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Mystery of the Vanishing Coolant

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

  1. RootesRooter

    RootesRooter Platinum Level Sponsor

    I must have a missed a page of posts somewhere. If the cooling system appears to be holding pressure, why would you "deal with (change?) the head gasket"?
  2. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    That was in a separate thread I started a week ago: http://www.sunbeamalpine.org/forum/showthread.php?t=16144

    I know this is irrational and probably not even possible (especially after discussing it with Jim E yesterday), but I am holding out hope (aka "a fantasy") that the gunk is somehow a function of the coolant that has been spraying around the engine compartment as a result of the leak. I figure it can't hurt to drive it for a few weeks - I have to do that anyway to make certain I have really fixed the leak - and then take a new look at the valve cover. Any trace of mustard gunk and I will immediately pull the head.
  3. Ken Ellis

    Ken Ellis Donation Time

    The most recent cooling system leak I had to deal with was in the block drain tube, that exits the block under the manifolds, and is routed forward to the engine bracket under the alternator.

    It began as a slow leak at the valve -- or so I thought. That's just where the drip was. I tightened the fittings and the valve, but it was still dripping. It turns out that the pipe itself had developed hairline cracks that would seep when at rest, and mist when under pressure. The assembly resisted all efforts at removal, so currently it's cut off and terminated with a plugged hose.

    I suppose the cracks could come from corrosion, vibration/flexing of a 10-inch unsupported tube, freezing, rotary loads from unsupported tightening, excess heat (due to proximity to headers) or general handling damage from its cross-country trip in the back of a rental truck last summer.

    Anything's better than a head gasket.

    Jim, does your coolant loss track thermostat operation? As in, it doesn't leak until the stat opens?

    How's your heater control valve?


    PS... just noticed this was 3 weeks old...
  4. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    The thread may be three weeks old, but since I haven't fixed it yet...

    I suspected the drain tube too. It just sits there, vibrating away, so the potential for metal fatigue has to be pretty high. I was thinking about just plugging it, but the reality is that there have been no visible leaks since I replaced the radiator and hoses. Unfortunately, if you read this thread, you will see that the source of the hidden leak is apparently a head gasket after all. I haven't had time to replace it the past few weeks, but should get to it shortly.
  5. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Donation Time

    The vibration always bothered me too as copper work hardens.

    The simple solution is to split an appropriate sized rubber grommet and wedge it in place.
    No more vibration.
  6. kwhite

    kwhite Donation Time

    Much good information here as I have recently began experiencing mysterious loss of coolant too.

    I have only had chance to take my car out 3 times in last 4 months as I have been slowly replacing clutch master, slave and assorted odds and ends. First drive 4 weeks ago was beautiful, 4 trips @ 1/2 hour per, car never sat long without running, ran cool and smooth all afternoon. On start up I did hear a minor squeal/grind that I felt was beginning of water pump failure, (oh well) but it went away quickly, outside temp 75F. Two weeks later open garage and notice considerable amount of coolant saturated into cardboard under car. Checked the usual suspect areas at front passenger side of car which cardboard seemed to indicate leak from and found a slightly loose lower rad hose clamp, tightened, filled rad, started and observed nothing for 30 min. Problem solved? Nope. Yesterday was 55F and I took it on a short hop of 2 miles and noticed a wiff of coolant on start up. Other than a bit of sluggishness with cold lubricant at first, no problems warmed up. Today I wanted to button her up after a short drive @ 57F. Started ok but noticed a distinct, intermittent smell of coolant as I managed to barely make it around 4 blocks without stalling. Upon return, I had difficulty with clutch sticking, some white smoke (very little) and what I think was a combo of Lockheed fluid and coolant (definitively coolant). Also seemed engine not developing full power, like a brake was dragging. Did not notice fluid leaking from system or on y pipe but I have had to top off again once. I did observe a tiny bit of coolant at top of temp sending gauge.

    Engine block was boiled, fluxed, bored .40 over. Excellent cylinder head core (thanks Agm) was rebuilt by the best shop in town summer of 2009. I did check torque of head bolts at 500 mi. I feel pretty certain that the integrity of the block and head is sound. The car does live in an unheated, 100 year old garage but it is a very sturdy structure and coolant/antifreeze protection exceeded temp. And I put about 500 miles on it this summer with no issues.

