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1963 Riviera's 401 overheats


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I have this posted on the Riviera forum at buickforums.com - what do ya think??

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Hello everyone:

I'll just tell ya that I'm from S.C. Kansas, near Wichita. Now in Tucson, Arizona.

I have a 1963 Riviera, with 68,425 miles on it.

I need to ask your help.

Question is: why is this car, with a good running 401 V&, STILL overheating???

I've done -

Installed new head gaskets. OVERHEATS.

Radiator rodded out, new hoses and 160 deg. thermostat. OVERHEATS.

I made aluminum fan shroud. OVERHEATS.

I put timing on 10 degrees advanced and added new plugs too. This is not original rad'r. This has both up'r and low'r hose connects on LEFT side, drivers side. I think this should have hoses at top RIGHT and lower LEFT but I may be wrong. (using pics of other '63's at various sites)

Hope I haven't violated too many rules here. I just need some help getting her fixed.

Thanks alot.

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I don't too much about Riv's, but have worked on the mid-fifties nailheads for many years. So hopefully my thoughts will be of use to you!

On my '56 322, the rad outlet/inlet is right to left, like you have suggested. My car is away for the winter, so I can't check, but is a different model anyway.

How did the overheating start, gradually, or all of a sudden? Have you have the car for long? Also, how long does it take to overheat? Is it driveable, does it run cooler on the highway, or in the city?

The rad change makes me wonder if something is piped wrong? Could the water pump be wrong, or have damaged impellers?

Is the block clean? A low mileage engine could have a lot of crud in the water jackets.

I had tough one to figure some years ago, and it was a partial blockage in the timing chain cover, at the top where it goes into the water manifold, right below the themostat.

Hope this helps!

Keith

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On my '56 322, the rad outlet/inlet is right to left, like you have suggested.

How did the overheating start, gradually, or all of a sudden? Have you have the car for long? Overheating started right away - Just got the car about 2 months ago.

Also, how long does it take to overheat? 5 miles it's okay, at 10 miles it's overheated and spewing coolant from overflow tube.

Is it driveable, Yes it is. does it run cooler on the highway, or in the city? Doesn't seem to matter.

The rad change makes me wonder if something is piped wrong? Could the water pump be wrong, or have damaged impellers? Could be I guess but looking at the "flow" through filler neck it flows right to left and quite quickly.

Is the block clean? I haven't gone to that length yet. Sure hope I don't need t pull the engine. A low mileage engine could have a lot of crud in the water jackets.

where it goes into the water manifold, right below the themostat. That manifold is quite something isn't it! Never had to deal with one like this before.

Here's what I know and have done - Bought car - overheated on trip home. Some geyser too. coolant everwhere. -- replaced head gaskets, heads surfaced and valves done too. OVERHEATED.

Radiator I thought - had it rodded and replaced hoses and thermostat. OVERHEATED.

Handmade an aluminum 3 pc. shroud 'cause I thought, ... well? OVERHEATED.

Only need to replace radiator, fan clutch and water pump and the whole front on engine will be new. Costing alot of money to find out what "it's not"

Hope this helps!

Keith

Maybe you could PM me and I'll post the short version (s)

Thanks alot Keith

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Hello all: and thank you for your input, everyone.

Update follows and a PM from Keith (BuickNutty) -

Called OPGI and they state correct hose connections will be upper on right side and lower on left side of the engine. THIS red. is conected at upper and lower on the left side.

After I've looked at countless pics of original 63 Rivieras I think I'm gonna need a radiator or madify this one to have conncetions in right place. Got a shop here in Tucson that will change this rad. top tank to connect on right for around $48. May do that before spending several hundred on new rad. just now. (gotta stop the bleeding in the bank account pretty quick.) ;O)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THIS is what BuickNutty and I talked about.

I am thinking that there is a blockage or a flow problem somewhere. I wondered about the fan, but at highway speeds it would cool well if the rest of the system was at least within reasonable spec, but if its' about the same city/highway, that tends to rule that out. I'd say this is true also Keith.

