to change the oil filter you had to remove a panel from the wheel well.  Also a 1972 Plymouth Fury with a 400 engine comes to mind.  To change the spark plugs you had to crawl under the car, and one of the those on the rear of the engine required you to jack the engine up slightly.  Actually, it all comes back to where they want you to have to bring it back to the dealerships for service.  Alas, we mourn the demise of the shade-tree mechanic.

Bob Salter
User Rank
Iron
Re: Nohing new...
Bob Salter   9/10/2012 2:58:29 PM
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I learned a long time ago when changing the coolant in a car's system that you could only drain about half the coolant according to the owner's manual. Being fairly anal about my own cars, I did not like the idea of adding new coolant to old, so I devised a method of flushing out all the old. Some blocks are supposed to have drain plugs into the water jacket, but these are usually inaccesable when the engine is still in the car. When Prestone came out with their "Tees" to splice into the top most heater hose that would accept a garden hose fitting, the solution was easy. Forcing water through the block would quickly result in clear effluent from the system. I would run the engine until the water was warm enough to open the thermostat and turning on the heater would flush out any hidden reevoirs of old coolant mix. My source of de-mineralized water is condensate from a de-humidifier, and if anyone knows why this would be bad, please educate me. After shutting off the garden hose and draining, I would pour two gallons of dm water at the highest point allowing it to drain and hoping this would either flush out the city water at best or dillute it sufficiently at the least. Then, finish by closing the radiator petcock and adding 100% antifreeze to the proper level. A few minutes of running the engine should result in the recommended 50-50 mixture.

RonSparky
User Rank
Iron
Re: Nohing new...
RonSparky   9/10/2012 5:34:19 PM
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Using water from the dehumidifier sounds good on the surface, but it IS NOT a good idea. Working in aerospace on a variety of test setups we found that using distilled water (which is what you are getting out of the dehumidifier) causes corrosion to softer metals. Pure water is aggressive on absorbing minerals which ultimately causes the corrosion. The way we got around this is to use de-ionized water, which is more commonly known as softened water. De-ionized water does not remove all of the minerals but replaced the harsh and heavy ones with minerals that are not as corrosive. Ask a plumber in an area where there are high quantities of minerals in the water about how much difference using a water softener makes on corrosion and mineral buildup on the plumbing fixtures. The aluminum used in modern car radiators and heater cores will see a much shorter life with distilled water.

As for the heater core buried in the Olds being difficult to work on, GM has been notorious with making some 'features' on their cars difficult to work on only to discourage the do-it-your-selfer's (like me) from working on their own cars. That way they have an extra avenue of income for their service departments...

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Nohing new...
Amclaussen   9/10/2012 5:34:41 PM
Hi Bob, regarding your idea of using condensate from a dehumidifier... I don't know how clean would be that kind of water, since we don't have dehumidufiers here at our very friendly and temperate climate in Mexico City... But unless the air that circulates trough the dehumidifier comes from an extremely clean, well filtered stream (like a "clean room"), it will most probably carry a lot of fine dusts and contaminants, that will certainly cause some problems. I would respectfully suggest buying some demineralized water from a lab supply store. (Here it has been the most inexpensive source).  That water is the absolute best for maintaining car cooling systems, radiators and batteries, because going to distilled water is not necessary and it is costlier. In respect to "flushing"; the truly significant parameter when performing a flush, is water flowrate, which transaltes to VELOCITY.  Having a high velocity ensures complete turbulence, and the associated cleaning and sediment removal action.  Most city water outlets lack the flow capacity needed to properly flush a car cooling system.  What I do (and recommend) is to use a domestic water pump (here in Mexico City water pressure is always wandering and most time is too low to even fill the tank located on the roof of two stories houses) such a pump will supply about 30 GPM at less than 20 PSI (about 1/2 HP).  Higher pressures would risk the radiator and heater cores!  By connencting a garden hose to the engine block in reverse direction, one can perform an effective backwashing and complete flushing, but you need to remove the thermostat in order to be able to flow the cleaning water. The flushing is not done with demineralized water, but using city water; after an energic flush, drain the water as much as possible, and then refill the block with demineralized water two or three times, that will be enough.  Do not let the engine stay empty and wet for more then a few minutes, specially if the block is cast Iron, or it will start rusting! It seems to me that trying to stablish the proper coolant concentrate dilution is best made outside the engine, because it is difficult to keep track of the exact proportions, specially when some newer cars do not readily accept all the coolant and tend to form air pockets, which will take several heating-cooling cycles to be completely filled. Best wishes, Amclaussen.

