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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Keep Your Classic Car or Truck from Overheating in Hot Summer Temps

Most of the country is experiencing higher than average temperatures this summer and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.  We sure hope you are all staying cool and staying safe in these scorching temps!

We also hope our classic car or truck are doing the same.  It can be fairly common for older vehicles are to have an issue with their cooling system.  Years of wear and tear on the radiator, hoses, belts, fans and even the engine block will eventually cause the system to run less efficiently.

However, with the proper maintenance you can rest assured that your street machine stays cool through the hot summer season.  Pay close attention to your vehicle’s temperature gauge.  The first sign of your motor running hot, even a little, is the best time to do an inspection of your cooling system.  Don’t wait until it is too late to make a small repair.

Inspect your radiator.  The most important part of your cooling system is your radiator.  It is the heart of the cooling systems and is also exposed to many outside elements.  It is in your best interest to keep the front of your radiator clean.  Use a high-pressure hose to remove any dirt and debris that has become lodged in the radiator’s face.

In addition to keeping it clean, you need to regularly inspect the rest of the tank and its cap for leaks or any signs of corrosion or wear and tear.  You know you have a leak if you see any green or white build up on the tank or its tubes.  We highly suggest repairing small radiator leaks with a hot or cold weld.  Do not use radiator sealants as they can clog up the water flow which will eventually cause more problems.

In the vent of a water flow problem in your radiator, drain your radiator and remove the bottom hose.  Next flush water through your radiator and watch it drain.  The water should flow evenly by draining as fast as it was added.   To remove any blockage, you can back flush the radiator to remove any buildup.  You may need to repeat this process depending on how old and what condition the radiator is in.

Maintain your belts and hoses.  If possible, replace hoses and belts with every oil change.  When there is a cooling system failure, it is often due to a busted belt or blown hose.  Any belts that are visibly cracked or frayed should be replaced immediately.  Same goes for any hoses that have signs of cracks, leaks or are bulging.  Belts and hoses deteriorate over time even if your car or truck is rarely driven.

Replace your thermostat.  Even though it is a super simple and inexpensive device, the thermostat is still like the brain of the cooling system.  If it isn’t a belt or hose causing your problem, it’s probably your thermostat.  When they fail to open as your engine heats up your car will overheat quickly.  It is a very cheap fix that can prevent major repairs.

Check your oil for coolant and check your coolant for oil.  If either of these fluids is mixed in the other, you have real problems. That is a dead giveaway of a blown head gasket.  A blown head gasket will allow these two fluids to mix and the engine to overheat and cause even more damage.  If you are regularly maintaining your fluids, this should not be an issue as you will catch the problem early.

Find your Freeze Plugs. Freeze/Core plugs are the holes left behind in your engine block from when it was casted.  They are often filled with a thin metal cup or other material to seal the engine.  Over time they can begin to corrode causing a leak in the system.  Depending on their placement on the engine inspecting them and repairing can be worlds apart.  If they are hard to reach a partial or full engine removal may be required.  If this is the case you might consider a copper or rubber expanding plug for the repair.  A few turns of a wrench might cure the problem.

Tune your carburetor.  An out of tune carburetor can make your classic overheat.  Make sure your carburetor and timing belt are both tuned to their ideal settings.  If either one is out of whack not only could your vehicle overheat, but the overall performance is going to suffer as well.

Check your heater core.  If you can see any leakage or weeping, then there is a good chance that your heater core is corroding.  They are notorious for rusting from the inside out and can cause a real mess with your cooling system.  Not all cars will have them, but if yours does and you are experiencing problems you can always install a heater core bypass as a temporary fix until you find a new heater core.  We would like to emphasize the word temporary!

With regular maintenance and inspections, you should have no worries about being stranded on the side of the road with your hood up.

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