Justin Pease

1947 Pontiac Torpedo boiling over

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Hello all,

 

First post here, but I looked at some other topics and couldn't find what I needed, so here I am. I've got a '47 Pontiac Torpedo that I've had for about 6 years, putting work into it when I could, and recently I've gotten it to be driveable (not legal, mind you; I've got the plate and reg but it's not inspected/inspectable quite yet). Anyway, I decided to take her for her maiden voyage a couple miles down the road to the ice cream place and back (yeah, I know, illegal, so sue me). It's probably a total of 4 miles, if that. She did beautifully on the way there, and when I arrived she spit a little steam from the grille and a little water from the overflow on the radiator (which it seems to be doing every time I turn it off after it's run for more than 10 minutes). I was proud that it'd made its way to the ice cream spot uneventfully. I spent probably 15-20 minutes there before heading home. As i pulled into my driveway, I observed the temperature gauge (which appears to work!) and it read almost 220 (which is the hottest number on the gauge). As I stopped for a moment in the driveway, the water again pooled under her from the overflow tube. At this point, steam was abundantly flowing from the grille and a bit from the wheel wells. By the time I got it to the garage, steam was flowing hot and steady from the grille, the seams between the hood and front end, from under the wheel wells, anywhere that had contact with the engine compartment.

 

The pull into the garage was slow (because of an odd angle) and because of that I was able to witness that the leaking hot water from the overflow was steady and the slower I moved, the faster it pooled on the ground. I popped the hood and the steam was definitely abundant, and I could hear the radiator boiling over. I felt the engine block and it was definitely hotter than it was supposed to be.

 

All in all I lost a lot of water and I'm lucky I made it back; any longer of a drive and it would've overheated.

 

The only thing I know it needs in terms of engine is, at the moment, an oil change. She has oil that's blacker than night, but the level is OK.

 

My purpose here today is to ask, does anyone know what might've caused it to overheat so quickly? I feel like the water level was fine, but it doesn't matter if I fill it up, because excess flows out from the overflow valve after I turn it off. It has a 50/50 mix of water and coolant and has since I've owned it.

 

Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks!

 

-J

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frozen thermostat, belt loose not turning the water pump enough, radiator needs cleaning for starters

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5 minutes ago, GARY F said:

frozen thermostat, belt loose not turning the water pump enough, radiator needs cleaning for starters

Is the loose belt the cause of the spitting water every time I turn it off? I'll look into the thermostat and the radiator definitely needs a clean. I flushed it once a couple year back and this is the first time it's been driven since then, although I HAVE run it since. 

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So it looks like there isn't actually a belt at all; there are no belts in this whatsoever. Also, of taken the thermostat out awhile ago so that isn't it. Radiator is clean. I'm thinking it's a blown head gasket. There is a tube perforated with holes that the water runs into in the block. Some of these holes have become clogged, and as a result the water isn't circulating. Problem is, there isn't anywhere that I can find a head gasket for it, there just don't make them anymore. Any ideas?

Edited by Justin Pease
Belle ≠ belt (see edit history)

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Headgasket is listed at www.pontiacparts.net and they even show the water distribution tube in the catalog, this is the preferred place for flathead Pontiac parts.  How did you determine the holes in the tube are clogged, did you remove it?  I would try to clean the cooling system as much as possible before removing the head unless you have other evidence of a head gasket failure, maybe post a few photos and we can see what you have, good luck, Todd C    

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Honestly, I haven't really had a look at it, I've been going off what my dad has been telling me, as he is more knowledgeable about these things than I. I will ask him to double check, I think it's just a hunch. I'll direct him to that link though, it looks really promising!

 

Thanks! -J

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"No belt?"  Is the water pump turning?  Please acquire a factory shop manual ASAP and read it cover to cover.

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No belt cause it's too old to have one, there isnt a single belt in the whole thing but for the fan. That same belt drives the water pump and generator, and the fan and generator seem to be working fine. 

 

I've got both the '41-'42 shop manual and the '46-'47 supplement (together they make the shop manual for the '47). Both of these, manual snd supplement, are like they rolled out of a 1947 printing press, typed on a typewriter. They are factory, I assure you. 

 

Here's a picture of the only belt in the engine, and what appears to be the water pump. The generator is on the other sjde. The picture is attached. 

14714503050231478747970.jpg

Edited by Justin Pease
Details and clarification. (see edit history)

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35 minutes ago, Grimy said:

"No belt?"  Is the water pump turning?  Please acquire a factory shop manual ASAP and read it cover to cover.

