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Thread: 51 Commander Overheating question

  1. #1
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    51 Commander Overheating question

    My 51 Commander was overheating. It would be fine for 15 miles then peg hot. Thought maybe the thermostat. Took the thermostat out and tested it and it opened up right at 180. Pulled radiator out and flushed it. Replaced water pump with rebuilt one I had on hand. I flushed the engine out. I am running straight water in it right now. After running around the block a few times and letting it idle in the garage for 20 minutes, this is what the gauge shows. it was 75 out today. Is this OK temp for this? Is still seems warm to me. It may get better after I add the antifreeze.
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  2. #2
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    Looks fine. If you are really unsure take its temp with a candy thermometer -but don't scald yourself!. I have an IR thermometer that wasn't expensive and is very accurate.

  3. #3
    President Member Kurt's Avatar
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    That’s where my 51 runs when sitting idle. When you flushed the block, did you pull the plugs and dig all the crud that accumulates in the block out? If not, you may still have heating problems. If you didn’t swap the thermostat out, I would. Sometimes they randomly stick.
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  4. #4
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    I think the manual calls for a 160 thermostat try that and see if the temp comes down. When I flushed my block I removed the plugs and removed about a quart of sludge.

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    My 52 Commander in Tucson would always be at the half way mark. That was with a 50/50 water and antifreeze. I don't remember the pressure of the radiator cap but it was to old style flat radiator cap.

    What pressure radiator cap are you using? Sometime something small like that can make a difference. Check the condition and replace if bad with the correct pressure cap before changing the thermostat.

    Bob Miles

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    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    I am running a 4lb cap. When you say pull the plugs are you talking about taking sludge out of the cylinder?
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  7. #7
    President Member TWChamp's Avatar
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    No, remove the welch plugs. Also called core plugs and soft plugs. This way you can get out the sludge that settles in the bottom of the cooling system. Once it's cleaned out, then be sure to use 50% antifreeze, so more rust and sludge doesn't form.

  8. #8
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    OK, that makes more sense. Removing freeze/welch plugs I understand. I have done that before. Just was not thinking that way. Age is creeping up on me.
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  9. #9
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    I have tried several things you guys have suggested now with no avail. new 160 thermostat, changed water pump, 4 lb cap , spring in lower hose, cleaned out as much stuff out of block but did not removed welch/freeze plugs yet. Did not want to pull engine yet. My mix is about 40/60 on antifreeze.

    Right now it heats up on the freeway, 65-70 mph, has 3 speed Automatic drive, then when I get on side streets it cools down a bit, then heats back up at stop lights. I think the freeway high rpms may cause some heat. I know it has to be air flow or water flow. The temp at idle gets to 208 and boils out. I am getting vapor lock. I installed a electric fuel pump to turn on when that happens and it helps. What is a good way to test radiator flow? When I run a hose full into it it never fills up to the top. The water runs out as fast as it goes in. I am trying to keep in original if I can. I could replace the radiator with aluminum but really do not want to. There seems to be very few rad shops anymore that clean out radiators. Is that the next step? When the radiator reads 200 temp at top it reads 170 at bottom. Does that not indicate cooling? Timing is right on. Temp gauge has not spiked all the way to H yet, but I think 208 is too hot. It is only 85 in AZ right now.
    Thoughts?
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  10. #10
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    If you need a good old school radiator shop take it to Hays Radiator, 20th St & Indian School in Phoenix. He cleaned, pressure tested and painted mine, it's good as new.
    3H-C5 "The Blue Goose"


  11. #11
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    Thanks , Gary, Spoke to them. I will take in into them in a couple weeks. Interior being done next week.
    Jim
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  12. #12
    President Member fatboylust's Avatar
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    Sludge: 20140223_110657.jpg 20140223_110709.jpg 20140223_110717.jpg 20140223_110650.jpg in the end I collected a pint of rust/mud from the two sides.

  13. #13
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    Is there a way to pull those plugs without pulling the engine?

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    If it's heating up at highway speeds, check your timing, could be late or not advanced enough. Maybe a vacuum leak, leaning out the mixture?
    Do you have a bug screen in front of the radiator? Another thing about that sludge is that the temp sender is RIGHT behind that area that gets all the buildup, #7 cylinder.

    Your gauge reading does not look too bad, if it were closer or pegged, then I'd get concerned. maybe get a new or used gauge and see what it says. Same with the sender. All these things have a range of wiggle room. No two will read the exact same
    64 GT Hawk (K7)
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    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    When I used my IR temp gun it would read about 160 at the sensor but the candy thermometer would read 200 in the radiator. The gauge has gotten above the normal range and has gotten close to pegging but has not. It has boiled over out the tube several times even with the 4lb cap. I checked for vacuum leaks before. I will do it again. Adjusted timing and dwell several times and I think it is close to dialed in. The heat is causing some vapor lock and hard starts after it runs for awhile. The electric fuel pump has help. The lines are wrapped in rubber right now to help insulate them. I am constantly looking at the temp gauge and just waiting for it to die on me from the vapor lock.
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  16. #16
    President Member TWChamp's Avatar
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    I see you have a 12 volt battery. I wonder if your gauge is getting the right voltage for a correct reading?