Silly question, but I take it the rad is the right size for your engine, not too small? Actually I don't believe this is the right rad. for this car. You see, both upper and lower hoses are on the left side, driver side. I'm not sure there is going to be the proper "cross-flow" circulation nor is this rad. very "thick". Measures only about 2" thick as far as I can tell.

I feel for you with all the time and money you've spent, and you don't want to keep chasing your tail on this. Thank you for that. I do think I'm going in the right direction by wanting to get hose connections in the right place; OPGI says that will be 'upper on right and lower on the left. Especially since the water pump connect is on lower left too. Not really much sense going from pump at lower left to a rad. connect on lower right.

Can you get access to a temp sensor? One of those that you can point at a spot and get a reading? This might help but I sure don't know where to get one.

You said to PM you, do you want to keep this off of the forum?? Only reason I suggest PM is so as to not wear out my welcome too soon. I tend to be very detailed in my responses as well as my explanations. ;O)

I will copy this message and post it to the forum tho'. Maybe it can help someone else too. IF I can finally figure out what's goin' on.

Thanks.

Michael.

PS- REALLY, I'd like to bug everyone 'til you all help me with this problem.

'Cause I'm sure gonna LOVE this Riviera when I get the overheat fixed. What with 12 coats of NEW Bronze Mist and a completely NEW interior in this car, it deserves to be driven

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My friend had exactly the same problem when he swapped a SB Ford into a Triumph Stag. He had the upper hose moved to the driver's side. No matter what he tried, the car overheated within minutes. The problem was the crossflow radiator. When the inlet and outlet are in the same tank, the coolant simply moves through the tank and never passes through the core. The crossflow radiators that have the hoses on the same tank are, actually, two separate radiators joined together. The coolant enters the top hose into the tank, which is divided into two chambers. It then passes through the upper half of the radiator to the other tank, which is one large chamber, where it then flows through the lower half of the radiator and into the engine via the lower hose. If someone tried to modify the radiator and move the fittings to the same side on a crossflow radiator, it just won't work

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I agree with the comments stating the need for radiator cross flow.

Note that these cars did not overheat when new. I have 2 '66 Rivs now, and we had a new one back in the day. On all three, the temp guages ran at about half-way between Cold and the middle mark, even with thermostats installed, even on hot days here in Texas.

Once you get the radiator issue resolved, be sure to check that both the vacuum and mechanical distributor advances are working, that the fan clutch is working (if it has one) and that it is the right one for the car.

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I'm off to the radiator shop to find out if the radiator CAN be reversed on the top tank, putting the upper hose connect in the Right place, on the Right side. If this fixes problem then I've spent $50 wisely, instead of just getting a new radiator. (for alot more $$)

I'll let y'all know what comes to be. Say a prayer for us 'cause Reva and I want to be crusin' soon. (may even think of going to the National meet in Monterey, CA.) Sure hopes this does it.

More later.

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  • 4 weeks later...

My Riviera still overheats and I can't figure out why.

So far I have;

Replaced head gaskets. (valves ground and heads surfaced too)

Replaced Thermostat with 180*

Had radiator "rodded" out.

Replaced Fan clutch.

Hand formed a 3 pc. aluminum shroud around fan.

Replaced gaskets at Water Manifold ends AND the "O" ring in center.

Replaced upper and lower hoses.

Replaced radiator cap.

Even had a garage power flush the system too.

Checked water pump and it looks good. No shaft play or wobbly parts inside.

Block plugs removed and water back flushed until clear

Radiator flush, Prestone, used too.

Yesterday I replaced the points & condensor and while there, replaced the vacuum advance since it didn't work either.

Points set to .017 and timed it to 8*

Took it out and test drove it at mostly 50-70 mph.

It overheated within 5 miles of the house going and then after a short cool down at the roadside, I started back. It was spewing coolant again when we got home.

What would you advise I do now? I'm at my wits end so to speak and running out of money fast.