The only belt turns the fan, generator, and water pump. The fan is synced up with the engine and the generator is working, leading my father and I to believe that the belt is not the issue. Also, the manual we have is stock. 

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I was going by your statement in post #4, " So it looks like there isn't actually a belt at all; there are no belts in this whatsoever."  Well, there IS a belt and it is driving a water pump (which looks fairly new), and likely the generator, too.

 

Is water circulating?  With engine cold, top off water (down 2 inches), leave radiator cap off, idle engine for a couple of minutes, then have someone give moderate steady throttle (equal to 15-20 mph) while you look (with eye protection) into radiator.  Is water moving?  Do you see bubbles?

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Yeah I was a bit uneducated on that one. Another look at the engine proved me wrong. I'll have to try that one when I get home later, although according to my dad, water is circulating. I've got to hesd off to work in a couple minutes so I'll have to do it when I get home. 

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How long since radiator was last flushed or professionally cleaned?  Radiators get clogged because rust breaks loose from the water jackets and gets pumped into the top of the radiator, and builds up in the tubes.  Anti-freeze contains rust inhibitors but they wear out about every two years although anti-**freeze** protection remains.

 

I'm an advocate for coolant filters and use a woman's knee-high stocking, with the toe tucked into the upper radiator neck and the selvage (open upper end) wrapped abound the neck, so that the mesh traps rust and other solids that get delivered to the top tank by the water pump, yet allows water to pass through.  This is particularly important (1) during an in-car flush process and (2) after the radiator has been out for cleaning, the latter to prevent the crud in the block from re-clogging the freshly-cleaned radiator.

 

If there are constant bubbles in the top tank while running after rpms have been stabilized, a compression leak is indicated.  That can be a blown head gasket, a cracked head, or a cracked block.  If you have bubbles, then do a compression test and let us know the readings for each cylinder by cylinder number.

 

If you pull the radiator for professional cleaning, while it's out you should thoroughly flush the block--and replace the water distribution tube.

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Grimy is correct in his procedures for checking the system, I was also a little confused about the mention of "no belt" and your single belt as shown is correct.  While a loose belt may be a problem it is more likely the system is partly clogged and needs (at minimum) a flush or physically cleaned out.  You should have a drain on the side of the engine block similar to the one on the radiator, I would probably remove that and see what falls out--I bet you will find some rust and scale.  I would also go ahead with a compression test as Grimy said, you can buy a gauge reasonably, keep us posted, Todd C

 

PS--the www.pontiacparts.net has a nice catalog they will send you on request, every flathead Pontiac owner needs one   

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Alright, so here's where things are at: yesterday (Friday) I bought a flush kit and checked the spigots on the radiator and the block. The radiator emptied out just fine, but the block had almost nothing, barely drops. Today (Saturday) I will be busy for much of the day but I may get a chance to work in it, at which point I'm going to flush it, rad and block, in reverse direction. This is the procedure as described in the body manual. 

 

I'll let y'all know wherr it's at to-night or tomorrow (if nothing happens to-night) and we will see from there. Also, I have that catalog coming in the mail, should be here Monday. 

Edited by Justin Pease (see edit history)

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On ‎8‎/‎19‎/‎2016 at 11:26 PM, Justin Pease said:

The radiator emptied out just fine, but the block had almost nothing, barely drops.

 

That was what I thought you might find, hopefully you removed the draincock altogether so you had a bigger hole to work with?  How did everything go after that?

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I don't think we removed the draincock altogether, I only opened the spigots on both. Unfortunately, while I purchased a flush kit, I haven't had time to flush it as I've been in the process of purchasing a car for myself (not another classic, unfortunately, just a get-around). I'm also now away on business so I'll have to ask my dad to flush it and report back. Luckily, if the head gasket is blown, it's not too expensive (only $40). That's all I know at the moment. :(

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Justin, head gaskets blow for a reason.  Don't just replace the gasket, fix the cause==or you'll be doing it again soon!  The cause is almost always massive overheating due to grossly neglected cooling system maintenance.

 

So far, we have not established that you have a blown head gasket--only a compression test will tell that, or as previously indicated, if you have bubbles in a running system.  You HAVE established that you have a massive, critical overheating problem.

 

In case you find poci1957 too subtle, let me elaborate: It sounds to us as though your block is thoroughly clogged with rust and other debris.  At VERY least, remove each block petcock completely, and poke around with a stiff wire and I'll bet you get a rush of rusty coolant--and that's just the beginning. Install that stocking filter before you run the engine again.

