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 Low oil pressure and radiator overheating

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Posts : 7
Join date : 2009-03-23
Location : Milwaukee, WI

PostSubject: Low oil pressure and radiator overheating   Tue May 17, 2011 1:12 pm

I'm trying to diagnose and fix a problem that recently resulted in my '59 Safari being towed to my mechanics shop. The low oil pressure light started coming on after 10 minutes of driving and the radiator is overheating. A week ago the engine started knocking after oil light and radiator heavy steam so not wanting permanent damage I had it towed. My mechanic has started it up and reported there is no noise or oil pressure light. As background, the Safari ("Ruthie") has 105,000 miles and the engine has never been touched (per good receipts). I'm the second owner after inheriting it from my Aunt Ruth who passed away 2 years back. It was up on blocks for 8 years. I've done considerable work on her over the past 2 years but not directly related to the engine. Work related to the current problem includes a new thermostat, radiator flush & antifreeze + rust preventor, and recent oil change (10-30 clean & full). I use lead substitute and premium fuel and the fuel system has been completely rebuilt (cleaned tank, rebuilt carb, new fuel sending unit, new fuel lines & filter).

It's hard to say if an engine problem is causing the radiator to overheat or a bad radiator is contributing to the engine problem. Since it likely needs a new one anyway I'm having the radiator core rebuilt to eliminate that from the list of potential problems. The system will be flushed again prior to pulling the old radiator (flush to include the heater core as the interior heater is also not pushing hot air now). If that doesn't fix it a new water pump will be the next replacement. My mechanic hasn't ruled out an oil blockage in the engine either. Going the cheap route first, we plan to drain and replace oil with straight 30 wt. + additives to help reduce or eliminate any blockage. But as the engine is all original I have't ruled out the need for a rebuild. I'm only putting about 2,000 miles a year of light non-winter duty on her now and hope to put off a costly rebuild as long as I can.

Any thoughts as to other causes for the multiple symptoms, and suggested fixes? I don't post often but enjoy reading the thoughts of all you experienced mechanics.
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Posts : 1877
Join date : 2008-05-22
Age : 32
Location : Canyon Lake, Texas

PostSubject: Re: Low oil pressure and radiator overheating   Fri May 27, 2011 2:57 pm

July 2009 I drove a 1976 Power Wagon 400 miles home in the Texas heat from Wichita Falls to Canyon Lake. I checked the oil, the tires, the brakes blah blah blah. It ran great, ran cool until about 90 min into the trip the temp gauge started to creep. I pulled into a gas station and it died. By then it was pretty hot. So I popped the hood and let it cool down and then checked the oil. The oil was bone dry. So I filled it back up and hit the road again. The oil was leaking at the dipstick. Even though the oil pressure did not drop, I knew the oil was getting low when it started to get hot. I went through 14 quarts in 400 miles. So make sure to check the oil

Another thing that happened to me, My ex GFs 2007 Mazda only 40K on it. It kept overheating. I looked on forums for common problems and found that the T stats get stuck closed. So I put a new T stat on it. A week later she calls me and says its overheating again and it died at a stop light. Somehow she limped to my house and I could hear there was no oil in the motor and coolant was all over the engine bay. Once I looked closer, one of the factory heater clamps blew off causing all the coolant to spill. Once all the coolant spilled she kept driving it and it warped the aluminum head on it and then consumed all the oil.

If the motor still runs and isn't smoking and isn't making god awful knocking then you might be ok.

Robert Lewis      
1959 Pontiac Star Chief 4 Door Hard Top
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Posts : 7
Join date : 2009-03-23
Location : Milwaukee, WI

PostSubject: Re: Low oil pressure and radiator overheating   Thu Jun 02, 2011 10:10 pm

It was the radiator. Being flushed + anti-rust 2 years ago wasn't enough to compensate for accumulate rust, which restricted antifreeze flow. With a rebuild core the temp is now fine and no apparent engine damage for running it hot. It purrs like a big cat now. Looks like I get to push off the day for an engine rebuild!
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Join date : 2010-06-05
Age : 47
Location : Corbett, Oregon

PostSubject: Re: Low oil pressure and radiator overheating   Tue May 29, 2012 3:07 am

I've had a few issues with the cooling system on my car as well. It overheats, but not all the time. I have flushed the radiator countless times, only for it to get "murky" within a month or so. When I first got the car it had a leaky freeze plug on the right side and I changed it. While the plug was out, I flushed that side of the engine out with a garden hose.

I adapted a piece of 1/4" air line and stuck it inside the engine. I am not kidding when I got about 10 ounces of rusty crap out of the water jackets. About a week ago, I did another freeze plug, this time on the left side. They are not popping from the cold weather, they are corroding from the inside out. They can be removed and replaced with little effort. I gat another 8 or so ounces of rusty crap, chunks and even some casting sand! No kidding! Casting sand! I took a plastic storage container and punched holes all the way around it about 2 inches from the top to catch the crap, but still let the water out without any loss of the material. I was amazed at just how much actually came out.

Now the radiator is the original Harrison unit and it still works, but has some minor blockage inside. Not one radiator shop will touch it because of it's age, for fear it will disintegrate if they pop the solder. I have looked high and low for another one or even a new one, but there isn't any companies reproducing them for this car. a 1960 unit will work, but these are few and far between as well.

My brother in law owns a company that rebuilds water pumps & clutches and he swears that the water pump is never the cause of overheating problems, even if they are not functioning. He is my age and has been doing this since he was 14, so I believe him.

So far so good! I strongly recommend water wetter or similar to add to the coolant/ water mix. This will drop the temp 20 degrees.

If anyone knows a secret place to find original radiators or a supplier for one, please post here for all to see.

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