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Discussion Starter #1
Some background: I have noticed that the coolant in my radiator would drop in level alittle (1/2") throughout this summer but didn't think much about it. Then last week I took the family out to a car show and on the way home I was getting on it some (kids request) and I noticed alittle whitish smoke in the mirror coming from the back of the car. When I got home I checked the coolant again cause I had topped it off and sure enough it was lower again by a .5 -1".

So is this early signs of a blown head gasket? Other then this, the car seems to be running good. Have alittle detonation in high gear sometimes but that is it. Oil on dipstick looks clean and coolant doesn't seem to look like it has any oil it is either. Also I have had a side issue since I bought the car with the temperature creeping up while stuck in traffic but it is fine while I am driving so it hasn't been much of an issue for me cause most of my drives are local. Plan on getting a new fan and clutch for this soon too.

I am thinking of pulling the headers away and taking the valve covers off and re-torquing all the head bolts and taking it for another drive to see if that does anything. But I wanted to post here to get opinions on if this is a possible blown head gasket before I start the long process of pulling everything apart.

Thanks for the help!
 

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No, does your car have an over flow tank or does it vent to the ground? If you top it and there is no tank it will push what isn't needed after expansion and that is the level it will run
 

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Discussion Starter #3
No expansion tank, it just vents to the ground. But I keep the level a few inchs from the top for expansion and this didn't seem to be an issue in past years.
 

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If you don't have one then the level it drops to after you fill it and it pushes out what expands, this will be the "correct" level it will run at. This level is normally 1/2-1" below fill hole.
 

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Start the car when engine is cold, let it run for about 2 minutes then pop the rad cap to see if its pressurized. If you get a puff of air , then yes you probably have a bad head gasket.
 

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Test the cap to make sure its not seaping out. If concerned about water going out exhaust, you could take a look at the plugs, see if there is any rust or deposits on electrode out of ordinary.
 

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I've always seen plugs to be clean and white when a head gasket was leaking. Granted I usually saw them after it was very obvious a head gasket had failed. Another symptom is the radiator bubbles like 7-up, but that can be hard to see. There is a tool that you can put on the the radiator with a fluid in it that draws air from the tank to see if there is combustion gas in it. The fluid in the tool changes color if the head gasket is bad.

Jeff
 

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head gasket worries
1/Like above pull the spark plugs, if u have one that is very clean, a a torch (lamp) is possble look in the cyclinder and the inside no carbon at all... most likely.
2/The engine will run hot...if not bad just hot well above the thermostat rating
3/The simplest way is take to a local workshop and get them to check the radiator for hydrocarbons....mentioned in post above.

As also mentioned, normal engine temp, the level will be around 1 to 1 1/3" below full... and when cold maybe another inch below that....

I am thinking of pulling the headers away and taking the valve covers off and re-torquing all the head bolts and taking it for another drive to see if that does anything.
If a head gasket, once gone its gone, total waste of time
Run a HC check
basically it takes around 3 to 4 mins from getting the tester off the shelf to returning....most reputable workshops around here simply do it as a free service, like checking a battery.

Also I have had a side issue since I bought the car with the temperature creeping up while stuck in traffic
putting aside head gasket..
1/ a few cores low in the radiator (which are the ones that block up) are blocked...if a stock radiator , a lot of cores need to be blocked
2/idle and low rpm advance incorrect
3/too lean
4/ fan clutch...Assuming cooling system is basically stock setup.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank for the replys everyone.

Erik, I have always left the radiator about 2 inches below the top for expansion, so I am pretty sure it is not coming out of the vent tube. Plus I have had to top the coolant off a few times this summer so the level keeps dropping.

Don/Jerry, I did pull a few plaug and all of them seemed to look normal. Not white. They were alittle damp many with an oily film or something but not real wet or discolored at all. Once thing I did notice however that was odd, is I took a temp gun to the headers while idling and the #6 exhaust pipe was like 100 degrees hotter then the other pipes.

