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Mystery of the Vanishing Coolant

Discussion in '"Stock" Alpine' started by Alpine 1789, Apr 9, 2011.

  1. greenbean

    greenbean Donation Time

    Or Jim maybe a little in-da-goda-da-vita-baby (wish I could remember what group that was, I think it was Iron Butterfly):D. Does any body know the rest of the words???????
  2. Charles Autry

    Charles Autry Donation Time

    Yes it was Iron Butterfly , I have the recording but on 7 inch reel to reel , I don't think the words were as important as the long drum solo in the middle 15 min. or there about.
  3. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    In-A-Gadda-da-Vida? Age of Aquarius? I turned 16 in 1968 and even saw Hair on Broadway that year. You don't want to go there with me. But just for the record, 1) both songs are currently on my iPod and 2) for anyone who is interested, the entire lyrics to In-A-Gadda-da-Vida are:

    In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey,
    don't you know that I love you?
    In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, baby,
    don't you know that I'll always be true?

    Oh, won't you come with me
    and take my hand?

    Oh, won't you come with me
    and walk this land?

    Please take my hand!




    That is it. All 17 minutes of it. Aren't you sorry you brought that up?
  4. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    OK, now back to my car please. The UV light is a great idea and I will pick one up over the weekend. As for the pressure test, I completely forgot that I had a tester. My neighbor gave me one of these: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Mity...Z110674642306QQptZMotorsQ5fAutomotiveQ5fTools Mityvac doesn't seem to make this type anymore, but it is basically built on top of a higher quality version of the vacuum pump they sell for brake bleeding. This pump has a switch that allows it to toggle between pressure and vacuum. It seems to be a pretty decent unit and will easily test the pressure of the system. It will read the pressure without doing anything, or pressurize the system and see if it holds that amount. It also includes a thermometer that will check operating temperature at the same time as it monitors pressure.

    Only one problem: it needs an adapter to fit the Alpine. The instructions say that it will work with standard Stant adapters and lists a bunch of them. Among those are
    • Standard Radiator Adapter
    • Small Neck Imports (shallow)
    • Later import models: 93 Colt, 92 & newer Civic + lots of others
    • Small Neck Imports (Deep) lots of 'later import models'
    • A bunch of specific cars
    Does anyone know what type of adapter I need to ask for?

    As always, thanks!
  5. RootesRich

    RootesRich Donation Time

    And I was two years away from being born...

    Nope. Still a good song and it got Aquarius/ Let the Sunshine unstuck from my head. :D
  6. RootesRich

    RootesRich Donation Time

    Could it be as simple as getting a plastic vac tee from Napa, etc and placing it between sections of the overflow tube provided you have a reservoir?

    Just thinking out loud guys. Don't flame me.
  7. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    Thanks Rich. :p Here's the real proof of how old I am: I saw the Three Stooges perform live. Twice.
  8. Nickodell

    Nickodell Donation Time

    I knew the Beatles when they were still pupae.
  9. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    OK, now back to my car please!.

  10. 65beam

    65beam Bronze Level Sponsor

    vanishing coolant

    just make a run to the local radiator shop and have them check it. i bet they know what to use and what to look for. they may even find the leak and then you can go from there.
  11. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Donation Time

    The radiator test kit sold at HF didnt have a cap adapter for the alpine, but it did have several generic units which have two arms to hold onto the rad filler, then you tighten the test port down into the filler base where the caps plunger would normally seal. The bottom of the generic test port has a rubber seal like the rad cap.

    You can pump the system and monitor pressure while the engine is running.

    Anyhow for $60 or so it has been a great addition to my tool set and has been used on two cars thus far each time assisting in an accurate diagnosis.

    That and the infrared thermometer have been some of the best tool investments Ive made.
  12. bkasl

    bkasl Silver Level Sponsor

    had the same problem last year on the S5, head gasket leak, replaced and no problems, found one head bolt slightly loose, doesnt take much with that head oressure to use coolant
  13. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    Thanks Bob. I get so used to doing everything myself that I forget to even think about calling in a professional. There is supposedly good radiator shop not too far from my home that is open on Saturdays. Weather permitting (the forecast for this Saturday is a little iffy), I will drive over this weekend and see what the say.

    I'd still like to be able to find the correct adapter for my tester. I guess my best bet is to just bring that with me and see what they say.
  14. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    I think I am now a lot closer to a solution, or at least knowing the cause. I did follow Bob's advice and took the car to a radiator shop yesterday. Unfortunately, I stupidly did it about an hour from closing time and they didn't want to touch the car until it cooled down, so nothing there.* But, I took a new look at my pressure tester when I got home and realized that I didn't need an adapter. It fit the filler neck just fine. I am not sure what I did wrong when I tried it before, but it was a perfect fit.**

    The first thing I did was what the rad shop said they'd do: pump it up to about 15 lbs and see where it leaked. I did and it didn't leak at all. it held the 15 lbs for several hours. Out of curiosity, I took the spark plugs out while it was pumped up and there was no leakage there. Also, in response to Jose's suggestion to check the plugs for evidence of leaks, they all looked great and equal.

    So, this morning I used the tester as gauge. I started the car up and let it reach full operating temperature, confirmed by the meat thermometer that comes with the kit and rests down in the coolant. Here's the interesting thing. The pressure increased gradually as the car warmed up, but it didn't stop at 7lbs. When I got to normal operating temperature it was at 15 lbs, which is where it seemed to stop. I don't know if it would have gone higher had I waited and let it start to overheat, but it seemed pretty steady at 15 over the last bit of temperature increase. Also, it did not fluctuate with idle speed. Just a steady 15 lbs.

