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Old 10-16-2016, 02:23 PM   #1
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Engine Temp Issues - does this Gauge look ok?

We are having a hard time getting our 88 Itasca'suncruiser cooling system perfect.

It's been pressure tested, new thermostat, fan clutch was seized and we replaced that. Two shops have said it's fixed.

The other day I took a very small drive and when I parked, the coolant spilled oUT of the overflow reservoir. I'm having a hard time finding out how to buy a new cap, being a new owner, and the auto shops here don't carry one.

As a stop gap until I can get a new cap, I replaced the lost coolant and have a clamp on the cap.

I can see that the engine temperature guage is about one or two needles above where it was prior to the overflowing coolant.

Does the attached Guage look ok?

We love our rig and have plans to take I think fairly far in January, so it needs to be top notch. On that note, two shops have given it a full inspection and said it's in good working order.

Any help would be appreciated!
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Old 10-16-2016, 03:04 PM   #2
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Typically the needle should be close to center of gauge at normal operating temp. Is that with engine running and warmed up? How full are you filling the overflow tank? Does it have markings on it that show what level it should be at when cold? Usually they don't get filled much more than 1/4 full when cold. Don't clamp the cap, you'll bust a line or the tank, the overflow has to go somewhere.
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Old 10-16-2016, 03:23 PM   #3
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Wink Eng. temps

After reading about your temp issue I find a couple of questions / answers ... The first is to the pressure test of the system , because I own a rad shop I performed this test quite often to show and prove points . 1 the Rad Cap should have been pressure tested also but separately ( a good shop will do this for FREE) as a sign of good will. A frozen Clutch fan is / is not bad depending on what your trying to do . A good clutch fan assem. will turn on or clutch up around 215-220 degrees of AIR temp coming thru the all radiator fins to help bring down water temp with lots of air flow. ( make sure you have Air flow - no bugs fuzz hay hair) in and thru the system of coolers. Thusly cooler air thru rad system will shut down the fan action leaving it up to the thermostat and its temp. Standard systems run 195 thermostats ( so they CRACK open at 195 and are fully open at 219) .... Notice that 219 is 7 degree's above boiling requiring a Pressure cap so the cooling sys will work. Each pound of pressure will give you 3 degress of working area added to 212 (boil point) so at a min 10 lbs (=30 deg + 212) or 242 as your hi temp range to work with.... you must also figure out your gauge #s and what the are to make this work . Now with a closed system , a reservoir to take on or return water thru the cap.... then your system should be fine .... lastly check for a blown head gasket contributing to your excess water in the reservoir and over flowing or the bottom hose collapsing when rpm is up - the spring inside could be gone allowing it to close up and pumping no water ..... a good tool to have is a thermal sensor reader . they work well to help you, even on the road.
I know there is a lot to take in but a good rad man will explain all of this and more and even what to do when running a thermostat at 180 degrees and not 195 and even changing the 16 lb. cap down to a 10 lbs. for reason stated above
enjoy and good luck
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Old 10-16-2016, 04:55 PM   #4
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Water has a boiling point of 212 degrees. A 50-50 mix of water and ethylene glycol, common mixture as a coolant, has a boiling point of 223 degrees. Then add the increase based on the lbs of pressure the rad cap is rated for. Typically coolant doesn't flow into the overflow tank because it's boiling, if it does you're seriously over heated. It flows into the the tank because it expands when heated. The overflow tank is designed to catch the overflow when it does expand and return it to the rad through vacuum in the radiator as it cools.

This is why I asked how much you're filling the overflow tank. If it's full or even half full when cold it's going to over fill the overflow tank. dceramic's advice regarding the radiator cap is good. Since they're not very expensive, assuming it hasn't already been replaced, I would just get a new one. Also need to know if that temp gauge is showing a cold engine or one at operating temp. Although the gauge may not be accurate. If not it could be the gauge itself or the sending unit on the engine, typically mounted in the head of a 454. Could be either head as they have used both over the years to run the gauge.
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Old 10-16-2016, 06:09 PM   #5
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I don't know about your particular set up.... but you mentioned something that may be important. OK.... you've R&R'd the entire cooling system and all is up to snuff. Good.

One thing you replaced was a defective fan clutch. If that clutch was locked "on" - even slightly - it would have been pulling air through the radiator and 'over cooling" (I lack a better word) the system. That would have made the gauge read slightly lower than it would with a normally functioning clutch fan. Now you have it working right, the gauge is reading higher, as it should. Might also depend on whether, or not, the fan clutch was the right one (originally). Some have different operating temps for heavy duty applications.

The other item is the thermostat. You could have had a 'lazy' thermostat that wasn't closing all the way or it could have been a lower than specification 'stat that someone put in before you got the RV or put in somewhere back in the day. That would make the gauge read slightly lower because the coolant is slipping past the 'stat rather than being held longer in the block. Obviously, if it was a 185F 'stat vs a 192-195F 'stat will make the gauge show cooler temps which is normal.

