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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
All of a sudden yesterday, the car decided to overheat, and run hot.

Ran fine on the way to work, then decided to overheat on the way home (7 mile drive) - It hasn't gotten to the check gauges light or PCM code, but, defiantly running warmer than it has been for the past 9 months.

Head gaskets (and heads which are 96+ style) have about 30k miles on them now, work done by Ford dealer in 2001. No smoke at tailpipe, no milky oil (or oil loss)

Water pump about 3 months old, hoses about three months old. Radiator cap is about 3 weeks old (lever type started leaking on me)

Belt about 9 months old.

Cooling fan about 3 years old.

I was able to use the "cheap" code reader to do a code read, and during the read the high and low speed of the cooling fan comes on.

I have been getting a rich/lean codes (176 and 177) on the drivers side for a while now. O2 sensors are new (same codes before) and Fuel injectors are also new. Engine vacuum sits at 20 at idle. MPG has been varying - but - I also have a roof rack on the car, so, city wise I'm getting pretty close to expected.

Only thing I did was top off the overflow with some water the night before.

I am hoping someone might have a suggestion on this - I'm officially stumped (again...)
 

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That was also replaced when the water pump was replaced. I had that thought also.

Upper radiator hose appears to be hot, lower appears cool.

Could the radiator be clogged?
That sounds like the cause , No expert here but many years of seeing vehicle issues .
 

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1997 Thunderbird 4.6, 1998 Mark VIII LSC
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Try to get an actual numeric reading for the coolant temps if you can, 200-210 is normal. Make sure there's no air in the system. Coolant flows into the radiator from the engine through the top hose and into the engine through the bottom, so the top should be hotter than the bottom. Again knowing the actual temperatures will shed a lot of light on the situation.

As for your lean/rich codes, it might be time to clean or replace the MAF sensor.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Try to get an actual numeric reading for the coolant temps if you can, 200-210 is normal. Make sure there's no air in the system. Coolant flows into the radiator from the engine through the top hose and into the engine through the bottom, so the top should be hotter than the bottom. Again knowing the actual temperatures will shed a lot of light on the situation.

As for your lean/rich codes, it might be time to clean or replace the MAF sensor.

MAF has been cleaned and cleaned again (doh...) I'm pretty sure its near its end of life. Maybe I'll try running home on tables and see if that helps.

I have been thinking of putting a real gauge in - just remove the sensor for the time being. I put a triple gauge pod in recently, and only have 1 full (vacuum) and was planning the temp gauge.

Might do a flush and temp gauge before digging in to far - just get tough on me since I have a condo and no place to work (other than going to my parents which is 15 miles away) I can get away with quick things, but, nothing severe or major.
 

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All of a sudden yesterday, the car decided to overheat, and run hot.

Ran fine on the way to work, then decided to overheat on the way home (7 mile drive) - It hasn't gotten to the check gauges light or PCM code, but, defiantly running warmer than it has been for the past 9 months.

Head gaskets (and heads which are 96+ style) have about 30k miles on them now, work done by Ford dealer in 2001. No smoke at tailpipe, no milky oil (or oil loss)
head gaskets are finicky things. they can last a long time, or go out the next day, and they dont always show signs of being an issue right away.

Water pump about 3 months old, hoses about three months old. Radiator cap is about 3 weeks old (lever type started leaking on me)
these items are generally bullet proof except the radiator cap. i have bought new ones that had the same problem as my old one in that they would not hold pressure. the other items are generally affect by time and wear.

Belt about 9 months old.
same as the water pump and hoses, but it can still be a bit loose, and that can cause an issue if the rest of the system is not up to par.

Cooling fan about 3 years old.
if electric it should not be a problem, but you can trigger the relay to make sure the fan and relay are operating properly. if so then likely there is no issue here unless the trigger signal isnt getting to the relay in a timely manner, and is shut off early, or is an intermittent signal.

I was able to use the "cheap" code reader to do a code read, and during the read the high and low speed of the cooling fan comes on.

Only thing I did was top off the overflow with some water the night before.

I am hoping someone might have a suggestion on this - I'm officially stumped (again...)
ok so you know you are getting the signal to the fan relay, and the fan most likely. perhaps you have air in the system, or, and i hate to say it, another bad head gasket. or most likely you have a radiator that has finally plugged up enough to cause a cooling issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
... likely you have a radiator that has finally plugged up enough to cause a cooling issue.
I'm thinking an IR temperature gun is in order to start checking things to search this out.

