Monday, January 16, 2017

The Story of the Blown Radiator

It was the summer of 2015, our second season with the van. Our goal, drive to the end of route 138 on the North Shore of Quebec. A 2 000 mile back and forth trip into the unknown above the 50th parallel. No idea if the 35 year old truck would make it but we set forth with tools, duct tape and bail wire. We made it.

2 weeks later I had cleaned, waxed and buffed my truck to go to a car show. We packed the truck the night before planning to camp in the night before the show so we wouldn't wait in line too long the next morning. All that was needed was ice so we stopped for some less than a mile from the house. out we come of the store and the van spews its coolant on the pavement while we walk towards it. Blown radiator. We headed back home and that was pretty much the end of the season for us. Our budget was already tight and parts for the repair would gobble up the rest of it.

Fast forward a month later, I have a radiator, new hoses, clips and fresh coolant. didn't buy a new thermostat, a friend gave me one new in the box (more on that later.). A pretty straight forward job, I proceed to do it. Turns out the truck had its original brass radiator, a disaster waiting to happen. Pulling everything out and putting it back in went almost flawlessly. Almost. While trying to insert the new heater chore hose, one of the heater chore's pipes pops out from behind the firewall. The word that came out of my mouth was loud and foul. Back to the web for more info.

Oh joy, I had to remove the entire dash in order to replace the part. 2 weeks later I managed to get the part and do the install with some help from Youtube. I had to get the truck ready as we had a final event to attend for the upcoming week end. A test drive revealed weird fluctuations on the temperature gauges which is usually rock steady whatever the conditions. Screw it, let's go. I made it to destination but it was about time, the temperature was starting to rise and worry me.

2 days later we headed back home. As we were rolling on the highway, the temperature started to rise steadily and was making a run for the redline. I pulled over immediately, waited for it to cool and proceeded again. I had to do this so many times that a trip that would normally be a 90 minute drive turned into a 7 hour nightmare. I couldn't drive into the city so I parked it at a friend's on the outskirts of town.

I had the truck towed to my trusted garage (American Auto Centre) and they found the problem right away, the thermostat was stuck closed preventing coolant from circulating in the engine. That brand new in the box gifted freebee thermostat was defective. Funny thing is there is a stupid simple way to check these which I had found in my research. Dump the thing in boiling water to see if it opens. Did I do it? Nooooo, it's brand new! So the job ended up costing twice the initial price by adding tow and time for the mechanic.

The lesson here? Check everything and don't take things for granted, ever. I'm not stressed over this, I learned something and the truck is back to it's solid self.

Lastly, if you don't have a temperature gauge, get one retrofitted. When that red overheat light comes on, it's generally too late. Shutting down prior to overheating saved my engine.

Until next time, living the vanlife.


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