Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Two Types of Radiators Radiators What Type of Radiator a Tri-Five Uses Fixing and the Two Types of Radiators

Image result for my 1955 chevy overheated steaming

The Two Types of Radiators Radiators

What Type of Radiator a Tri-Five Uses

Fixing and the Two Types of Radiators

   -Alan Arnell

I got stuck in traffic in Plano, Texas and my 1957 Chevy Model/150 2-door Sedan began to overheat on a scorching day in July.  The temperature gauge, alarmingly, went above 240 degrees F.  I had to pull over into a Burger Street parking lot to allow the engine to cool down to a reasonable operating temperature before I could drive back home.  Naturally, I got out of the car to open the hood.  Besides steam pouring out of the overflow tube, a pin hole at the top of the radiator “Gleeked” a needle size stream of coolant out the top of the radiator, almost hitting me in the face.  

All I could do was to leave the hood up to aid in the cooling of the engine and wait.  What seemed like forever, finally, the engine temperature fell below 180 degrees F.  With a red shop rag over the
radiator cap, I slowly opened the cap to its first notch.  I small hiss was emitted from the radiator filler neck, but no hot fluid came spewing out.

If you do not already know, if your radiator and engine are overheating and you open the radiator cap you could become severely burned from steaming coolant that may explode out of the open cap.  The cap has two notches.  The first notch is just on, but the radiator filler neck opening is not sealed.  The second notch is on and sealed.  

I think that the reason engineers designed radiator caps with two steps for closing is so that the cap does not go flying off like a missile.   At the first notch the cap stays on and hot gasses may be released with some resemblance of safety.  I use a rag to cover the cap when opening it whenever
there is heat in the coolant system.  I stop at the first notch to let any steam or hot liquid to expand out of the radiator.  I use the rag over the cap to help cut down on the spray that still may come out to burn me.

Another reason to keep the radiator cap at the first notch is to keep the pressure out of the radiator if you have a leak in the system and you still need to drive the car.  The more pressure in the system the faster the fluid spurts out.  

To keep the boiling point of the radiator coolant at a higher degree the cooling system is pressurized.  The more pressure the hotter the coolant can become before boiling.  Boiling coolant is not good for an engine and may explode the system. That is why there is an overflow tube to release excess steam pressure and expanding fluid.  Remember a fluid will not compress.  When a fluid expands in a radiator and there is no outlet for the expanding fluid the fluid will make one through the side of the radiator.

The day of my overheating; before I drove home, I went into my emergency supplies to get a jug of water to refill the radiator. With the radiator now full, I put the cap on only at notch one to keep the pin hole from leaking so much.

I have also used the first notch setting of the cap when my water pump cracked.  On that day, I filled the radiator up, put the cap on notch one and loosened the water pump drive belt.  Can you guess why
I loosened the belt?  Let me tell you.  Loosening the drive belt helps to not put as much stress on the bad water pump and to hopefully stop total failure of the water pump on the drive home.

With the water pump rigged up, I drove home 50 miles with my eyes checking the temperature gauge every 20 seconds or so.  That day I had two things to worry about.   Overheating of course and having a zero reading on the temperature gauge.  A zero reading on the temperature gauge would mean I had lost all the cooling system’s fluid.  As luck would have it, I made it home okay with no ill effects to the car, like a cracked block, head or blown head gasket.  

Really I had three worries.  My friend Doug tried the same jerry rig to get home one day; except he did not loosen the drive belt, because he did not have a wrench.  His water pump broke apart allowing the fan go through his radiator.  

Back to my problem.  I decided it was time for a new radiator. Besides the leak, which had been fixed before to fail again, I believe the stock radiator after maybe up to 50 years of use was more than likely plugged up with scale or debris to some degree of inefficiently. I also had plans to install an A/C unit on my car, because Texas is hot and/or DAMN hot in the summer.  

I knew, I would need a bigger radiator than the original to fight off the blistering-Texas heat and to keep the car’s inside and engine cool with a running A/C unit.  Just two weeks before my clubmate John had replaced his old radiator in his 56 Belair 2-door Sedan with a Desert Cooler.  It is a big radiator.  I guess, I had radiator envy, because I replaced my old radiator with a Desert Cooler radiator as well.

I will go over the installation of the new Radiator in a latter blog, so please check back.

What I will finish writing about today is choices.  I hate choices sometimes.  I was faced with choosing between two types of radiators.  One type was a down-flow and the other type was a cross-flow.  I was to find out that these two terms simply refer to the direction of the cooling tubes that run in the the radiator’s cores.  The original radiator that I had, as do most custom radiators in the Tri-Five
marketplace, are down-flow.  The core is constructed with the cooling tubes running up and down. Late model car radiators and the radiator I was to buy use the  cross-flow system, which produces a better cooling radiator.  The cross-flow type is constructed with the tubes running from side to side.  If you look at an original Tri-Five radiator the coolant tank part of the radiator is on top.  My Desert Cooler and late model radiators have the tanks either one or both sides of the radiator.

Please check back to Texas Classic Chevy Experience for a future “how to” blog post about replacing/upgrading a radiator in a Classic Chevy Tri-Five.

If you want to know more about cooling systems I copied the text below for your reading pleasure and increased knowledge:

+The Internal Combustion Engine

  • A car engine burns fuel and uses friction to give your car motion. These processes cause a great amount of heat to build up in the engine. If this heat is not diverted away from the engine, it can cause the pistons in the engine to seize up in their cylinders and eventually snap; causing engine break down.
  • Some of the heat escapes through the exhaust system. Oil is used to lubricate the internal engine parts and cut down on the friction. But oil and the exhaust system by themselves are not enough to get rid of the excess heat. A car engine runs best at an average of 180 degrees F. Once the temperature reaches 200 degrees F, the cooling system has to kick in and help to cool the engine.

How the Cooling System Works

  • Near the front of the engine there is a thermostat. As the engine heats up and reaches a certain temperature, the thermostat opens to allow the flow of coolant and water. The water/coolant combination is held in the radiator. As it comes into the engine, it is sent around the cylinders to pick up the heat from the friction and burning fuel. The coolant is then sent back into the radiator where it goes into small chambers that are all throughout the radiator.
  • The surface area of the radiator alone is enough to cool down the coolant. However, a fan between the engine and radiator helps to cool it down even more. Further cooling is done through the grill of the moving car as the air from outside the car blows onto the radiator. Once the coolant has made the trip through the radiator it's ready to go back to the engine and pick up more heat.

What Causes Radiator Failure

  • There are many reasons for a radiator to stop working. One reason is the thermostat may get clogged and not open. If this happens the coolant cannot get through and the radiator can overheat. As a result, your engine can seize up.
  • However, the most common reason for a breakdown in a cooling system is a leak. There are many seals, gaskets and hoses that can deteriorate or get a hole in them and leak. As the coolant gets low it will not be able to cool properly and the engine will overheat. If this happens, turn the engine off and allow it to cool down before taking it to a repair shop

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