Cooling System Woes - Still...
Okay, here are the symptoms up to yesterday. The TJ has been like this since I bought it in mid-June. I have zero idea as to how long it ran this way prior to my purchase. (It is a 2003 Sport 4.0L @ 147,000 miles.)
The needle would stay forever at just above the 210 dot, about a needle's thickness of black gauge face showing between the needle and the dot. This was when it was "cool" but after the thermostat had opened up.
From there it rose based on outside temps and how hard I ran the thing.
Generally, on the road I stay five over the limit. I usually am too gun shy to go more than that as my history of tickets is long and painfully expensive. I am now 48 and am usually not in much of a hurry. I leave early and usually am early to where I am headed. On really hot days I drive the posted limit. In the rain I drive below the posted limit, always.
At 60 mph on a hot day (about 100º with 90% humidity) the gauge generally stayed pegged with about a 16th of an inch of black showing between the dot and the needle. Not a lot, but a lot more than I want to see.
On the Interstate at 75 on a similar day it would go up to about 3/32" of black visible.
Yesterday it got worse. Not a lot, but it was noticeable. I did not drive for long and raised the hood and rand the heater for five minutes after I got home.
I tried to do a decent job with the Prestone Flush-N-Fill kit with a 22 oz bottle of Prestone AS-105 Flush & Cleaner. I followed the instructions, but on the water-only cycle, rather than do it three times I ran water through it while running for ten minutes.
Then I changed the thermostat. Perfect job, absolutely no leaks, the bleeder valve was centered at the top. (I had been hoping that the stat was the issue. It was from a cheap parts store and did not have the little air bleeder valve at all. I know that needs to be there and oriented properly, and the FSM clearly shows it in the illustrations.)
Then I slapped on a new serpentine belt. I filled the radiator with 5.5 quarts of Zerex G-05. Then I used the flush kit tee to hook up a hose (no back-flow prevention valve, just a hose) draped into a recovery bucket and started pouring in distilled water. I *think* I got in five quarts. Not sure. I was distracted at the time and now cannot remember. It was either that or one quart. DOH!
Anyway, I had problems getting the water into the radiator using the displacement method (gravity only, engine off). So after struggling with the water I turned on the motor and when the stat opened up I was able to get in a gallon plus. (Oh, heck, I can remember now. Yes, about 5 quarts of distilled with 5.5 quarts of HOAT.)
The water coming out of the heater hose tee was clear until about that last quart, when it became orange tinted, but just barely. I was using an orange Home Depot "Homer" bucket and the only way I could see the very pale orangeness was to lift the hose up above the top of the bucket to see the water with the cement as the backdrop.
This was a PITA as I was pouring water in as I was looking at the hose.
When the color started showing in the water I had my wife cut the engine. I capped off everything and then restarted and ran for like 10 minutes.
After it cooled off I added the bulk of the distilled that I had not been able to get in the radiator into the empty overflow bottle. I poured in just a bit of Zerex with that. (Distilled, maybe a quart, Zerex, maybe a half a cup.)
The gauge was pegged to dead center of the 210 dot. We let it cool again and then took a drive that covered downtown traffic, US highway and Interstate speeds. Up to 60 mph it stayed on the top half of the 210 dot, just about to goo into the black. At Interstate speed (70) It started running hot again, but not as bad as it had been doing.
When I got below 55 and turned on the heater it returned to 210 dead center in about one minute.
We went home and it sat for two hours.
Then I drove it to town on an errand, which was a two hour round trip.
On the way out, at 5:00 PM when it was still pretty hot, it ran with about two needle's thickness of black showing between the dot and the needle. I drove it at 60 on the dot for about a half hour until I reached the Interstate, where I spent about a half hour at 75. It rose maybe one more needle's thickness and stayed there.
At my destination I let is idle with the hood up and the heater on. The temp ROSE after I turned on the heater. Then it came back down after like three or four minutes, back to 210 dead center.
I stayed for supper and drove home in the dark. It was nice and cool, in the 70s, and I stayed on back roads and US highways all the way home, avoiding the Interstate. It never left the 210 dot. It moved around within that small space a bit but never once crossed into the black.
Okay, that is 100% of what happened.
Now, we have a flush of dubious quality, maybe adequate, maybe not. But the water ran very clear, so whatever.
We have what is probably a good mix of HOAT and distilled water.
