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  • Coolant Loss

    This past Sunday, I had to add a gallon of coolant to my car. I hadn't been very diligent about checking it, so I wasn't too surprised it was low, although the amount had me concerned. After, I noticed that the temp guage was reading down between the M and P rather up just above the P as it had been (I know, big surprise)

    Throughout the beautiful day I drove it a few times, putting maybe 100 miles on it. Heading home on the last trip, I saw that the guage was back up again, hovering right on top of the dot past the P. Uh oh. I made it home OK, but the 13 lb radiator cap was opening intermittantly after I parked it, spitting coolant out the overflow when it did. Not quite full on boil over, but on the verge it seemed.

    I did not add more coolant after it cooled (I was out), but I suspect that I'm loosing it somewhere. There are no puddles on the garage floor when it's parked, so I have to believe it is either leaking while running (hadn't noticed that) or I have a bad head gasket.

    Any other explanations? I won't likely tackle it until spring at this late point in the year, but I'd like an idea what I may be in for next year.
    DGS (aka salguod)
    1960 Convertible - Raven Black, Red leather
    www.salguod.net

  • #2
    If you don't have ...

    some kind off recovery tank your probably just losing it on the ground. Unless your getting water vapor out the exhaust once the car is warm, I wouldn't worry about the head gaskets until you have checked all of the usual suspects i.e. radiator cap, thermostat, collapsed hose, corroded rad. core/block, etc. . Mike

    Comment


    • #3
      Probably NOT your situation but I had a '63 Galaxie rag-top a few years ago, it had a 429 fitted by the previous owner who decided to ad a bit of bling, including chroming the head-bolts that were visible.

      I suspect he did not torque things back up again as the chromed bolts were not as tight as the rest of the bolts when we took the heads off.

      Anyway the car would run fine, you could cruise all day and the motor never got hot and there was never any water on the ground when you parked up.

      But if you tromped on the gas pedal for a bit the temp would go up and the coolant level would be down next day, there were some rusty water stains on the lower firewall but no indication where from.

      Turns out that under load (higher revs up a hill etc) coolant was getting forced out between head and block right under the exhaust manifolds (where the chromed head-bolts that hadn't been tightened properly were) and out onto the road back under the car, of course as soon as you slowed up the water wasn't forced out anymore, hence no puddles in the drive or stains running down the block.

      So just another thing to consider
      A Thunderbirder from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by dgs View Post
        ...I had to add a gallon of coolant to my car. ...the 13 lb radiator cap was opening intermittantly after I parked it, spitting coolant out the overflow when it did...
        Coolant is going somewhere. Did you check the oil dipstick?

        Put the car in the air and give a thorough once over. It bothers me that you ran so long without water that the steam was opening your radiator cap.

        If you see water in your oil, don't run the engine any more until you get it fixed.

        I don't know how many miles old your engine is. The solution may be as simple as a freeze plug replacement, or as deep as an engine overhaul (if it's time). Your engine shouldn't use water, ever. I would like more info about your engine's history. - Dave
        My latest project:
        CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

        "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
        --Lee Iacocca

        From: Royal Oak, Michigan

        Comment


        • #5
          Yep, I would change the radiator cap and thermostat..... but it sounds like a leaking head gasket and the engine is taking the water inside. Well at least changing head gaskets isnt that bad on our cars....
          On Cardomain - http://www.cardomain.com/ride/3841411

          Comment


          • #6
            Car has 152K showing. When I did the suspension rebuild I was able to check the block casting numbers and they are appropriate for this being the original engine (4 weeks prior to the build date. The exhaust manifold castings (RH, LH) show the same. Haven't checked any others.

            It has a driver's side exhaust manifold leak and a fair number of oil leaks (valve covers and it seems front main seal). I had to replace one leaky freeze plug when I had the suspension out, but haven't touched the others. I don't think they're leaking, but I'm not 100% sure. There was guite a bit of sludge behind that leaky freeze plug, indicating the cooling passages are likely a mess.

            On the other hand, she starts right up every time (even after sitting all winter) and seems to run strong. In fact, even with the big Pirellis, it'll chirp the tires on the 1-2 shift.

            Part of me says, given the leaks, the peek behind that freeze plug and mileage, it's time for a rebuild, the other part wants to keep enjoying it as long as I can. With 11, 13 and 15 year old daughters, my free time for major projects is limited. I'd want to do this rebuild myself, as much as possible, to save $$ and to learn how it's done. Having never done one, it'd take me some time I'm guessing. The time it's apart is less time enjoying top down motoring.

            I'm also guessing that it'd still be a pricey undertaking, even doing it my self I bet it's over $1,000.
            Last edited by dgs; October 18th, 2010, 09:34 PM. Reason: Additions
            DGS (aka salguod)
            1960 Convertible - Raven Black, Red leather
            www.salguod.net

            Comment


            • #7
              Doug, it depends on how deep you want to go. But let's back up a bit. With 154K, are you sure the engine hasn't already been rebuilt?