In some cooling systems it's difficult to get all the 'air' out. It may take several 'heat / cooling (over night) for the motor to get all the air out. With an overflow tank, not overfilled, you would not notice it had pumped air out except for a small drop in the level. If the tank was really full, it could have puked some coolant out as there was no room for the expanded fluid/air.

I don't know about your gauge... but almost every factory gauge I've had normally runs in the lower 1/3ish of the gauge face. That's a FORD V8??? If you look at the gauge... you have C / / | ,\ H

When the engine is stone cold, the red needle should be to the left of the C. Drive gently. As it warms up, needle moves right and crosses the first "/", you are now in the 'normal operating' range and it's OK to put the 'wood' to it. On the right side of the gauge is what looks like a small red mark in front of the "\". That's telling you that your approaching over temperature..... obviously, going past that is probably NOT a good thing. So.... anywhere between / & ,,\ is normal operating temperature.

The needle can be anywhere in the 'NORMAL' range (some older FORDS had "NORMAL" written on the gauge...) during operation. The tip is to note, if you have been doing a long, steep climb and throwing the coal to it, the needle position. It may be to the right of the center line & that's OK. If it doesn't quickly move back to the 'traditional range' after cresting the hill, that might be of concern. (And... if you are rolling down hill power mostly off, you could see the needle quickly drop below the 'traditional range'.)

Another way of looking at it: the first / is where the thermostat is beginning to open. Maybe about 185ish. The needle, all things being equal, represents 'full open' on the 'stat. Let's say it's a 195F stat, full open is about 212F ish. So, the needle is telling you that the coolant is about 212F or boiling pt. of water. That's pretty darn normal. The center | is likely 220F ish. The \ is very likely 240F ish, the 'exceed at your own risk' temperature. Anywhere in the middle 1/3 should be fine.

Be happy you have a gauge.... our '13/14 Mercedes sprinter doesn't have any.... NADA. NONE. Just warning lights.
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Old 10-16-2016, 06:22 PM   #6
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Even if the clutch on the fan was locked up it shouldn't over cool the engine. Not unless the outside temp was extremely cold. The thermostat should control the engine temp. The clutch fan just reduces the load on the engine when additional airflow is not needed. Many and I mean many older cars ran with a fixed blade fan, no clutch. The thermostat controlled engine temp.

Not too familiar with Ford gauges but had a 454 in our previous MH. Gauge ran pretty much between 190-200. It did have degree markings. Our current MH runs just about center of the gauge, no degree markings, it's a GM 8.1 L.
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Old 10-16-2016, 09:01 PM   #7
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If it's not reading hot I'd be real concerned about a head gasket leak.
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Old 10-16-2016, 11:18 PM   #8
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Thank you all so much, I'm looking forward to reading in detail here and getting a plan of action.
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Old 10-16-2016, 11:43 PM   #9
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I would also look at getting a new gauge that read in degrees not hot or cold. I would also get fuel, because if that gauge is a accurate as your temp you are running on fumes.
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Old 10-17-2016, 07:22 AM   #10
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Agree with suggestion for a gauge that reads in degrees. Your '88 doesn't have OBD2 so is too old to use a scangauge (that reads from the engine ECU), but an aftermarket gauge and sending unit can be had for around $50. My suggestion is based on owning two Chevrolet chassis motorhomes where the dashboard temperature gauges were very inaccurate.

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Originally Posted by DrDaveMA View Post
I would also look at getting a new gauge that read in degrees not hot or cold...
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Old 10-17-2016, 10:49 AM   #11
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I'd love to save some money if possible and do some stuff myself. A local mechanic said it sounds like a clogged radiator potentially.

Is it worth pulling the radiator myself and taking it to the radiator rebuild shop?

The mechanic said for him to do it it would be around 1200.
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Old 10-17-2016, 12:40 PM   #12
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Engine Temp Issues - does this Gauge look ok?

Your first post said 2 shops said the cooling system was good, now you say you were told to replace the radiator. It sounds like you are looking for work, 2 out of the 3 you have told us about thus far say it is good, even NASA accepts 2 out of 3.


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Old 10-17-2016, 02:51 PM   #13
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Well Dr Dave, 2 shops said it was good, but it's still running hot and exploding out the overflow tank. Shop 3 didn't test, it was just a phone call and a hunch because shop 1 and 2 didn't fix the problem.
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Old 10-17-2016, 03:03 PM   #14
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I may have missed it but i'm assuming the image of the temperature gauge was taken with the engine warmed up.

The gauge may not be perfectly accurate but if its needle is moving, then it's probably working well enough to be informative. It's definitely not showing too high an engine temperature in your picture. That little red mark on the gauge is where you DON'T want the needle to end up near. From what you're telling us, it doesn't sound like the radiator is clogged.

It's normal for coolant to go back and forth to the overflow tank. Check it's level when everything is cooled down. There should be a "cold" level mark on the plastic tank. Make sure coolant (water/antifreeze) is filled to around that mark. Also while everything is cold, make sure coolant is topped off in the radiator itself. Warm everything up, i would drive it a few miles, then check the tank level again. It'll probably be higher but it shouldn't come out of the cap.
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