Thanks

Michael.

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Is it truly overheating or just puking coolant? There needs to be some room for expansion in the cooling system, so as it heats up, the coolant has somewhere to go. Filling it to the top top will result in some overflow once its up to temperature. Perhaps fit a reliable mechanical gauge to the system so you can monitor the actual temperatures rather than just basing it on the overflow would help. That will tell you if it's truly overheating or just "self adjusting" the coolant levels.

I might also look into the water pump, which may be either too aggressive or moving the coolant too slowly. A lot of rebuilt units use a generic impeller that drastically alters the original flow characteristics. We had a Packard that would puke coolant, and it turned out that the pump was pushing the coolant through the radiator too fast, so it wasn't cooling adequately and the excess was getting pushed out the overflow because it couldn't flow through the radiator fast enough to keep up with the pump's action.

Hope this helps.

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Thanks Matt for your reply. I understand about expansion but it makes no difference when a thermal gun indicates 230* above Stat housing and 198* just below. (I think that's the way it read) ;O)

I appreciate your thoughts but you must understand that i've just spent several Hundred dollars trying those things mentioned and the car still won't go more than 5 miles without exhausting coolant and steam out of the overflow tube AND the newly painted engine bay I might add. I'm quite frustrated and I'm hoping you can be patient.

I'm a car nut, not a mechanic by trade so I may not know just what to do but I know overheating over expansion of coolant within the radiator. I'm lost for what to do that will FIX this problem, not just be "something else I've tried". ;O)

Michael.

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I might also look into the water pump, which may be either too aggressive or moving the coolant too slowly. A lot of rebuilt units use a generic impeller that drastically alters the original flow characteristics. We had a Packard that would puke coolant, and it turned out that the pump was pushing the coolant through the radiator too fast, so it wasn't cooling adequately and the excess was getting pushed out the overflow because it couldn't flow through the radiator fast enough to keep up with the pump's action.

Hope this helps.

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Matt, you are correct about that coolant flow. On large displacement Pontiac's especially 455's Pontiac had to slow down the coolant flow through the radiator to allow more time in there to cool. They did this by impeller design, and pulley size. I would be curious to find out if the whole cooling system configuration is absolutely stock because stock engines when everything is new and correct don't have this problem. I would not just limit this to the cooling system. The ignition system especially total advance, mechanical and vacuum have to be correct. On large displacement Pontiac's we need to see initial advance plus mechanical all in at 3,000 rpm at 34 degrees with the vacuum advance disconnected. The vacuum advance in the cruise and idle mode will add approx. 10+ degrees and that plus the mechanical will bring down the temperatures. We also need proper fuel mixture/ metering throughout the entire driven range. Lean engines run hotter.

When adding a radiator shroud there is a formula for tip to shroud/ depth to shroud clearance so I would make sure you have that correct or you can make pulling air through the radiator worse.

I would also post this in the technical section/ Buick section for better exposure.

Don

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Not being a Buick guy, I'll ask a question regarding water pumps. Was there ever a year in which the coolant flow was actually reverse of other years. Meaning a water pump for one year would be totally incorrect for another. I've run in to this on small block Fords. Pump looked right, fit just fine, but ran reverse to other years so to speak due to belt routing.

So did the previous owner get a pump incorrectly labeled or possibly assumed all pumps were the same? There would have been different pumps for cars with A/C verses those without.

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WOW, now I'm really getting into this discussion. You folks got my head jus' spinnin' with questions about this water pump goin' the wrong way.

I wouldn't have thought a thing about that except that I just put a water pump on a 454 in a GMC 1 ton Sierra dually. A friend had a pump for a 454 that he GAVE me and said 'just go ahead and use this one'!

Turns out it was for an engine with OUT a serpentine belt, which my one ton does have. I had to give him back his pump and go purchase one that was speciffically for a serpentine belt application, ... because it turns OPPOSITE of the straight V-belt pump. The belt would turn his pump in reverse to what was needed.