We have a new thermostat. It was installed properly and there are zero system leaks. The heater hoses both are very hot to the bare hand, as is the top hose. The bottom radiator hose is just barely warm.
The heater blows VERY hot.
The symptoms seem like it is cooling very well but cannot handle the Interstate on a hot day.
I will be changing the water pump and fan clutch tomorrow with dealership parts. (Yes, my butt hurts where they bit it with the prices, but the AutoZone parts both looked pretty poorly cast and assembled. I returned them and spent the bucks for the real deal because I cannot afford to trash another engine due to excessive heat like I did my poor, dead 2.4L SE.
If this does not fix the problem then it has to be the radiator.
Keep in mind that the radiator took TEN MINUTES to get 5.5 quarts of straight Zerex into the empty radiator with the motor off. And I could not get any water in until I started it up. Is this normal, or is it a gunky radiator? Should I fill it with some witch's brew and cap it off while I do the fan clutch and water pump, letting it "soak" in the stuff for a while?
Or do these symptoms sound like a fan clutch that is starting to give out, or a water pump that is underperforming?
I know it will get sorted if I throw enough money at it. But I do not want to do that since I do not have any more left for a radiator.
I am getting depressed. HAHAHA!!! Maybe more Jeep therapy tomorrow will straighten me out?
What do you guys think about my symptoms? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
I would try a new radiator cap before I did all of that work. I would recommend changing it every time that you change the thermostat. It does have moving parts that wear out.
Also you may want to check the ECT (engine coolant temperature) with a scan tool. Gauges are not always that accurate.
My Jeep runs at 210 all of the time. It is hot here in Las Vegas. I do not drive it much on the Interstate, no need to. It would not surprise me to see it creep up that much if I did.
How do I test that specific sensor? How much do you think it would cost me at a dealership? (Not willing to get *any* parts from AutoZone and the like for my cooling or charging systems. The dealership I trust is my choice for those parts.)
Maybe they will have one when I visit tomorrow to get the fan clutch. (I actually have the water pump here and will get the fan clutch, unlike what I wrote above, for simplicity. I will be at the dealership in the morning. I will ask about the sensor.
Thanks very much for your response and for your patience in reading this long post!
EDIT: The dang cap was from AutoZone. I will try one from the dealership. I also need a new gas cap, so why not?
What does the radiator look like inside when you remove the radiator cap & drain out enough coolant so you can see the cooling channel openings down inside with a flashlight? Do all the openings look clean & wide open or do you see white deposits around them?
If you see a bunch of built-up hard white stuff inside, those are hard water deposits & those are probably clogging up the channels enough so its cooling capacity is too marginal. That style radiator cannot be taken apart & rodded (mechanically cleaned) out by a radiator shop, it has to be replaced when clogged with hard water deposits.
Hard water deposits are formed by not using distilled water, perhaps the previous owner used tap water in it.
A couple of tricks. As someone else mentioned use a digital scanner but when hot check th top, middle and bottom of radiator to see if coolant temp is dropping. As a diesel dealership shop manager and 40 plus years experience I have seen lots of fads and chemicals and different coolants. Here is the steps I would use. 1. Drain and flush the coolant out with do tilled water (sorry) dispose safely.
2. Use a mix of Sal Soda or Borax wading soda and water. 1/2 a box dissolved in water will do. Repeat several times. I have seen it remove oil, hard calcified water and about everything else. Run till full temp and then drive for 10 minutes or so and repeat several times. Last flush distilled water in less you have s source for good soft water.
3. Pre mix a concentrate of plain old 50/50 distilled water and ethyl glycol green anti freeze. Test radiator and cap for correct pressure. Be sure overflow tube and surge tank are in good order and that tank is clean and leak free.
Well, things have taken a turn toward the bizarre.
The coolant worked great for a two hour drive. All the way home the temp was perfect.
Yet my open cap shows PERFECTLY CLEAR WATER? WTH?
I topped off the bottle, by the way, adding in about a cup of distilled. It is now full.
But where did my HOAT go? I put in 5.5 quarts. It rand hard for more than long enough to fully mix and become the watery orange we all know and love.
Again, WTH is going on???
And you can see what I meant about the view inside the thing. Pretty grim, huh? Where is my coolant and why can I not see inside if I am supposed to be able to. I think this is the original radiator. It has all the stickers and the diagram of the serpentine belt routing.
