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Hi guys,

Now that the summer driving season is well underway, I'm reading several threads about our straight 8's overheating, and the various treatments we apply to this problem.

Buick sold several million of these engines of various displacements say from '36 to '53'. If they always overheated, people would not buy these cars. And yet they were sold in all the (48) states back then, and driven in all kinds of weather. Look at the pictures of route 66 in Arizona in the summer tourist season, and you can always find a Buick in there somewhere. Or downtown Chicago in heavy traffic, where the average speed is zero. 

I know that "back in the day" mounting an electric pusher in front of the radiator was not an option, so how did THEY survive ?

 

So my basic question is; What fan do you now have on your cars water pump ?

Is it that funky looking 4 blade with one twice as thick as the others ?

Did you take one off of another year to get more or bigger blades ?

Is it an aftermarket fan such as a Hayden ?

 

And if it is one of the above how well does it work ?

 

So dig out your camera or phone, shoot a picture of your fan and post it here.

Part number or detailed description (where you got it) would also be helpful for those who follow...........

 

Thanks,

Mike in Colorado

 

 

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Mike,

 My 1937 Special has a cleaned original radiator, original fan and runs at 180  degrees or less. I think Larry was  correct I don't think overheating was a major problem when our cars were new.

Carl

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With everything maintained or restored to the original condition overheating is not a problem. My 1937 Century maintains a good 180 degree temperature too. I recently put over 700 miles on it in a week on tour, all at temperatures over 90 degrees with no problems. The bypass valve makes it a little more complicated than other cooling systems. With a good radiator, a good bypass valve and crud cleaned out of the water jacket, they work just as good now as they did when new.

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I continue to believe that the biggest problem with these straight-8 Buick engines is that the cooling systems are full of gunk. Bigger radiators, different fans, additives, all that stuff amounts to little more than band-aid approaches to curing a problem caused by poor circulation and reduced surface area. We've often discussed the issues that these engine face here on this forum, but the solutions are less clear-cut. There are chemical attacks and physical attacks where you go into the core plugs and dig the crap out. A combination of both might be worthwhile. When I first got it, my 1941 Limited tended to overheat if it sat still too long. There's an aftermarket temperature gauge under the dash, and at red lights, it would spike to 210 degrees and beyond if I didn't get moving pretty quickly. After a drive, it would puke coolant if I left it idling in the driveway while I opened the garage door.

 

So I did the usual checking to see if I could put a different radiator core in or maybe a pusher fan on the front of the radiator. But then my manifolds needed replacing and I sent it to my favorite trusted shop and asked them to look into the cooling issue as well--I've got two spare radiators, maybe I could throw one of those in. The first thing they did was drain the coolant, which was brown and full of gunk, so obviously that wasn't helping. Next step was a reverse power flush, which they did by removing the thermostat and attaching a pressurized fitting to the lower hose and letting it blow out the upper hose, which was disconnected from the radiator. A lot more gunk came out that way. They also reverse-flushed the radiator, which turned out to be pretty clean. Then they buttoned it all back up and put some CLR into the cooling system and drove it around for a few days, then flushed it all again. They removed the block drain to try to flush it from there, but discovered that my block has a defect where the block drain passage is not open. There's a petcock, but nothing comes out and sticking a stiff wire in there finds only cast iron. Odd.

 

At any rate, the net result of all this is that my Limited runs all day, regardless of temperature, at 160-170 degrees. It sits at lights and barely goes to 165. At 60 MPH on the highway, it sits at 170-175 and never goes any higher. The cooling system clean up was labor-intensive and cost me several hundred bucks, but I feel it was worth every penny. It's incredibly reassuring to see that temperature gauge on the low end all the time, even though a 200-degree engine is probably running better, more efficiently, and making more power.

 

A bigger fan may help, but it's not a cure. Your block has gunk in it, I promise. You need to go after it somehow. It'll be messy, it'll take a weekend or two, and you'll need to get creative with the removal and installation of the core plugs. But in the end, it'll be worth it with a cool-running Buick.


Hope this helps!

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I will also say that if you want a better fan, there's a Flex-A-Lite fan that will bolt onto your water pump pulley. I believe it's model 1313, and it's available from Summit Racing for like $50. It moves A LOT more air, but it's considerably noiser, too. Paint it satin black before you install it and most folks won't even notice. I know of a few Buicks running this fan with owners who say they noticed a difference. Again, a band-aid solution, but one that might help, especially at low speeds.

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One of the things that I did was to gain access to the water jacket area which on mine was to remove the cooling cross pipes (others remove the core/freeze plugs) and use a coat hanger and dig out any crud.   On my truck there was not much.  I then used a power washer in the openings to flush out more stuff.

 

Everything Matt says is true.

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My '16 6-cylinder is going in later this summer for a professional rebuilding.  Probably one of the most important things that will be done to this old engine will be running the block through the hot tank.  The water just falls through the original radiator.  We don't want to do anything that will choke up this radiator.  My Dad used to always run a product called 'Rust-Master' in everything he owned and never had any cooling system problems.  I have looked everywhere and cannot find this product.  I think that it must not be made anymore.

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas

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One additional comment on fan/cooling issues I've worked on that were interesting.

 

One was a brand new rebuild that would not cool.  Owner tried everything.  We found a plastic shipping cap stuffed in the water pump inlet from the rebuilder.