Steps, if I don't want to drive the car again, is there a DIY way to test the rad for HC? Or can a sample of the coolant work?
As for the traffic heatup side issue, Not a stock radiator, its a newer aluminum one. The previous owner however put a cheap flex fan on it with no clutch, so i am wanting to switch over to the original 7 blade fan and clutch. Also the MSD distributor has no vacuum advance so I want to get a new one to dial in the timing at low speeds.

thanks for all the help.
 

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Steps, if I don't want to drive the car again, is there a DIY way to test the rad for HC? Or can a sample of the coolant work?
Yes u can buy a test unit.. google for them... cant rem what they are called,marketed as, just use one long time since read the label lol... ...all it is is a seal that fits on the radiator cap hole with a squeeze bulb at the top... pump the bulb and it draws air out of the top of the radiator thru a coloured soln .. if changes colour .. not good....and then u remove it suck atmosphere air thru and the liquid goes back ready for testing again....

As for the traffic heatup side issue, Not a stock radiator, its a newer aluminum one. The previous owner however put a cheap flex fan on it with no clutch, so i am wanting to switch over to the original 7 blade fan and clutch.
heat in traffic could be a symptom.. thu from your posts I think u are on the right track going to the hugely over efficient, excellent factory fan system
Also the MSD distributor has no vacuum advance so I want to get a new one to dial in the timing at low speeds.
Take out the ugly MSD, walk to the fartherest extreme of youyr property, and trow it as far into the neather land as possible... then replace with either a stock pointsa or preferably a HEI.
I have, because of supply , reluctantly used a couple Chinese GM type HEIs, surprise they have worked lasted rather well .. daily driving....
Keep in mind modern off the self so called "ready to run" Dizzies are for EGR engines ... not non egr, so u will have to put more degree into the cent, and limit the VA... its not rocket science... covered in many older posts.
And the old points are configured for stock engines , never been rebuilt, bore changes etc, and very different formula/ leaded fuels...

For a cruiser thats going to show off every now and then, a Chinese HEI will last a good 10/15 yrs nps.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Found out that Autozone has a block test you can rent from them that I will try it out and will let you all know the results.
 

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Might be as simple as an intake manifold gasket leaking a little coolant across to an intake port when you get on it. Might be better to check the torque on those bolts.
Do you see any coolant on top of the intake or around where it meets the heads?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
No coolant anywhere on the intake or around the edges. Would be great if it were that simple. Will check the torque on these to.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Well, I finally got a block tester and had the time to run it. I did 3 tests, 1 at first startup when it was cold, one after a long drive when the motor was at operating temp, and 1 an hour after when the motor was in between temps. The fluid after all 3 still looked blue to me so I am pretty excited about that.

Is a passing block test a good enough diagnosis to assume there are no issues with the head gaskets?

I have looked all over the engine and inside near the heater core and do not see any leaks, so I am still not sure why the coolant level is dropping alittle but am happy atleast the motor doesn't have to come apart this winter! I also just noticed one of the intake bolts was alittle wet around it, so I will probably take those out and put so more sealent on the threads
Here are a few of the pictures I took of the test fluid after the tests. Someone had mentioned to look in the radiator for alot of bubbles, so I included a pic of the fluid while the engine was just started and it shows a few tiny air bubbles right near the tubes but the rest is flat:



 

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Did you ever test your radiator cap?
 

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make sure your rubber seal is long enough to reach the sealing part in the radiator neck... i had a cap that was too short and wouldnt seal and would not build pressure in the cooling system!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
No I haven't, but it is only about 2-3 years old cause I replaced the one I had with a new one that has an anode at the end
 

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Sure the smoke was white? Valve guides?
 

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I'm the one that mentioned the bubbles and your pic looks good to me. It will always have those bubbles you see in that pic. The bubbles I'm talking about are like ginger ale or Champagne.... They come up from the bottom.

Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks again for the replys guys.

Yeah the smoke is white but not present all the time. After taking it for a few more drives I am noticing that there is some detonation under load in higher gears (4-speed M22) and that is when I am noticing the smoke out back. I will have to look into that more now that I know the block test passed.
 
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