(NOTE: The "coolant" looks like plain water to me. It is also all the way up to the top of the neck. It is *that* clear...)
The filler neck or the bottle protrudes nearly to the bottom of the tank, and it is otherwise sealed save for the vent at the top and the hose connection at the bottom. I tested the hose and it is clear. The hole in the radiator fill neck is likewise clear. The radiator cap is brand new.
I am utterly baffled after taking the following photo.
I see a new radiator in my immediate future. I just do not know why my system cools as well as it does... :confused:
The coolant ratio may be ok, it can look like that when only looking through a shallow sample.
I'd probably stop by a radiator shop & have them take a look inside to get their opinion. How many miles are on it and was there a previous owner of your TJ who perhaps didn't know to use distilled water to mix with coolant?
147K and the fool who abused this poor rig should be whipped. I have done nothing but replace burnt out or otherwise ruined parts since I bought it. My 2003 SE threw a rod through the block and I got this Sport for way under the normal price. I knew it would be a handful when I got it. But damn...
Should I only be able to see into the thing about an inch? And should it take such a long time to fill it, as I described?
And can you recommend a good replacement radiator? I am betting I will need one.
If the bottom of your overflow reservoir is packed with sludge, that could be a great clue to what is inside your radiator.
A cooling system pressure check is pretty simple... the pressure checker replaces the radiator cap & you pump the pressure up with a squeeze bulb up to see how much pressure it can hold via the gauge that is part of the pressure tester. The radiator cap should be the only thing to vent pressure & that should not happen until the gauge is indicating 18 lbs. of pressure or close to that.
If you replace radiator, go with Mopar plain and simple. Single core. Sticker shock I know, but I tried the auto zone / advanced ones and my TJ would run hot (at or east of the 0 ) at highway speeds. It would spike to red sometimes when it was shut down after a long drive. I could idol all day or stop and go drive and never hardly reach the 0 on 210 even after replacing everything in the cooling system (radiator, hoses, heater core, thermostat, fan clutch, rad cap, coolant, temp sensor in thermostat housing).
Finally came across a post somewhere that a guy replaced radiator a second time with OEM from dealer and it solved his problems, so I tried it and mine have been solved now for a while. I still have the autozone rad that I used for all of a month that I am not sure what to do with.
Another thing to do is on thermostat, if it does not have one like OEM, and it is a known functioning one, drill a 1/16" to 1/8" hole in the flange that will allow coolant, but mostly air to still pass through when not fully up to temp. I had problems filling the system and getting air out before I did that. Also it does take time. Squeezing the upper hose, elevating front drivers side and running to warm with cap off initially will greatly reduce the air in system. My personal experience is you can't get it all out initially, but that hole in the thermostat allows air to pass through easier and not blast into rad when thermostat finally opens.
Sorry for the long "I can't sleep, so ill post" reply.
The recently purchased 02 (with 135K miles) for my son had the nastiest looking old coolant in it I had ever seen. Fairly sure it was the original coolant the jeep came with (The PO didn't do ANY of the maintennace). But hey, it gave me an opportunity to teach my 17 year old son how to do all this stuff himself.
There was lots of crap buildup in with the old coolant. The overflow resevoir was nasty and the sides of it are discolored too. I drained the whole system to get everything out and put in the flush. The prestone flush said to run it for 4-6 hours per day for a couple of days if the buildup is bad. I let it idle and ran it for almost 4 hours on day one and almost 2 hours on day 2. Flushed with clean water no less than 6 times the next day. I disconnected the hose to the overflow resevoir and kept filling it and draining until it has nothing but clean water coming out
Put in the new Mopar branded coolant / D water. I have checked the level and appearance of the coolant since and it is fine. The "red" color is there as expected. I cant explain why yours is clear after doing the work. My jeep will get to 210 nice and smooth and holds at 210. I know that the lack of maintenance from the PO will require me to replace the radiator / thermostat and radiator cap in the not too distant future. I am interested in what you figure out on your jeep...since ours are close to age and mileage.
Any suggestions for a replacement rad, here, folks? I do not want a multi-core unit. I *like* OEM stuff when it comes to my engine and critical engine systems. I like aftermarket for the fun stuff like suspension. I ripped out a silly CAI and replaced it with an OEM air box. I am much happier with that decision. I will probably get an OEM rad from the dealership. But if they get any more of my money I should probably live there and pay them rent.