OK, how do I tell if;

Pump is wrong one? - just take it to the parts house and say 'lemme see another pump for a '63 Riviera please? (gosh I suppose I could do that, surely they won't mind!)

Water / coolant moving too fast? I did think 'this is possible', 'the pump may be pushing coolant through rad too fast, thus trying to cool the 401 with HOT liquid, .... that is to say, it didn't spend enuf time in rad. so it didn't cool down enuf.

How can a guy like me measure coolant flow and pressure of system for that matter? Geeez, I don't have a garage full of gauges and high dollar tools. I'm used to workin' on flathead V8 engines. (*got a full race Mercury in my '49 Ford coupe, ... only engine I ever built on my own)

I want you all to know that I am now printing all this out. That way I can go back and read all your comments, anytime I need too.

Well, I'm going to take this radiator to a man who will turn the upper hose connection aroound to where it's at least in the right place. Maybe that will help the coolant cooling thing.

I'm gonna ask him about the water pump too. Maybe he'll tell me how to measure the flow too.

Later All

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For your reference the water pump part numbers for the years of '62-'65 401's were as follows: With A/C 1396641, without 1396642. The same numbers apply for '65 400 engines.

Now if someone made some assumptions they may have come up with the idea a pump for a '66 would work. Nope! Those part numbers are: With A/C 1396758, without 1396759. These number also fit the 425 engine of the same year.

Your problem lies either with the pump or there may be some sort of obstruction within a head or the intake manifold that is affecting coolant flow, though I agree with a cross flow radiator having both the inlet and outlet on the same side just won't work at all since there is virtually no flow through the entirety of the radiator, at least this is so with side tank radiators.

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The car has a radiator with a top tank and a bottom tank, coolant fill in the center of the top tank. As I mentioned before both the inlet, from engine, and outlet, going into engine through water pump are now on the left side. Tomorrow I think the radiator shop is going to change upper hose location to the right side. I think he feels that may increase flow cooling effeciency simply because of enter and exit being then on opposite corners. Shoot, who knows, I may learn that a side tank or cross-flow radiator is what is really needed for this big engine.

I agree with you Jim, in that there may indeed be need to Flush the radiator / engine several times in order to release anything causing blockage inside. I'm still learning, alot, and welcome the visit to rad. shop in the morning.

Guess if I have too I'll go to a parts house and take a look at the correct numbered pump too.

Can't hurt anything at this stage.

Thanks

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The car has a radiator with a top tank and a bottom tank, coolant fill in the center of the top tank. As I mentioned before both the inlet, from engine, and outlet, going into engine through water pump are now on the left side. Tomorrow I think the radiator shop is going to change upper hose location to the right side. I think he feels that may increase flow cooling effeciency simply because of enter and exit being then on opposite corners. Shoot, who knows, I may learn that a side tank or cross-flow radiator is what is really needed for this big engine.

I agree with you Jim, in that there may indeed be need to Flush the radiator / engine several times in order to release anything causing blockage inside. I'm still learning, alot, and welcome the visit to rad. shop in the morning.

Guess if I have too I'll go to a parts house and take a look at the correct numbered pump too.

Can't hurt anything at this stage.

Thanks

With a bit of additional research, a '63 Riviera with a 401 should have a top tank radiator with the upper hose from the thermostat housing going to the left side of the radiator viewing from the front of the engine compartment and the lower hose coming from the lower right side. The center fill cap you mentioned implies the radiator is correct for the car. The car would have originally come with a fan shroud. If the orientation of the tank has been as you describe someone at a radiator shop screwed up bad before you bought the car. Probably the same yo-yos that forgot to put the fan shroud back.

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Just a suggestion, Does your lower hose still have the coil spring inside, which keeps it from collapsing when the coolant gets warmed up?

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Usually a collapsed lower hose only happens at higher engine rpms, but in any case last year when I bought upper/lower Radiator and heater hoses for my bi-annual hose replacement for my 69 Pontiac and 76 Olds I said hey these lower hoses don't have a wire in them...To which the NAPA parts man replied they don't use them anymore. I reused the old ones especially for the Pontiac as it is a track/street car.

