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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Guys. Been lurking a while.

I have a 1997 Bird with the 3.8L and 98,000 miles. The problem is I'm on my 3rd radiator and it's starting to leak again. The funny thing is the radiators all start leaking when the weather gets cold. They've all lasted less than a year. The radiator gets a leak on the seam between the plastic tank and the core. I replace it in the dead of winter. The radiator makes it through the summer just fine but after about 9-11 months, it starts leaking when the weather gets cold again. Could this just be a run of bad radiators? Should I check for a bad head gasket?

The car runs dead reliable other than this. One other thing I have noticed that seems funny is that if I leave the radiator cap off, it will start pumping coolant out of the filler almost immediately after startup on a cold engine. I've had other cars that I could run till the engine warmed up and the T-stat opened before the rad started overflowing.
 

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Sounds like it could be a head gasket problem. Do you see lots of bubbles in the coolant too? Might want to pressure test the coolant system, and have it checked for gases, but I think you will find that there is combustion pressure and gases in the coolant system causing this.
 

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That's just it. I can't let the stupid thing run without a cap long enough to check for bubbles before it pukes out the radiator.
 

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Bubbles often show up in the overflow tank when a HG starts to leak. I don't know about the blown HG theory, because if there was too much pressure, I think it would vent through the overflow tube and show up as bubbles in the overflow tank. And wouldn't the radiator cap start to leak before the tanks would blow out? It's supposed to vent at 16 psi or something. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it doesn't seem like the most likely thing to me.
 

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well, you do live in new york. so i imagine it gets pretty cold up there. do you use water in your radiator, or a mix of water/antifreeze? because if you use a lot of water in your mixture, then that could be your cause. the water could be freezing, expanding, and cracking your radiators. just another thought......
 

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The mix is 50/50 and it's fresh (ok so it's 10 months old, guess how I know ;0) ). The recovery system seems to be working. I haven't noticed bubbles in the recovery tank and haven't noticed any violent release from the overflow. I would also think the cap would let go before the radiator (at 16 psi right?) We haven't had a hard freeze here yet but it was cold (33-40 degrees) last week.
 

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Confirmed V6 Nut
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What brand of radiators are you buying? I'm in cold country and I haven't had that radiator problem. Are you buying aluminum or copper radiators? Also, have you replaced your heater core, and what metal was the core?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I can't remember the brand of the radiator but I got it at the local Car-Quest. It has plastic end tanks and an aluminum core. It looks identical to what was in the car when I bought it. I got it used in 2001 so I don't know if the radiator in it was the original one. Haven't done anything to the heater core.
 

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2 (or 3) bad radiators with the same failure is pretty suspect. I don't klive in a cold climate anymore, but when I did I have a vehicle with the same construction radiator (plastic side tanks) and I never had an issue.

I can't see why you can't have the radiator cap off when the car is cold. I can leave mine off for a long time before it starts slightly burping coolant up and sloshes out. Tough to say if it is pressure related or perhaps a mounting problem or the radiator is hitting something causing it to seperate.

When my head gaskets went out (and I know there are about 20 ways they can go out and show different problems and indications) I got coolant gushing out the place the cap coes when it was cold when it was removed, but it didn't have enough pressure to spew it out the recovery tank until it warmed up and the thermostat opened up. Yes, you would think the cap would be the weakest link long before the place the tank seals to the core, but who knows. I guess I also vote for some sort of problem with mounting or something.
 

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a similar problem is happening with my buddies supercoupe, when its cold and he hits it, it overflows out of his overflow tank. so maybe its his headgaskets.
 

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Well you said you have a leak from the seam on the radiator. I would call around and find a all metal one. They can be found for the same price online. I paid $85 for a all metal one delivered to my door. When I check my water it does the same thing when I start it. It will burp up water but I know I dont have a head gasket problem. Most times when it will burp it is releasing some air. If you let it do it for a few minutes the t-stat will open and you can top off the water. Make sure you open your bleeder tube before you fill it up.


Steve, Robert did blow his head gaskets. Its sitting at the shop and we are thinking of tearing it down soon.
 

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radiators

First T-bird was a 96.....ford replaced timing cover, waterpump this was in summer..i did my own mtc and noticed antifreeze underneath. (this was extended warranty..$25 bucks and a free rental) Winter comes leaks again..they look and replace more..finally I asked them about the radiator..it's okay they say by pressure test. In the summer okay winter leaks..fianlly they replace radiator ..okay There is an O Ring (gasket )that goes around where the tanks and radiator connect when the temp is cold outside it shrinks..sit all night..after it warms up it won't show up. Test will hold pressure. Had them keep car overnight at their lot outside it leaked after they replaced all of the other items. Got a 97 Tbird with low miles after that one..same thing happened like clockwork. I have had to replace the timing cover gasket and the intake gasket. "Great design..."
 

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Some of you guys are forgetting he has a 96 3.8 NA, not a pre 96, nor a 4.6, so you're trying to compare kiwis to cumquats

Are you buying new or used parts? Same vendor or different vendor? I'd suggest getting a pressure test done and giving dan newman a call. He'll get you a quality OEM part (or better) at a good price
 
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