    I know from reading these posts that the big job is finding source of leak. But I have one more wrinkle to add. I turned the heater on (a first) during trip one to see how it worked. That is the only apparent variable. I did not notice any coolant in cabin and did not observe typical core set up when I removed engine. I have put over 1,400 miles on the rebuild with the typical component resto issues but nothing major.

    Sounds like I have at least 3 or more distinct (Sunbeam) issues, but was hoping impartial cooler heads may provide some additional insight. I have learned so much from you all and the good old WSM.

    Best Regards

    PS: This car (B94102157) has a very old SAOCA decal in window and is listed in registry with it's original color. It now appears to have a 30+ year 2 stage enamel job over original Med Blue. I have been able to trace to California in 2004, (see photo) I picked it up with a blown piston/head in Baldwin, KS in 2008. Anyone recognize it? Is there any way to trace back further through club records?

    Attached Files:

  7. todd reid

    todd reid Gold Level Sponsor

    Vanishing Coolant

    signs of external leak - wet flloor

    signs of internal leak - white smoke

    block and head both inspected/tested in recent years.

    obviously there are many possible causes, but the most common would be a blown head gasket.

    Was head re-torqued after rebuild?

    1. Try to locate source(s) of external leak (hoses, clamps, rad, rad cap, etc).
    2. Perform a compression test.
    3. If possible test for exhaust gases in coolant.

    Report back here with your findings.
  8. kwhite

    kwhite Donation Time

    Thanks for reply. Will be going over all the usual suspects if I can be back home over the holidays and if it is warm enough to investigate.

    Again, any members know any history of my car?

    Merry Christmas All!
  9. kwhite

    kwhite Donation Time

    One mystery solved, poor seat on rad cap, no more wet floor. Other issue was clutch slave. This was the second Lockheed type to fail in 60 miles. Luckily VB is a short drive from here and I was able to put 100 trouble free miles on car this weekend with their Tiawan made unit.

    I got the Lockheed units from Classic Garage Brewster, NY. Has anyne had similar experience w/ this company?


    Happy New Year
  10. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    No experience with Classic's unit, but I did have a VB one fail after a few years. And, as I recall, it did not use a standard rebuild kit. You might want to rebuild the Classic one and keep it in the trunk as a spare.
  11. kwhite

    kwhite Donation Time

    My initial feeling too. But I had 2 (two) Lockheed units fail within 30 miles per.

    Between 1st and 2nd unit I replaced master with Wilwood unit and replaced line and fittings.

    Took car out tonight after work and put 10 more miles on it. I was happy at first to find what I assume to be original replacement slave, but will bow to the East (ROC), if this one holds out. I did not have great customer service experience with Classic. They spoke to me as if I did not know how to turn a wrench but it could have been my bad luck. At least VB has 90 day return.

  12. 65beam

    65beam Bronze Level Sponsor


    buy your parts from sunbeam specialties. 408 371 1642
  13. kwhite

    kwhite Donation Time

    I feel ya man. But it was 70 degrees in KC in late December and the part was there so I could drive that day.

    I have bought a ____ load of parts from SS and this is not a criticism, but it seems imprudent to be dependent on one vendor, no?
  14. 65beam

    65beam Bronze Level Sponsor


    my viewpoint on suppliers is based on experience. having owned sunbeams since the 60's i learned a lot the hard way. i remember the days when you could order parts from one supplier and all you did was lose your money. i still won't buy from them. VB used to have some decent parts twenty years ago. before tiger tom retired i bought a lot from him. i also bought from SS then but other than a few parts from speedy spares for my fastbacks i now buy almost everything from SS. i have parts to repair or replace anything that may break on any of my beams so what i buy is for stock so i'm not in a position of waiting to get the car back on the road. buy from SS!
  15. gordonra

    gordonra Donation Time

    Don't forget about Classic Sunbeam. I've not purchased from them for a while, but they have many good quality parts and they were always easy to work with.

  16. 65beam

    65beam Bronze Level Sponsor


    Buy From Ss!!!!!

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