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1931 Buick Model 96S - oil cooler test pressure


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The oil cooler on my 1931 Buick 96S was bypassed when I acquired the car. While I have all of the components on that side of the engine rebuilt, I thought I'd check the integrity of the oil cooler by pressurizing it with air. How many PSI would be a good test pressure?  If it turns out to have an issue, is it worth seeking out someone to repair the unit or just reinstall the bypass and move along?

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I believe there is another thread on this exact issue.  Consensus was to bypass the cooler due to risk of tube failure and oil contamination.  When needed modern cars generally cool the oil or transmission fluid with an air cooled exchanger; this eliminates the contamination risk and leaks are immediately apparent.

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Skip the oil cooler and just reinstall the bypass. Sooner or later you'll have a crankcase full of chocolate milk when you least expect it. It was one of the first things I did on my Lincoln after EVERY expert said "Get rid of it!"

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The oil cooler in these cars is actually an oil warmer designed to get the oil up to temperature faster. As with the carburetors and 1930s fuel, it took some heat to get everything working correctly. Today, with multi-viscosity oils, it's completely unnecessary and you're right, these cars don't run hot enough to make an oil cooler a necessity. I bet the oil pan holds what? 8 quarts? 10? That's a lot of liquid to overheat.

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If one reads why the used the warmer/cooler……..it was due to bearing failure. The Buick 8 engine was designed to be no longer than a 6 to fit under the existing hood…….so with narrower bearings they were having failure issues. The warmer/cooler was used to solve the issue. With today’s modern oils, they are not necessary. On my Pierce cars I always bypass them. On the Buicks, I run them. We just pressure tested a 32 Series 96C cooler last week, and had it up to 60 pounds overnight. That’s on the high side……but figured if it would hold 60 it will last the rest of my lifetime. 

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1 hour ago, edinmass said:

If one reads why the used the warmer/cooler……..it was due to bearing failure. The Buick 8 engine was designed to be no longer than a 6 to fit under the existing hood…….so with narrower bearings they were having failure issues. The warmer/cooler was used to solve the issue. With today’s modern oils, they are not necessary. On my Pierce cars I always bypass them. On the Buicks, I run them. We just pressure tested a 32 Series 96C cooler last week, and had it up to 60 pounds overnight. That’s on the high side……but figured if it would hold 60 it will last the rest of my lifetime. 

Ed,

I was wondering why you choose to run the cooler on Buicks but bypass it on your Pierce cars. Do the Pierce rod and main bearings have more surface area than the Buick?

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Yes, the Pierce bearing area is huge, and the cars have a full flow oil filter set up. On the Buicks I figure with today’s higher speeds……thus higher engine rpm’s it’s worth the effort. Oil today is probably three times better at its job than 100 years ago. 

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