Piston Slap: Cooling down in the Special Riviera

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Flickr/Greg Gjerdingen

Mick writes:

My 1957 Buick Special Riviera overheats after about 45 minutes. One solution may be to just replace the radiator and be done with the issue, but I’m not sure that is the solution. Also, ’57 Buick radiators are hard to find. This car has been in the family since my parents bought it new, and I’m trying to keep it running. Thank you for your help!

Sajeev answers:

While not necessarily true on newer cars, if it is still running hot after 45 minutes, that is generally a sign of a clogged radiator on something like a Nailhead Buick V-8. But depending on overall vehicle condition, this might be a great time to replace and/or recondition everything: radiator, radiator cap, hoses, thermostat, and the water pump.

Let’s start with the radiator. Even if you could find a new one, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. The Google “near me” search is likely your best friend; in this case we type in radiator repair near me. I got three relevant hits in my big city, and if all else fails, yank out the radiator and make the drive to the nearest city with such a repair facility.

Now, let’s get to the other bits. Places like Rock Auto stock the hoses, thermostat, and radiator cap, and the prices are beyond affordable. (Just don’t buy the radiator caps with the red handle pull levers; I’ve never had good experiences with them.) The water pump is a concern, as replacements are available, but originality might be an issue. If so, get it rebuilt locally just like the radiator. Fear not, there’s a water pump near me search that can likely help you too. Or you can ship it to a place like this one.

No matter how you run with this information, I think you’ll be cruising in your Buick for hours with no problems. But, to be honest, I’d recommend replacing everything in the Buick’s cooling system if you don’t know how old they are.

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