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Just wondering question... could a water cooled car operate just fine without the radiator in cold weather?


deaddds
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Its almost getting colder than a well diggers ass in IL and of course now I discover the heater is out on the Bravada so my mind wanders driving home. Since a large part of Alaska stays below zero for a relatively long stretch over the winter, could a water cooled car from the big three from any of the past several decades operate just fine without the radiator? I know lots of folks use block heaters up there and cover the radiators to speed up the heater but wondered if removing the radiator would increase the ram air cooling effect on a running engine and keep it from burning up. Now I'll try to think of something useful....

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Possible but would need to create some form of air cooling. Am sure at some temperature could just force air through the cooling passages but no idea what that temperature would be. Hopefully something above liquid.

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Just now, deaddds said:

Its almost getting colder than a well diggers ass in IL and of course now I discover the heater is out on the Bravada so my mind wanders driving home. Since a large part of Alaska stays below zero for a relatively long stretch over the winter, could a water cooled car from the big three from any of the past several decades operate just fine without the radiator? I know lots of folks use block heaters up there and cover the radiators to speed up the heater but wondered if removing the radiator would increase the ram air cooling effect on a running engine and keep it from burning up. Now I'll try to think of something useful....

What is a Bravada, Google search turned up nothing. 

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Working in the winter in North Dakota I got stuck in a snowdrift when is was 30 below.  It was night and the wind was blowing.  In trying to tow the car free we dragged a chain across the radiator petcock and broke it off and lost all the antifreeze.  I drove another ten miles to the oil rig that I was working on, did my work and left.  I had to drive about 35 miles to a repair shop.  The temperature gauge never budged from cold.  The shop soldered in a new petcock and I drove the company car home.  Many of the little towns thereabouts had plugins next to the parking meters.  I never had any other problems with the car.  It would seem that if you tried to do this very often that it would cause a very uneven heat distribution with the possibility of cracking the engine block.

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59 minutes ago, nickelroadster said:

The temperature gauge never budged from cold.

 

This is because the temperature probe is supposed to be in water. When it is in mid air, the air acts as an insulator so the probe does not see high heat. (conduction vs convection).

 

A fluctuating temperature gauge is a sign of low coolant.

 

Glad your story had a happy ending!😉

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I can offer up this: had a late model VW in the shop one time, probably a Jetta or Passat or something like that, gas engine. The complaint was the AC quit at stoplights. I quickly found that the electric fan wouldn't run. She couldn't afford to fix it, but I wanted to make sure it was safe to drive. I let that thing idle for an hour in the parking lot, in the summer, and the needle never left 1/2 (but, she was right, no air movement meant no AC). I still don't care for VWs but I remain impressed by the efficiency of that cooling system. Nope, can't say how to translate that to waterless cooling. 

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This is from past experience.  Living in South Dakota we often see temps below 0. There has been many cases of people not checking their antifreeze in the fall or forgetting to put some in. If it gets cold out and the radiator freezes the engine will over heat before it thaws. If the coolant is low in the winter you won't get any heat out of your heater even if the engine is overheating. So to answer your question I'd say you'd be very lucky to drive it at normal speeds without damaging the engine. The steam that is forming inside the block is not enough to have any cooling effect and probably wont read high on the temp. gauge. 

Your cooling jacket acts as insulation to the cylinders if there is not coolant in it. Therefore the outside of the block can feel normal but the cylinders are drastically overheated.  I ended up with a nice one owner pickup for cheap because it was over heated in the winter. 

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Perhaps not so much. Determining factors are primarily ambient temperature vs. load. There is a certain point at which equilibrium could be maintained indefinitely at idle. I don’t know what that temp. would be. Minus 80 ?   Minus 98.6 ? Sorry, I quite simply don’t know. Increase the load, (most people know that a car engine warms up more quickly while driving, rather than warming up in the parking spot), and more cooling is necessary. Climb a long steep grade without the purpose designed heat exchanger, (radiator), and you will cook up a delicacy known as “baked mill”.    -   Carl 

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9 hours ago, Hudsy Wudsy said:

Yikes to the heater problems in a Bravada!! I've pulled the whole dashboard out of a S10 Blazer I used to have, just to get at the heater. That's the last one of those I'll ever own!