              If you're getting good compression numbers and the engine isn't burning or using oil, I can't see the need for a major overhaul, yet.

              I totally agree about doing the assembly yourself when the time comes. If you have a heated garage, the off-season is the time to enjoy this work.

              Typically, after you pull the engine and strip the castings of ALL components, bring them to an engine machine shop. They get dipped, magnafluxed, and sized for new pistons. After you get the pistons, the shop bores and hones the cylinders to the size of the new pistons.

              Heads are a major part of your engine, so let them machine and install hardened exhaust seats and mill the valve guide tops for viton seals. If a valve guide is worn, they can sleeve it.

              All mating surfaces need machining; a 'skin pass' of a few thousandths to make sure any warp is gone (including exhaust manifolds).

              Your engine machine shop will re-install new freeze plugs (I use brass) and new oil plugs. They usually deliver the block with new cam bearings, because they have the tool and the bearings need to be oriented to accommodate the drilled oil holes. It takes them five minutes.

              This is the part I wouldn't miss for the world: You get to assemble the pistons, rods, rings, crank, main and rod bearings, cam, lifters, timing set, both heads, oil pump, seals, pans and covers. Then paint it.

              I spend extra time (something mechanics never have) degreeing the crank & cam timing. I rarely find stock engines are correct. The process is free and you will learn your engine.

              You can shop for some parts before you start and save time and money. Sometimes you can find new FelPro gasket sets (for example) on sale at eBay. Work with your engine machine shop and compare prices. When they realize you aren't in a hurry, they sometimes offer lower prices. Shop around. I left out a lot of detail but time enough for that. Plan on your engine being down for a month. Ten days at the machine shop; waiting for pistons then doing machine work. You can have it faster if you have time to work on it, or you can take your time and do it in a couple months (like January thru March).

              The finished engine will burn modern gas, run sweet because of better components and correct timing, and last much longer than a stock engine if you use moly rings. I hope this helps. - Dave
              My latest project:
              CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

              "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
              --Lee Iacocca

              From: Royal Oak, Michigan

              Comment


              • #8
                Say Dave, Whenever you give advice about engine rebuilds you always talk about new pistons. I have a 430 and would dearly like to reuse my existing pistons. I believe the real issue is the cylinder condition from the standpoint of taper that has been worn into the upper end. Is there an acceptable amount of taper that would allow simple honing of the cylinder walls and reuse of pistons?

                Vern

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by vernz View Post
                  ...Is there an acceptable amount of taper that would allow simple honing of the cylinder walls and reuse of pistons?..
                  Vern, I'd love to say, 'yes', but I can't. I was tempted to do just that until I learned about the consequences.

                  You described exactly what happens in a cylinder, it tapers. Installing new rings on a tapered bore will cause the rings to rapidly expand and contract, billions of times. It would work, but not for very long. In a short time, the rings would cause excessive piston groove wear and ring-top wear or they can break. Even if you tried setting the end gap at the bottom of the cylinder to .017" (at the smallest diameter), by the time the rings made it to the top, the end gaps would be open too much.

                  Old rings are half worn away, have less compression, and really don't flex with much outward pressure. The end gaps are about .100" wide, and the smooth cylinders cause them to hydroplane (and burn oil).

                  So, what are the options... You can bore and sleeve the cylinders. All aluminum engines have sleeves pressed into the bores, so this is a common practice. After honing the sleeves to the size of your old pistons, they would work just fine. I would do that if your 430 were mine.

                  Otherwise, a standard oversize bore and new pistons would be in order. I realize aftermarket pistons do not have the same contour as your stock pistons. If you get a group of owners together, you could probably convince a piston company to make a 'run' of pistons for the 430, but they would need to be all the same size. I will call my engine machine shop and ask how much sleeving costs.

                  But to answer your question directly; considering the cost of a major overhaul, using old pistons in the same bore is not worth it. Please realize, the used piston-to-used bore clearance is sloppy at .0025" (Ford's max limit). New piston in a new bore is spec'ed at .0015" (1-1/2 thousandths of an inch). The difference is only one thousandth.

                  By the time a typical engine is ready for an overhaul, the 'bell shaped' cylinder will be many thousandths wider at the top (you can use the 'ridge' as a witness mark for measurement).

                  Bottom line is... if you're spending that much to do a major, might as well do it once and do it right. Expect to spend around $1,500 for parts and machine shop costs. Then you assemble and install it, and save at least another $1,500.

                  Most of our squarebirders who restore their own engines, spend extra time to do things right. When done, their engines work even better than the production engine their Tbird came with. - Dave
                  My latest project:
                  CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                  "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                  --Lee Iacocca

                  From: Royal Oak, Michigan

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks for the great info. I have no way of knowing of this engine has been rebuilt. I know that a modern engine will run just as well at this kind of mileage, but on older engines I don't know how strong I could expect it to run. My impression is that it ought to be pretty well worn out, but it doesn't run like it is, so perhaps it was rebuilt.