    So, my take is that there is nothing wrong with my radiator cap, other than the fact that it isn't up to the pressure my system generates. I assume I can find a higher pressure cap that fits, but first the questions is: why do I have more than twice the stock pressure?


    *I asked the guys about a couple of prices while we were talking. They get about $160 to strip, bead blast, clean and reassemble a rad about the size of the Alpine's. That seemed high to me, but I know I paid a little over $100 when I had it done 7 or 8 years ago, so maybe not. However, he said a three row recore would be around $360, which, based on the prices others have been quoted, seemed damn good.

    **The pressure tester like mine currently on eBay is up to $3.25 with 3 days to go. Based on my experience with mine, I'd gladly pay 6 or 7 times that amount.
  15. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Donation Time

    If you are getting to 15 psi, either the coolant temp is higher than you think, the glycol to water ratio is not 50/50 or there is exhaust gasses getting into the cooling system.

    Get a hold of a coolant hydrometer and verify that you have a 50/50.

    If so you should generate about 6psi at 185 deg F.
  16. RootesRooter

    RootesRooter Platinum Level Sponsor

    In your initial test with the pressure tester you pumped it up to 15psi? I'm surprised you didn't blow up your heater core at over twice the stock psi. Even if its not leaking, you may now find a bulging core that is very difficult or even impossible to remove from the car without destroying it.

    I've never tried running the car with the tester attached and using it a running guage. I wonder if that could produce faulty readings? If the guage was bought used, I think it's suspect.

    If the system held pressure with the engine off with absolutely no change for several hours at 15psi (or even just 7psi), there's just no way it could be a head gasket. It could bring you back to a bad radiator cap.

    BTW, I've come across one or two Alpine radiators that for reasons unknown had an extra-deep filler neck. A standard radiator cap would seal it, but just barely. It could be dangerous as heck, as the cap's pressure release lever was ineffective in the long neck, tricking me once into thinking the guage must be wrong and there wasn't really any pressure built up. 15 years later I can still see the steam burn mark on my chest if I look carefully enough.

    One other thought: It's very common to find a small crack between valve seats on Series V heads. Most seem to be benign and don't cause problems. Is it possible for a crack to be just severe enough that it still seals tight while cold but expands enough to leak when hot?
  17. Tom H

    Tom H Platinum Level Sponsor

    I see a couple of points here:

    1) Jim did you do your pressure test after the engine was fully cooled? I suggest doing it with the engine still quite warm. Some leaks only show up when the engine is hot and all the metal has expanded. Of course that gets a bit problematic in that as the engine does cool while you are running the test it will drop some pressure due to cooling. But I think you might see a rapid (2 minutes or so) decrease if there were a leak when hot.

    2) The reason for using a pressure cap of 7 lbs is to KEEP the pressure at 7 psi and no higher. If you keep the system closed with no relief, of course it may go above 7. If you use a 9 lb cap it will release at 9. etc, depending on how full the system was and its temperature. You say your pressure cap "is not up to the pressure your system generates" yes it is, it's is SUPPOSED to release at 7 lbs, so your hoses and heater core etc do not get overstressed .

    3) I think Jarrid remembers his thermodynamics better than me and is probably correct about pressure and temperature and anti freeze. I do know that antifreeze raises the boiling point (and vapor pressure). So do check for 50/50 mix.

    4) But if the cooling system is full of coolant with no air space, I think the vapor pressure issue is moot. If there is no (or too little) air space to compress, then as the coolant warms it expands and the cap needs to release and vent.

  18. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    Thanks Tom and Jarrid. It will be a few days before I can do any real testing, but you have both given me a start on the next tests. I used to have a hydrometer, but haven't used it in years and will probably just pick up a new one. I don't know that it is exactly 50/50, but doubt it is much worse then 60/40 water/antifreeze.

    As for the radiator tester itself, I didn't buy it but it was brand new (albiet NOS) when given to me. My neighbor is a sales rep for the company and gives me lots of stuff that would otherwise be destroyed. Still, it is certainly possible the gauge is off; I will test that to be sure.

    Tom's comments about the way a pressure cap works certainly make sense, but then I have to wonder about how the pressure gauge is intended to work with a running system. Maybe that is why they stopped making them.

    I will definitely have to take a look at the heater core. I checked it for leaks when I first started this quest and know it wasn't bulging then. Hopefully, it still isn't. I have several spares, so no real harm done if it is ruined.

    As for the radiator neck, I also have a couple of spare rads and think they are all the same. But, I will measure them precisely to be safe.

    Finally, Tom's question about warm testing vs. cold testing is very interesting. The test where I pumped the pressure up manually and it held was cold. However, the warm pressure did decline fairly rapidly over 30 minutes or so. But, how do I know if this was the coolant cooling or a leak? Pump it back up and see what happens?

    I am traveling over the next few weeks, so this might be a slow motion conversation, but as always: thanks for the help and advice!
  19. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Donation Time

    Its not intended that the cooling system should operate at or above the relief pressure.

    If the cap was intended to dump at 7psi, the pressure should NOT get there unless you are overheating or the coolant constituency has a vapor pressure that correlates with that particular temperature (IE a weak mix).

    The relief valve (rad cap) protects the radiator and hoses if the cooling system has otherwise gone above temp for the coolant it is designed for.
  20. Tom H

    Tom H Platinum Level Sponsor

    Jarrid, Do you not agree that if the radiator is full when cold, no air space, the coolant WILL expand, and create more pressure than 7 psi and and cause the relief valve in the rad cap to open?


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