My 97 Bravada developed a heater core leak and when dealer and radiator shop both said the entire dash, door to door and windshield to console, had to come out to repair it and 16 hr labor, I dumped some GM stop leak pellets in it. After that I could usually go an oil change cycle without having to top off the  cooling system. Whoever designed DexCool should be forced to drink a gallon of it.

 

Nice vehicle but hands down the biggest POS I have ever owned. It had all of the S10's many issues plus the AWD. It broke me of EVER again owning a modern GM vehicle. Reading some of the electronics issues y'all have had, I know swearing off GM has been a wise move.

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10 hours ago, Hudsy Wudsy said:

Yikes to the heater problems in a Bravada!! I've pulled the whole dashboard out of a S10 Blazer I used to have, just to get at the heater. That's the last one of those I'll ever own!

Not a good sign, hopefully it just needs a back flush. When did it become common to hide a previously easily accessed part that often needs servicing? Morons

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11 hours ago, Fossil said:

This is from past experience.  Living in South Dakota we often see temps below 0. There has been many cases of people not checking their antifreeze in the fall or forgetting to put some in. If it gets cold out and the radiator freezes the engine will over heat before it thaws. If the coolant is low in the winter you won't get any heat out of your heater even if the engine is overheating. So to answer your question I'd say you'd be very lucky to drive it at normal speeds without damaging the engine. The steam that is forming inside the block is not enough to have any cooling effect and probably wont read high on the temp. gauge. 

Your cooling jacket acts as insulation to the cylinders if there is not coolant in it. Therefore the outside of the block can feel normal but the cylinders are drastically overheated.  I ended up with a nice one owner pickup for cheap because it was over heated in the winter. 

You take your average water cooled car and drain the coolant. Start it and run it in any temperature condition hot or cold. The temp gauge or idiot light won't tell you a thing accurately. The sender needs to be immersed in coolant to work.

I've seen cars come into the shop with freeze plugs blown out of the block......but the customer says "look  the temp gauge say's it never overheated"!  

Edited by Pfeil (see edit history)
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  • Peter Gariepy changed the title to Just wondering question... could a water cooled car operate just fine without the radiator in cold weather?
4 hours ago, Restorer32 said:

In 1969 I, along with 3 other college kids, drove a VW Beetle down to the Dead Sea. When we left the temp was well above 110. Not a hint of overheating. Would have made a good VW commercial.

 

Impossible Digital Art by Georgia Fowler

 

I want to have an air cooled car to drive around in summer. Must be nice not having a temp gauge to worry about!

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1 hour ago, deaddds said:

When did it become common to hide a previously easily accessed part that often needs servicing?

 

Way back! BMW 1600 / 2002  was one of the first impossible ones I was asked to work on. Declined. I'm sure it was not the first. The the Nova of mid to late 70s was another high time quoted. 

 

Funny thing, there are some easy ones. 1994 to 1996 Impala, Roadmaster, Caprice is a few screws under the dash. Of course one is a stinker, might not make it back in.😉

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Basic engineering, an internal combustion engine needs an engineered cooling system, water, air (thru channels or finning) or whatever to maintain efficiency and survive. Remember there are hundreds of moving parts that need temperature control. The original question was "can an engine work without a coolant in cold weather". The obvious answer is NO (or not for long)! Without an engineered cooling system (air, water) the engine would run in various degrees of hot or cool dependent on a whole range of variables, RPMs, ambient temperature, idling or moving, length of run time, power load on engine (accessories), etc. In a carefully calculated hypothetical  cold case, (like maybe 0 degrees F), and at a fixed operating speed, and with no radiator up front (to allow air flow to the block), it might be that air rushing into the engine bay along the outside of the engine may permit a specific engine to be run without an engineered system for a short trip. But there are far too many variables for anyone to give anything more than a "hypothetical" answer to the posted question. That's why we have engineers design cooling systems, i.e. so that they do not rely on a very narrow range of operating conditions for the engine to survive/work efficiently. 

 

Some engines can tolerate "hot" (overheated) for considerably longer that other engines which cannot tolerate overheating at all. Some engines can be run cold while other engines need to be at normal operating temp to run properly.   