                    I had thought for a while that maybe it was 52K, but there's a sticker on the driver's door for a gas station service at 86K.

                    If I do go the rebuild route (unlikely since I don't have the $1,500 you mentioned ), what rebuilt parts are unique to the T'bird 352. Ford made many flavors of this engine for cars and trucks, but the T'bird engine was special, right? Are the pistons, gaskets or any other rebuild parts unique?

                    What I'm likely to do is look harder in the spring at how it's running, any exhaust smoke / steam indicating it's consuming oil or coolant, how long does it take to consume a certain amount, any evidence of leakage while running, take a look at the freeze plugs, etc. Then I'll know better what I'm up against.

                    Oh, and no heated garage and in the winter the T'bird shares our tight 2 car with the SUV my wife drives. She's very tolerant of my claiming the entire garage in the summer, but not thrilled about it in the winter when she'd have to scrape her windows.
                    DGS (aka salguod)
                    1960 Convertible - Raven Black, Red leather
                    www.salguod.net

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Doug, there are standard 'checks' you can do to determine the age of your engine.

                      Get a pad of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the LH column going down, write 5,6,7,8. On the RH column going down, write 1,2,3,4. This is a graphic display of your engine. Take your compression readings for each cylinder and record the results.

                      Compression numbers can be high or low, as long as the numbers are spread close. If the numbers spread wide, a smooth engine is impossible to attain. Check Advance Auto for their free tool loaner program for a compression checker.

                      Timing Chain: Pull your distributor cap off. Put your timing marks anywhere in the middle. Use a wrench and a long handle on the damper pulley. As you move the crankshaft back and forth, see how many degrees you can go before the distributor rotor starts moving. This test will determine timing set slop.

                      FE engines are VERY common. They came in different varieties for different applications, but all of your components are pretty standard except the cam. Ford made a thrust plate change in '63. I strongly suggest you buy a '63 and up cam an drill your block for the new thrust plate. Timing sets are much cheaper for these cams AND you can get a 'true roller' chain set.

                      Most FE engines are very similar, so take a look at this 428 page:
                      http://www.7litre.org/Rebuildrecommend.html
                      My latest project:
                      CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                      "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                      --Lee Iacocca

                      From: Royal Oak, Michigan

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Good advice on the compression checks.... the fact that when you replaced the freeze out plug and it was a mess inside tells me the engine more than likely was not rebuilt and probaly is the original mileage. The compression check will tell you more if you have 130-150 then it might have been rebuilt. With 152K you would probably have 110-125 on the compression.
                        On Cardomain - http://www.cardomain.com/ride/3841411

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Doug,

                          Here's what I did with mine. I also didn't have the $1500-2000 to do a complete rebuild. After checking the cylinders with a micrometer and being comfortable that I didn't need to rehone them I just deglazed them with a honing stone. I then installed a new crankshaft and bearings. Mine was too far gone; cost $250. Fel-Pro gasket set; $55. New oil pump and rod $35. Freeze plugs $5. Timing chain; $20. New moly rings; $45. The cam and gears as well as the lifters were all in good shape so I reused them. After talking to the local machine shop and telling him how few miles I would put on the car he didn't see any reason to redo the heads. I ground down the seats and valves and installed the new seals from the kit. The only other expense was a couple of the rod bushings had to be replaced; $40. The engine runs smooth as silk with no smoke and is a solid 20 on the vacuum gauge. I believe mine had around 85K when I redid it. Even if something goes wrong the only big expense is the crank which I can always use over again. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone but it worked for me. I used lots of CLR and water to clean out the cooling passages which were loaded with rust and scale.

                          John
                          John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

                          Thunderbird Registry #36223
                          jopizz@squarebirds.org 856-779-9695

                          https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            John, I gotta ask...
                            What wiped out your crank, and what was up with your wrist pin bushings? Sounds like lack of oil flow (or coolant got into your oil).

                            Usually, if a crank is worn or scored (tapered, etc), the main and pin bearings can be ground. Bearing sets come in different sizes to suit the new grind.

                            I was just wondering. - Dave
                            My latest project:
                            CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                            "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                            --Lee Iacocca

                            From: Royal Oak, Michigan

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              It's hard to say what caused all the trouble. When I got the car the engine was seized and had been sitting for 18 years. The oil pump rod was broken in half so I suspect the pump locked up. Between lack of oil and rust from sitting so long the crank was in bad shape. Maybe it could've been ground down but after checking with a few machine shops it was cheaper to get a crank kit with the fitted bearings. For some reason a couple of the wrist pin bushings were a lot more worn than the others.
                              John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

                              Thunderbird Registry #36223
                              jopizz@squarebirds.org 856-779-9695

                              https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

                              Comment

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