 

Second one stumped another owner for weeks as he tried everything and spent lots of money doing so.  His car would idle great and run ok around town but as soon as he took it on the highway it would overheat.  Turns out he had the fan running backwards and it was 'pushing' air.  Did ok at idle but at highway speeds the ram air flow matched the fan push flow and he had little or no air flow.  Seen this on both mechanical fans installed backwards and electric fans wired backwards.

 

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Hi,

 

Turning the factory mechanical fan around does not change the direction of air flow, but it greatly decreases the amount of air flow.  There was an article in the August, 2014, Hardtop News Magazine section concerning an owner who sold his 59 Ford because he could not keep it from overheating.  The cause: the fan was reversed leading to decreased air flow.

 

--Tom

Hardtop Fan.jpg

Edited by trp3141592
added a detail (see edit history)
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Lots of good advice, but no fan pictures yet.

Some time ago I remember reading a thread where one of our Buick guys installed a 50's Buick fan from an air-conditioned car.

It was bigger, or had more or bigger blades. Something like that.

Maybe "Old Tank" remembers ?

 

Well all this beats BTT.

 

Mike in Colorado

Edited by FLYER15015 (see edit history)
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8 hours ago, trp3141592 said:

Hi,

 

Turning the factory mechanical fan around does not change the direction of air flow, but it greatly decreases the amount of air flow.  There was an article in the August, 2014, Hardtop News Magazine section concerning an owner who sold his 59 Ford because he could not keep it from overheating.  The cause: the fan was reversed leading to decreased air flow.

 

--Tom

 

 

Unless it is an electrical fan and it is wired backwards.

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I use my 53 Special in parades and with power steering and Dynaflow there is a little more heat load on the system.  I installed a 6 blade fan from a Cadillac with AC from the 50's.   Many Buick, Olds, Cadillac fans have the same bolt pattern.  This is especially helpful in parades that move slowly on hot days.

Joe

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Our '39 would boil over after a run and reaching home.  We are on a hill so climbing it contributed.  Radiator sprang a leak.  Had it recored (cost a fortune for the old style option).  Rare for temperature needle to get to ½ way.  Never boils over now.

Many parts to cooling efficiency, but a radiator without junk is a key part of the story.

Terry

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Well up here at 8500' the air is a bit thinner, and the "Baby" has been running a bit warmer than I would like on those long mountain pulls.

So just for grins, I thought I would pull some maintenance on the cooling system.

Back flushed the radiator with a garden hose = O.K. and took all our pump could deliver.

Pulled the thermostat and checked it in a pan on the stove, (with wifies permission), = O.K.

Then I pulled the famous bypass valve housing.

Did you know that on a '40 the fan pulley has to be loosened about 1/2" to get the inner bolt on the housing out.

I have a '36 bypass housing and the casting is slightly different for the inner bolt, so you can leave the fan pulley alone.

TAAAA DAAAA. there was no bypass valve in the car. Just a brass stud about 3" long that the spring and washer is supposed to sit on.

Well I could not get it out, so I cut it off, went to CARQUEST and got a frost plug, installed it and drilled a 5/16" hole in the center, and put her all back together.

I do run a Hayden 6 blade flex fan, and a pancake fan up front, which is required for those 5 mile pulls at 9000 ft around here, especially in 90+ weather.

 

Mike in Colorado

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  • 3 weeks later...

Our Buick seems to never get over 180 or 190 if its moving even if its over a hundred degrees outside air temp. It does not like sitting in traffic or long lights and then just crawl to the next light. It needs to move if only 15 mph but at least move. MCHonson posted a flex fan number that would fit our 38, its a five blade one and we had it powder coated low gloss black. Once our car gets back from thee body shop I'm going to exchange it with the stock one and see if it makes a difference when idling at lights or in stop and go traffic. Our car has never boiled over but I would like it to get cooler instead of hotter when it idles, maybe that is not possible but we will see.

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I run the original fans in all my Buicks.  I don't do parades and I try to stay out of stop & go traffic in the cities.   I do have an electric fuel pump to pressurize the system when it stars to cut out, but my 38 straight 8 will vapor lock when the outside temp is over 85 degrees & stopped at traffic lights, etc.  Five minutes with the hood open usually solves the problem.

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Mark,

I am surprised that you are having vapor lock problems at 85 degrees. I typically drive my 1937 Century at temperatures over that without needing the electric fuel pump. I do run non-ethanol fuel on a regular basis. Are you running ethanol containing fuel? The only other suggestion might be an insulator base under the carburetor. Is the car running around 180 degrees or is it running hotter than that? 

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My 38 used to vapor lock sometimes under the same conditions as Mark says his does. i put a fuel pressure regulator on the carb and it never happened again. I have no idea how this could have solved that problem but it did. I put an electric aux fuel pump on also but I have only used it to prime the carb after it sits for a week or so.

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Matt, it runs at 180 all day until I get in stop & go traffic or stop for gas. 

 

Dave, you may have a good idea with a pressure regulator if it keeps the fuel pressure higher than the vapor pressure of the gas at higher temperatures.  I try to run real gas when I can get it.  However, when I ran the Columbia River Centennial Tour a couple of weeks ago, there was no real gas to be found.  That is when it vapor locked.

Edited by Mark Shaw (see edit history)
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