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I knew a guy who valued Ford Pintos with V6 engines greatly because they held up well enough when overheated to be real strong "Demo Derby" cars. At some point, even well after the pistons began to collapse, they would still be going strong with each cylinder blowing big smoke rings out of each (header) exhaust pipe. They were highly respected in their class. I wasn't going to bash the GM made S10 Blazer for fear of insulting proud GM owners, but while the SUV had some nice qualities, it was the one vehicle (out of well over one hundred and thirty +) that I regret owning the most.

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7 hours ago, 8E45E said:

For sake of clarity, and because the fact that I own several Lincoln Mark Vlll's, I feel the need to respond. It wasn't only the Cadillac that touted the feature. As I remember, they drained the cooling system of all coolant, from a Mark Vlll, then drove the car in traffic. I can't remember the distance traveled, but there was no damage done, as checked by a teardown of the engine. As I remember the sophisticated system, measured the scavenging temperature of each cylinder. When a particular temperature is reached in a particular cylinder, that cylinder shut down until it cools. Then the next hottest cylinder is dropped and the process repeats itself. I honestly don't know how that would keep the coolant from boiling, but at least the engine wouldn't be damaged. Regardless I don't think I would continue to drive a car with the coolant boiling!

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9 hours ago, Frank DuVal said:

The the Nova of mid to late 70s was another high time quoted. 

 

I used to own a '75 Camaro.

When the heater core started to leak I found a service manual and the first step was 'Remove right, front fender'. 😬

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1 hour ago, Buffalowed Bill said:

Well VW engines were cheap and easy to install when they failed.

 

They were $200 exchange at an engine shop in Richmond. Even into the early 90s.

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A water cooled engine might run all right without damage for a short period of time, say 10 or 15 minutes. I have driven cars with malfunctioning cooling systems 5 to 10 miles without damage, then they have to sit for an hour to cool down. Exterior temp doesn't make much difference. Some motorists used to drain the cooling system in cold weather, fill it up with hot water when they wanted to use the car, and drain it again when they were done. But why not just fill it with antifreeze?

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33 minutes ago, Rusty_OToole said:

A water cooled engine might run all right without damage for a short period of time, say 10 or 15 minutes. I have driven cars with malfunctioning cooling systems 5 to 10 miles without damage, then they have to sit for an hour to cool down. Exterior temp doesn't make much difference...................................


As I said above :

 

On 12/2/2020 at 8:52 PM, C Carl said:

Determining factors are primarily ambient temperature vs. load. There is a certain point at which equilibrium could be maintained indefinitely at idle. I don’t know what that temp. would be......................Increase the load, more cooling is necessary.....................


That’s my story, and I’m sticking’ to it ! Equilibrium , theoretically could be achieved at any load. Continued operation would depend on heat transfer rate. Heat transfer rate depends on ambient conditions, temperature in the real world being the most relevant . Atmospheric pressure, wind speed , etc have some effect, but temperature is dominant in our environment here on planet Earth. Yes, you might encounter 200 mph relative wind somewhere, but let’s leave that variable out of the equation.You’ll run longer at Antarctic base “Alpha” in Southern Hemisphere Winter, at say -79 where heat transfer would be more efficient than same rig running at same load out of Josh’ Tree , California during Norther Hemisphere Summer at +129.

 

                                                                  See what I am getting at ?       -   CC

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You could not drain the coolant out of a car and drive it indefinitely at speed even at the south pole. Outside temperature could make a difference but not that big of a difference because the heat can't escape from the guts of the engine fast enough to prevent overheating, melting and seizing of parts. You could start and run the engine as long as you stop before the critical degree of heat is reached and this could get you 5 or 10 miles. Maybe farther if you don't mind arriving in a smoking wreck.

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19 hours ago, Buffalowed Bill said:

Well VW engines were cheap and easy to install when they failed. That's why aftermarket oil coolers were so popular on the Microbuses. Unfortunately, it was usually after the owner needed to replace the original engine.

Cheap....NO, a forged crank, forged rods all with inserts starting in 1937, Koblen-Schmidt aluminum piston- iron liners and sodium filled valves with aluminum heads with steel hardened valve seats and silicone bronze valve guides from the factory are not cheap. 

   Easy to install......yes-because it was designed to be taken out for clutch replacement.  Aftermarket oil cooler parts were terrible compared to the original on the engine.