  17. #17
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    All the gauges have accurate voltage reducers. The gauge seems to be working fine. I had it hooked up to a 6v battery to see if it worked.
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  18. #18
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    Freeway speeds generate more airflow through the radiator than the fan does at idle. Overheating at freeway speeds (but not at idle) normally indicates insufficient water flow as the prime issue.

    You mentioned you had the radiator "flushed". Did that include tank removals, boil out and rodding out of the core, or just chemical flush with the radiator still assembled? A badly clogged radiator may not get clean from a simple flush.

    Also possible your lower radiator hose may be suctioning flat at the somewhat higher freeway rpms, and restricting water flow. A large hose spring inserted in the hose will prevent that. Make sure the spring extends the full free length of the hose.

    Common misconception, but changing to a 160F thermostat will not reduce the upper operating temperature of an engine that has a 180F or 190F rated thermostat. If it were that easy, people would be buying $20 100F thermostats instead of $500 radiators. Oversimplified, a thermostat affects the lower range of the engine operating temperature, not the upper. The 160 will open "sooner" (at their lower temperature rating) than the 180F or 190F. But when fully open, it has done its job of warming the engine to its lower operating temperature, but can not flow any more water/ run any cooler than the other stats. Yes, yes, I know that a fully open thermostat is not supposed to restrict water flow but sometimes removing the thermostat will let the engine run cooler, but lots of people will disagree with that. Living in Arizona, you may want to try it, or give a high flow thermostat a try. Stewart Warner makes a good one. But shop around, there are some shoddy "high flow" units on the market.

    Adding coolant will not make it run any cooler. Straight water cools better than a 50/50 mix, but most folks need the mix for cold weather protection. And, a mix increases the boiling temperature, which can be important.

    Check against the spec and make sure initial your timing is not retarded, and that your advance mechanisms are functioning correctly.
    As someone else posted, check to verify you are not running lean.
    Good luck with it.

  19. #19
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    The radiator was flushed and not rodded. It will be rodded out in two weeks. The lower hose has a full length spring in it. The forum guys suggested I use a 160 thermostat since that is what they had in them originally. It overheats at freeway speeds and idle but does better at about 35mph. Looking into water flow problem.
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  20. #20
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    Hello You should consider your radiator is blocked If you touch the radiator ( If your hand fits down the front ) when it's hot you will feel it is cooler in some areas and hotter in others
    Sometimes adding 1 half gallon of white vinegar to your system tat may help move some build up
    I did this and it helped for a while but since replacing radiator the problem is resolved
    Good luck Lindsay

  21. #21
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    To remove the freeze plugs drive a long chisel or screwdriver through the center and pry. some will tear,then carefully tap on the outer edge trying not to gouge the block. clean the seating area with a small cup type wire brush. you will need 6 disk type 1 1/2 plugs, i like the brass Dorman replacements. there are bolt in copper plugs also. set the new plug in place,holding a small hammer against the center and wack the small hammer with a shop hammer till the plug flattens in the center. a smear of sealer around the edge will prevent seeps. this is the filthiest job you will ever tackle!!! Be Prepared!!! Luck Doofus

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by lelshaddai View Post
    The radiator was flushed and not rodded. It will be rodded out in two weeks. The lower hose has a full length spring in it. The forum guys suggested I use a 160 thermostat since that is what they had in them originally. It overheats at freeway speeds and idle but does better at about 35mph. Looking into water flow problem.
    I hope the rod out helps, good chance it will.
    You may want to talk with the radiator shop about what they intend to paint the radiator with. I have seen some so heavily coated with a soft paint that I think it can decrease cooling efficiency.
    Missed the earlier post about you already having the spring in the lower hose. On a related note, make sure your hoses are good condition and resilient, not soft and gummy, which might allow an internal swelling.
    Sounds like the 160 thermostat is the right on for the car.
    Good luck and let us know how things work out.

  23. #23
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    So, after reading all the posts I had the radiator rodded out. Looks like the water flow guys win on this one. The shop sent me a video and he said about 20% of the tubes were flowing. I have it back now and ran it at high idle (1000 rpm) for 30 minutes. I also have a coolant filter to see what the engine may belch up. The candy thermometer reached 194. The gauge read just above halfway on the little box for running temps. That is a big improvement. I have not driven it yet out on the surface roads or freeway yet. Granted in was only 75degrees today. But is was in a still air garage. Thanks,
    Jim
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  24. #24
    Golden Hawk Member jclary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lelshaddai View Post
    ... I also have a coolant filter to see what the engine may belch up...
    Jim
    I have often wondered about doing something like that, but never researched it or taken any action to do such. For years, I sold, installed, and serviced all sorts of filters from paints, water, and even high-pressure systems, but never for any kind of engine coolant.

    How 'bout posting a picture and give details of your coolant filter and how/where it is installed.
    John Clary
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  25. #25
    President Member lelshaddai's Avatar
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    You can buy an inline coolant filter. It looks like a fuel filter. You just cut and place in top hose. The Radiator shop cut out a piece of window screen and it was placed around the top port, then the hose slide on. He swears by it to get the big stuff that will plug up the tubes.
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