OEM is my first choice. I like the aluminum Champions a lot but cannot fine a single core one, with 2 being the closest I can get. Can you use the factory shroud and the mechanical fan on their two row unit? Maybe I will go that way.
Also, what can I expect to pay for the temp sensor on the thermostat housing? Do these go bad?
A good source for discounted OE Mopar parts like the radiator is Mopar parts | Dodge parts | Chrysler parts | Jeep parts | WeRMopar.com. The OE radiator has an all aluminum core. And sometimes, the dealer will discount their parts if you push them to, especially if you bring them a printout from wearemopar showing what their pricing is.
All the replacement radiators have a single core, what you're looking for a single row model which for the Jeep's uses, is more efficient at cooling than a 2 or 3-row radiator is.
The temperature sensor on the thermostat housing doesn't seem to go bad that often, I would reuse it.
Okay, so which part number is mine?
RADIATOR for 2003 Jeep Wrangler
I am assuming that the 4.2L (which I have never heard of) would use the more expensive of the two as it would probably have a higher capacity.
But my personal DC experience has been such that if you sell a lot of cheap, plastic speedo gears for one particular tire size and gearing and sell almost none of another cheap, plastic speedo gear for stock 27" tires, you can charge a nominal markup on the unpopular one and gouge the crap out of the popular one. (One is $18 and one is $84. They cost the same to produce. Nice...)
DC pricing has zero to do with cost and 100% to do with popularity. So I am betting the more costly one is for the 4.0L since it is ubiquitous throughout the jeep world.
My dealer's price is $286. So I am hoping that the much more friendly $198 is the price on this site. Can you tell by the PN, Jerry? I cannot locate a PN in my FSM.
A simple way to check a radiator. If you have access where you can feel the radiator with your hand, warm the engine up til the thermostat opens and feel each tube across the radiator at different levels. A cool tube means there's no coolant flow going through it. Generally a bad radiator will have a patch of several cold tubes and then some open warm ones. This is hard to do if you have AC though.
Also, I haven't tried this trick, but have seen people on camaro and chevy truck sites recommend it. I'm told Cascade dishwasher detergent makes a good radiator flush. Add some run the motor for awhile then flush out with the hose.
I replaced the radiator today with an OEM Mopar unit.
So, all I have left to replace in th cooling system is the heater core itself, which will happen in November.
Thus far in this jeep's cooling system, I have replaced:
iron pipe from pump to heater hose
upper and lower hoses
I added the Flush-N-Fill tee and thoroughly back flushed the whole thing prior to installing anything at all that was new and clean.
Filled with distilled water and Zerex G-05 HOAT coolant.
It used to run pretty hot at 55, even on a cool night (like 85º or so) and running at 75 on the Interstate on a 100º+ day was pretty bad.
Tonight I ran her at 75 for an hour (at 80º outside temp) and the needle was pegged in the center of the 210º dot and dropped to the left edge of the dot while at 55 and in town.
Further, it took me ten minutes to get the radiator to take a gallon of the Zerex after the flush last week. The new one today took a fresh gallon in like 20 seconds.
The old radiator is THREE POUNDS HEAVIER than the new one, and both are the same OEM Mopar unit. That is a LOT of crap in my system!
The jeep drives like it is new, for the most part, after all the crap I have done to is since the purchase in early June.
I have to replace the two steering stabilizer shocks (one crappy, one completely dead) soon and need the two upstream O2 sensors.
Tomorrow I am purchasing a set of 2014 Rubicon shocks and springs to replace the cheap, Chinese 3" shocks and springs I inherited from the PO. That should help me get a more stock ride while getting the same 3" of lift. I just do not want to have to use my torch on the rear springs so that the small end fits properly over the bump stop cups. But the price is too good to pass up.
Then an SYE and CV shaft to get rid of the stupid TC drop. (2"! It looks like a docking port on a spaceship!)
Moving along, nicely.
I am just really glad to have a cooling system that finally seems to function correctly.
Thanks to all who helped me, especially Jerry. All this was expensive, but it worked out very well! Sorry to bump an old thread, but I wanted to follow up on this.
Glad your cooling system is finally working correctly now, good work Wade! Some people never figure it out, they claim to have replaced "everything" but never get it working right again. :)
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