D.

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I know exactly what's wrong with it.Listen well, the head gaskets are put on wrong, blocking the rear ports.Common mistake back in the days.I been a certified auto technician ,in 3 states, for 32 years. I've personally seen it done and corrected a few myself, in the past.

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I like dragracert99's suggestion. Check to see if head gaskets can be reversed a block collant passages. If so, pull the heads and replace head and intake gaskets.

If it still overheats, I would bite the bullet and buy the correct radiator for this car and engine and the correct water pump for either with or without A/C however your car is equipped.

Ford and GM both have used water pumps that look the same but have different impellers, reverse rotation or different pully sizes. These can make a big difference if you use the wrong one. Double check that you have the proper water pump with the proper size pully.

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I know exactly what's wrong with it. The head gaskets are put on wrong, blocking the rear ports.Common mistake back in the days.I been a certified auto technician ,in 3 states, for 32 years. I've personally seen it done and corrected a few myself, in the past.

Based on the suggestions and thoughts of folks here I tore the engine down and while I only have one of the heads off right now, there comes a couple questions I'm thinkin'; ... Felpro gasket set was used when I first got the car and 7922-1 is part number on the head gasket. -

There is no indication which is the TOP and besides that, I notice that NONE of the water jacket holes are blocked when gasket is on; ... right way or wrongway! There are open spaces in the gasket that correspond to the coolant holes.

Q - Which side of the gasket goes toward engine block?? (one side is covered with a sorta "fuzzy" blue, soft texture covering/coat.)

(I originally installed the gasket with the FUZZY side away from engine block, toward and contacting the head)

I'd also say that the "rings" around each cylinder, made when gasket was torqued to 75 lbs, per shop manual, are intact and show no signs of exhaust gas breech, anywhere!

I do only have one head off and maybe the other gasket will show something.

Gotta wait 'til Tuesday for the NEW gasket set to arrive so I'm gonna work on the interior tomorrow.

More later.

OH, PS - some may want to visit a website I'm building at

Emma Jean & Friends - The Dream, The Car & The Meeting - There you'll find out alot more about me and all I'm working on right now.

Please visit and let me know what you think.

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I had one that was doing the same thing. Drove me crazy. It ended up being an old freeze plug in the cylinder head that someone previously knocked inside. Whenever the engine speed went up, the flowing coolant would flip the old plug and block the flow resulting in over heating every time. It would idle all day without overheating.

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I had one that was doing the same thing. Drove me crazy. It ended up being an old freeze plug in the cylinder head that someone previously knocked inside. Whenever the engine speed went up, the flowing coolant would flip the old plug and block the flow resulting in over heating every time. It would idle all day without overheating.

Can you tell me which side of the head gasket goes toward the head? One side has a blue coating and part numbers on it, the other is plain metal.

Last tiem I put these on I put the blue coating toward the head or UP, away from the block. Is that the right way to place these?

Thanks

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Can you tell me which side of the head gasket goes toward the head? One side has a blue coating and part numbers on it, the other is plain metal.

Last tiem I put these on I put the blue coating toward the head or UP, away from the block. Is that the right way to place these?

Thanks

If the holes for cylinders and passages of any nature match it should probably make no difference which side is up. I would suspect the "blue" side is probably a Teflon coating and ordinarily that should go against the block.

The one thing that has not come up in this discussion is the intake manifold gaskets which are typically direction sensitive. Care must be taken with most engines to make sure they are mounted in the proper direction, otherwise water passages can be blocked off or severely restricted. A good rule of thumb is if the holes in the gasket are not slightly larger than those in a casting, it probably is facing the wrong direction.

Also not yet mentioned is the question of whether the temperature switch or sensor is correct for the car if more than one dash instrument configuration existed with '66 Rivieras having 401 engines. Wouldn't be the first time someone replaced one or the other with an incorrect choice or some nit-wit behind a parts counter pulled the wrong part for the application.