 Where people got into trouble was not paying attention to the maintenance schedule and procedures, as well as proper driving procedure , including proper warm up.  You don't lug a VW engine and you don't over-rev a VW.  Lug it and you pound out bearings, over-rev it and just like any other engine you stretch it beyond it's ability to come back to it's original shape. That's why it's a 4 speed and unlike many big engine cars you need to use ALL those gears-all the time to keep the engine in it's sweet spot-do that and they last.

My 65 of 42 years went 120,000miles before I overhauled it, only to find it was in spec. New stock bearings, piston and barrels ok just honing and new rings, and new exhaust valves. I really didn't need a overhaul , it's just that G.M. products were done after 100K and that's what I was used to.

My 64 went 168,000 before I rebuilt it. 

 Let them warm up, change oil every 1,500 miles and check valves every 3,000 miles and look at the plugs every 6K.  

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Again, plugging variables of load and temperature into the equation to determine run time, as load increases, run time decreases. As temperature decreases, run time increases. “Indefinitely” is a constant. “Speed” equals load. For any given load , there is a heat transfer rate which could dissipate all the heat generated at a given load. To illustrate by exaggerating to an extreme example, let’s drop ambient temperature of gaseous atmosphere to .001 degree above atmospheric liquefaction at sea level. Fire it up ! You could transfer a massive amount of heat from the combustion chamber/pistons, etc. into an engine block at cryo-temp, being cooled by a cryo-temp ambient atmosphere. Again, run time depends upon heat rejection rate of the engine running at test conditions. Heat rejection rate in our experiment here , depends upon temperature differential between engine combustion chamber and the rest of the engine block and head(s). Temperature of engine block and head(s) depends on ambient conditions, the overwhelmingly most significant condition being ambient temperature.

 

                                                            See what I am getting at ?    -    Carl 

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Experiences vary. In the day you didn't have to look very far to find someone who had experienced an engine failure in a VW. It didn't take me very long to discover that Toyota was on to something, with it's Corolla with it's 2TC, water cooled, engine, with a hemispherical head. Super Beatle had 60hp in 1974 to the Corolla's 85hp. Just to be clear it wouldn't have been a car for me, but it came women who became my wife, and now x-wife. I was not impressed at first. It just would not die. God knows it got tested. She would drive that thing at over 80mph, or more, for long distances. At about 275K miles it was retired, when there was not valve seat left, to take, and hold an adjustment, but it was still running.

 

By the way I did have a friend who had an 11 second VW. I think that he must have broken three or four crank shafts. It was torn apart more then it was together.

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3 hours ago, Buffalowed Bill said:

Experiences vary. In the day you didn't have to look very far to find someone who had experienced an engine failure in a VW. It didn't take me very long to discover that Toyota was on to something, with it's Corolla with it's 2TC, water cooled, engine, with a hemispherical head. Super Beatle had 60hp in 1974 to the Corolla's 85hp. Just to be clear it wouldn't have been a car for me, but it came women who became my wife, and now x-wife. I was not impressed at first. It just would not die. God knows it got tested. She would drive that thing at over 80mph, or more, for long distances. At about 275K miles it was retired, when there was not valve seat left, to take, and hold an adjustment, but it was still running.

 

By the way I did have a friend who had an 11 second VW. I think that he must have broken three or four crank shafts. It was torn apart more then it was together.

 

Like I said, don't follow the prescribed maintenance, mistreat the engine and you have problems.

 

Read the VOLKSWAGEN TECHNICIAL MANUAL. The valve size, the intake manifold, the exhaust system, the camshaft, the compression, and the carburetor size allow the VW engine to run all day at wide open throttle and not hurt itself. The design governs itself so it can run all day WOT in 4th gear.

 

Modify the engine and you have;

A friend who had an 11 second VW. I think that he must have broken three or four crank shafts. It was torn apart more then it was together.

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A lot of information above.  Great

 

But here is something.  If the vehicle was designed to have a regular coolant/water pump; and you drain the coolant out.  Are there any ill effects on the water pump?  If the pump designed to run in a coolant environment; what happens when you run the car without coolant.?

 

Does the seal, bushing/bearing overheat and destroy itself?  Just asking

 

intimeold 

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