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Preventative Maintenance
Amclaussen   9/10/2012 6:11:34 PM
In response to Rigby5.- I suppose you are oversimplifying the corrosion phenomena, maybe based on some quick, naked eye observations and rushing to conclusions.  I don't want to start an oveheated (pun intendet) discussion on the "ethernal" and "good forever" character of corrosion additives. I would invite a participation of someone that has worked with these type of inhibitors, to throw his/hers knowledge on us mere mortals, in a civilized talk. But if you take a few minutes to perform a search on an internet engine, surely you will find a lot of articles, academic papers and professionaly written documents that should start to convince you that your provervial "NEVER Change" coolant will be extremely improbable... I would suggest using terms taken from the people at NACE (National Association of Corrosion Engineers), or ASTM... just for starters: they even have a publication destined to define the correct TERMINOLOGY:

Standard Terminology and Acronyms Relating to Corrosion NACE G193 REV A Date: 06/01/2011Designation: NACE/ASTM G193 – 11a

Some terms that could be helpful would be: Supplemental cooling Additives-"SCA's", Inhibitor depletion, corrosion potential, corrosion rate, electrochemical cell, electrolysis, cathodic corrosion, amphoteric metals (Aluminum!)... etc.  Then we can start to discuss this theme properly.

Now, if you really believe in "Ethernal", "Totally Permanent" and "Never-Change" coolant mixtures, I have a large batch of radiator caps for VW first generation Bugs, at a price you wont be able to resist! [smily emoticon here]. Amclaussen.

Rigby5
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Preventative Maintenance
Rigby5   9/10/2012 10:37:41 PM
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Amclaussen,

I have studied water systems corrosion for years.  Water is naturally an acid and is corrosive.  It only stops being corrosive when it has obtained all the electrons necessary for it to be come electrolytically neutral.  After that it can accept no more, and will NOT continue to corrode.  It is a closed system, insulated from the ground.  The most corrosive water is distilled water, and the least corrosive is water containing a lot of dissolved minerals already, such as from the Great Plains region.  That hard water is a danger because is can leave deposits, but it is not at all corrosive.  The reality is that old coolant is saturated and as neutral as it is evey going to get.  It is only new water that can allow corrosion to start up again.

And again, aluminum engines are not new.  Companies like Mercedes has been making aluminum blocks for about 100 years now, and all European companies have always used aluminum heads.  People are acting like this is something new and unknown.  It is not new, and there is nothing new to be learned about it.  It has been solved for over a century.

amoninous
User Rank
Silver
Re: Preventative Maintenance
amoninous   9/11/2012 10:34:02 AM
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Rigby5:

I wouldn't be so bold as to say that, "...all European companies have always used aluminium heads."  I owned a 1960 (German) FORD TAUNUS w/ a straight four which had cast iron block & cast iron head.  I'm VERY sure that there are many other examples of European vehicles with cast iron cylinder heads.

Presently we own a TOYOTA CAMRY.  It is our third such vehicle.  The late model TOYOTAs have some things in common.  Most of them have sealed cooling systems, transmissions.  The cooling fluid change recommendation is set at 100K miles.  Ditto for the transmission fluid, INCLUDING the transmission filter.  And, in another interesting turn, these new TOYOTAs also are designed to use 0W20 engine lubricant.  I hesitate to call this product "oil", since it may not be oil as we know it.  I'd like to see an SAE (or similar) paper on how one measures "0" viscosity. 

Rigby5
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Preventative Maintenance
Rigby5   9/11/2012 11:04:54 AM
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anonymous,

You are correct that I got carried away.  I was just now remembering back to the Triumphs, Austins, etc., I owned, and they were also all cast iron head.  But my point was frustration over the idea that aluminum engines were something new or that corrosion had not been dealth with a very long time ago.  The short lifespan of radiators and heaters is probably more due to the use of inferior materials, which can only be hastened by frequent coolant changes.

But car maintenance often is filled with false demands.  For example, when points were used, condensers were always changed in a tune-up.  Yet condensers never wear out, but actually get better over time.  I have had bad condensers, but only new ones, ones where someone reversed the polarity, or ones that had been overheated.  So there was never a reason to replace the condenser. 

Similarly they will try to get you to machine rotors on a brake job, which is a terrible thing to do.  If they warped before, making them even thinner is going to ensure they warp again almost immediately.  And a smooth but ridged rotor should never be machined flat.

The list is long.

And mechanics hate sealed systems, because they can never work.  Even the sealed batteries always need some water eventually.  If they were not vented, they could blow up.  Pretending something is "sealed", just makes it harder for everyone.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Wow
Cadman-LT   9/12/2012 12:35:57 PM
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I have to almost pull my engine to change my plugs, but what you had to do takes riculous to another level!

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Nohing new...
Larry M   2/28/2013 10:06:44 AM
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Getting the antifreeze proportion right after a water flush is easy. First flush with water. Then drain as much as you can. Then look up the cooling system capacity in your owne'rs manual and add half that amount of concentrated antifreeze. Top off with water,

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