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Can you tell me which side of the head gasket goes toward the head? One side has a blue coating and part numbers on it, the other is plain metal.

Last tiem I put these on I put the blue coating toward the head or UP, away from the block. Is that the right way to place these?

Thanks

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Why don't you give FelPro a call and ask which way they go if there is no indication what goes to the head or block.;)

North America

Call Jim Burke

Director, Corporate Communications of Federal Mogul ( which owns Fel Pro )

Phone: +1 248 354 4530

Fax: +1 248 354 7060

jim.burke@federalmogul.com

Don

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- give FelPro a call

Call Jim Burke

Director, Corporate Communications of Federal Mogul ( which owns Fel Pro )

Phone: +1 248 354 4530

Fax: +1 248 354 7060

jim.burke@federalmogul.com

Don

Just sent Mr. Burke a letter asking that question, since it's too late to call. Thanks Don.

To Buick Nutty and First Born - Thanks for the compliments. It's easy to admit that 'some folks just CAN'T be trusted'! That said, I'm glad I have Emma Jean. She needed me and she pleases me immensely! Just crusin' is wonderful.

To Jim Edwards above; I've found out from the machine shop that these gaskets and heads actually are symetrical and can be used on either head BUT, that said, I checked real close and there aren't any holes blocked that would be needed by the heads.

As I understand things -

Coolant from water pump enters heads at the rear opening (s) and cool coolant then proceeds to the front of each head where it is "forced", I sumise due to some gasket blocked passages, to enter the water manifold attached at the front exterior of each head and after gathering any heat present in those heads, is then sent through the thermostat so as to get to the radiator's INLET, thus to be cooled and returned to engine!

At any rate, I figure Felpro knows gaskets better than me for sure. SO, I am gonna go with the fact that the gasket (s) do block some of the water jackets, between heads and block but I think, maybe wrongly but, to open these gaskets with even a small hole would serve to SLOW the flow of coolant within the heads themselves. Therefore I've left them as I got them and have installed the NEW gaskets with coating toward head, as instructed by the owner of the local machine shop mentioned above. (Remember, he did the valves and resurfaced the heads.)

This is a very Frustrating event for me, especially since I'd no intention of RE-building this Riviera's engine to this or ANY extent. Again, ... I'm very thankful for ALL help I've gotten here.

I've RE-installed; heads and gaskets, intake and gaskets, left side exhaust manifold, power steering pump and Belt as well as Alternator and it's belt as well as both heads' rocker assemblys.

Tomorrow I'll re-check torque of the heads, install valve covers and their gaskets. (going to parts house to get a exhaust manifold stud that is no good AND get some sealant for those rubber gaskets of FelPro's kit for valve covers too.)

Guess after that it's "fill er up with coolant and "go for another ride"!

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As simple as this sounds did you do a pressure check on the radiator cap to make sure its holding at the correct pressure? Have the correct pressure cap? A bad or incorrect cap can definitely cause overheating issues. On some of my vehicles the manual states to have the coolant 3” below the cap or it will expand and go out the overflow.

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Hello everyone:

I've put nearly 75 miles on the car since replacing the head gaskets, for the second time!! I have NO over-heating troubles. Yet! ;o)

Got a call from Felpro the other day and was told the coated side of head gaskets for this car, 401 Nailhead, go UP or sit next to the head. I had them on right, the first time but I don't think I got all the torque I needed to have on all bolts.

So, up to now, no heating issues.

That said, I do have a "miss" I can't figure out now. I'm gonna check timing tomorrow. Just replaced all the spark plugs, thinking some of them might have gotten fouled from all the coolant they had to drink. :o)

Oh well, I can probably fix this trouble easily enough. (can't be too many things)

Thanks to ALL of you! Each and everyone of you folks' comments have been considered and I've enjoyed the time spent here at the AACA Forum, as well as buick.com.

Thanks again to all of you!

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