Hot Under the Collar: Cooling-system cures and piston ring problems
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Ken Levin writes:
My 1960 Ford Country Sedan runs hot, particularly in traffic on warm days. The car is rebuilt to stock specs and equipped with the original radiator and four-blade fan. No air conditioner. What are my options to improve the cooling, and which do you recommend?
Hot running can be caused by many things (stuck thermostat, rusted water pump impeller, sediment in the water passages of the block), but overheating in warm weather usually means that the radiator’s cooling capacity is insufficient. Running additionally hot in traffic is a classic symptom of inadequate airflow.
Since your radiator is 62 years old, I’d recommend upgrading to something with a three- or four-row core. I’m not a big fan of re-coring radiators, but if you want to keep yours original, and if you know of a good, old-school radiator shop, you can certainly go that route. Replacing the radiator is a bit confusing, as the 1960 Country Sedan doesn’t appear to be as well-represented in databases as its Ford brothers. I believe the radiator is the same as that for a 1960–63 Galaxie. However, unless you’re certain that something is a correct replacement, I’d recommend calling Eckler’s Automotive (877-305-8966), as it should be able to confirm fitment, and it has both original-looking copper radiators as well as aluminum. Personally, I don’t care for the look of aluminum radiators in vintage cars, but they’re usually a less expensive option.
Regarding the airflow, a shroud around the mechanical fan should improve cooling in traffic, but I’m seeing conflicting information on whether your car had one. Some folks would advise an aluminum radiator with one or two electric fans directly attached to it, but I’m not a, er, fan of this approach. The electric fans that come on inexpensive radiator-fan packages are usually junk. They often move less air than advertised and don’t last. Also, I resist the deletion of a reliable belt-driven fan, unless there’s no alternative.
I’d update the radiator and see how much of the problem that solves. If it still runs hot in traffic, try changing to a five- or six-bladed fan inside a full shroud. If that doesn’t work, then try shrouded high-quality electric fans.
Randy Mertz writes:
I have a ’64 Chevy Impala with an original 140,000-mile 327 engine. It runs and drives after sitting 15 years in the barn, although the power brake booster is shot. I can get the car started, but after warmup, it smokes oil terribly and oil drips out the exhaust pipes. Mechanics have told me the rings are bad, but there’s no blowby coming out of the oil-fill tube, and the engine is pretty peppy when I step on the gas. Is it the valve guides and seals that are letting oil into cylinders?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I have to agree with the mechanics.
Fog-like oil burning usually is caused by something in the cylinder-piston-ring interface, and if the car sat for 15 years, it could be that the rings are stuck. Sometimes they free up with use, sometimes they don’t. In contrast, worn valve guides and leaky valve seals usually result in oil burning at start-up and during deceleration.
I’d recommend performing a leak-down test to get as much information as possible. Since you note that the power brake booster is shot, you should check that what’s dripping out the exhaust is oil and not brake fluid. It’s possible for brake master cylinders to fail, leak brake fluid into the booster, and for the fluid to get sucked into the intake manifold. When burned, brake fluid smoke is white (oil smoke is bluer) and has an acrid, bitter smell.
Rob’s latest book, The Best of the Hack Mechanic™: 35 years of Hacks, Kluges, and Assorted Automotive Mayhem, is available on Amazon here. His other seven books are available here on Amazon, or you can order personally inscribed copies from Rob’s website, www.robsiegel.com.