 

You can go the incremental route and try Better Living Through Chemistry by using repeated chemical flushes.  If you can still get two-part dry chemical flushing agents (acid + neutralizer) in your area (not in Calif), by all means try that first.  Forget about the liquid flushes at Pep Boys. Try a gallon or two of CLR, then flush about 15 times with plain water until the flush drains absolutely clear.

 

IF you decide to pull the head, then you need to rod out all the coolant passages in the block, have the head boiled out and magnafluxed, remove and replace the water distribution tube, check the water pump for condition of the impeller including whether it is solidly anchored to the shaft, and probably more.

 

We're on your side and want to help.  But we need you to understand the seriousness, and indeed the severity, of the observations you have described to us. 

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This is a very good and helpful answer which I will pass on to my dad, who hath more knowledge than little old me. I will make sure it gets done right. Thank you!

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Hi folks

Justin's dad here :)  Thanks for all your helpful replies!

So the update du-jour is that I was able to pull the radiator and flush it thoroughly.  We also took off the water pump, and were able to pull the water distribution tube (intact, even!), and clean out all the snot that was packed into it (nasty but not as bad as I thought it might be).  The radiator had a bunch of gumpf in it that we flushed out, and it appears to be clean  now (clean water in the top comes out clean at the bottom).

 

I cleaned the hoses and used a wire to clean out the inside of the block where the water tube goes.  Scrubbed the water tube thoroughly (it was in near-perfect shape), and reassembled everything.

 

The car fires right up and runs smoothly, but after about 20-25minutes at high idle it did finally overheat.  After it overheated, I read this thread (that I didn't know existed until I was doing my own Googling... small world even online apparently!).  For the first bit there were bubbles in the top of the radiator, but that smoothed out once the water circulated through the engine. It started bubbling again as the engine got hotter, and the water level would go down in the radiator if I pulled the throttle and rise up again (quickly) when I let off.  My next task will be to compression test the cylinders and see what that shows.  I'll also pull the entire petcock from the side of the block and see if I can clear that area out at all - water still only slowly dribbles out of that port, even fully open.  That's obviously an issue, but I don't know how serious.  I'm wondering if the thing just needs a radiator shroud to make the rad work a little more efficiently.  Is that just wishful thinking?

 

For what it's worth, I've observed no sweet smell in the exhaust at any time - the only antifreeze smell is coming from the front when it boils over.

 

When we bought the car the radiator and water pump were new in boxes - they were not installed in the car.  It seemed the previous owner had an overheating issue and bought the replacement parts, but never installed them and lost interest in the car.  It hadn't been run for at least 5 years before we got it, and we've had her since 2010.

 

Thanks again for all your helpful replies and input, and one of us will report back with the results from the compression test.

Rubin

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Following up to my own post...

We just did a compression test, and got some interesting results (cylinders are listed from the front of the car to the back):

1. 85psi

2. 85psi

3. 20psi (!!)

4. 70psi

5. 75psi

6. 75psi

 

At this point our plan is to order a head gasket and pull the head.  We'll send the head off to the machine shop and have them check it all out and remanufacture it.  While the head is off, we'll inspect check out the valves, because IIRC a single low reading indicates a bad valve seal or sticking valve, and clean out all the piece of the block that are accessible with the head off.  I'm a fan of living better through chemistry, but if I need to pull the head to figure out the bad reading anyway, it seems logical to do some manual snot removal while we have it apart.

 

Thanks again for all your good advice!
Rubin and Justin

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Also check the block using a straight edge to make sure there are no issues with it when you pull the head.

 

 

 

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Thanks 1940torpedo, I'll definitely do that.  I did a wet compression test moments ago when I got home from work and it didn't change the compression a bit, so it looks like the rings are good (or equally bad, as the case may be).  I suspect there's a valve that's stuck, which would explain the tapping sound (which didn't sound sinister, until I realized I have a stuck valve).  We'll not run it anymore until the head's been done, so we don't mushroom the valve stem.

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Because we know you're all on the edge of your seats about this...

Today Justin and I pulled the head off the torpedo, and in doing so found that #3 plug was wet. It didn't smell like gas, and I'm pretty sure it was coolant. The coolant ports were all packed with crusty crap, so we'll clean that all out with wire brushes and have the head reconditioned at the machine shop this week.

The head bolts were brutal to loosen up! I'm pretty sturdy, and it took almost everything I had to loosen them.

 

One question I have is whether the head bolts are reusable, or single use on this rig?

 

Here's hoping we've gotten to the end of the cooling issue for good, we'll report back again when we've reassembled it.

Edited by justinsdad (see edit history)

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While you are that far into the job, knock out all the core plugs and clean the block mechanically.

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