I can do things such as a thermostat at the local DIY carwash at night as long as its not a long job, so that may be my first order of business. Its cheap enough and simple enough to just change it out. The more I think about it the more it seems like a "flow" issue, and especially since it happened all of a sudden the way it did. The heater itself when on does seem to help cool down the car.

I did do a "procedure" refill check last night to make sure also, and it still got warm this morning. The other thing I've noticed it it seems to be getting warm FAST

If I do need the radiator - are there any "alternate" recommended radiators that may offer more cooling or capacity for a larger motor at some point in time>
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I swear my car is nothing but a finicky ......... perfectly fine on the way home, with the AC on, 7 miles 20 minutes with a idling stop at the post office.

Only thing I did at work today was pop open the radiator cap, check the coolant levels (looked good) and push on the cap spring a down a couple of times.
 

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I would change your thermostat, it sounds like it may be sticking. It's not that expensive or time consuming.
 

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Think I've got it - corrosion on ecu connector and also ran it hard this AM and found a small leak on the side tanks.

New radiator tonight and already wore brushed the connector - so it's staying cool again, but need to fix that drip ASAP!
its always that nasty little stuff that you dont think about. did you put some dielectric grease on the connector after cleaning so it doesnt corrode again?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Still acting up on occasion, but, each little thing seems to be helping. Looks like it could have been multiple little issues that came together in a big issue.

- Radiator leak fixed
- New cap and rotor
- New spark plug wires (this fixed an whine in the stereo... go figure)

I have not yet replaced the thermostat, the water outlet itself had been showing signs of wear, so that replacement arrives today.

I've done two drives on the new wires, and since they've been done I haven't gotten hot, but, it was fairly cool this morning so that isn't a great test or idea.

I haven't gone above M since the radiator replacement, and R since the spark plug replacement but, its still not "right"

A test last night after three miles of "hard" driving (outside temp 76 degrees) put the thermostat outlet temp at 205, and the top of the water outlet pipe at 195 degrees, so I feel as if things are headed in the right direction.

Of course, now I've got a sudden rattle/noise on the drivers side (sounds like an exhaust rattle.. but, haven't pinpointed it yet)

When I do the thermostat, I am also going to use the block test fluid to make sure that I'm not seeing signs of exhaust gas. I do not appear to be loosing coolant though (and no milky oil, or white/blue smoke)
 

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Still acting up on occasion, but, each little thing seems to be helping.
On my 94 Cougar, it took a new radiator, water pump, t-stat, hoses and replacing the intake and head gaskets to get my 3.8 to stop over heating. It still gets pretty warm after being on the freeway for some time then getting off of the freeway. But after a few mintues the temp drops to normal again.

Good luck in your ventures to fix your issues. These engines are a PITA, but do run nice when running properly.

As for the coolant leaks, you may not SEE them, but will know them by the way the car runs. Mine would start cold and run like **** for a while then be fine from then on. Turns out I had an intake gasket leak into one of the cylinders. The only tell tale sign was poor cold starts and engine would not cool down correctly and I was always leaking coolant.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
At this point, after a thermostat and the housing change the temperatures have been stable, as even with hard runs, I haven't been able to get it much over 200 for the temperature now.

Thankfully - I do not appear to be loosing coolant, thankfully - the car starts and runs nicely.

When I did the thermostat and housing, I also use the block test fluid - and after a 10 minute run and check, no signs of exhaust gas in the fluid.

Now - onto the next issue with is the cats, and it looks like one has blown up on me, so I'll address that (at least a temporary fix) this weekend when I can get a lift rental.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Still fighting the good fight with this beast. I ended up having to bypass the heater core as it started to leak (I am kicking myself for not replacing it when I had the dash out) and have fixed and additional two

Couple of questions: what temperature is the fan supposed to kick onto low and high speed at (Right now, it doesn't seem to kick onto low until 220 "ish")

The radiator now seems to be sitting at a constant ~1/2 in below the top with air, and I no longer appear loosing coolant (3 days/ ~75 miles) and the overflow has about the same amount.

While my dash gauge on the dash seems to still bounce around a bit, I don't seem to be exceeding 225 at the radiator outlet (IR thermometer)

Am I just worry about nothing? Maybe my dash gauge has simply failed and I'm driving myself bat! crazy trying to fix nothing? At this point, I need to keep the car running decent enough so it can be sold.

Should I do a full system drain and refill? After replacing the replacement of the heater tubes (took me forever to find non-rusted ones) I didn't do a full drain and refill.

Of course - not going far! I'm looking for a Mark VIII
 
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