Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Newcastle, NSW
All E-series owners should read this
Radiator Facts Information you should be aware of…
It was late afternoon on a Friday when I received a call from a friend of mine in the Navy, her EF Falcon had suddenly stalled a few times, and refused to start. She said to her, it smelled like burning rubber, and had a ticking noise coming from it. She also added that the temperature gauge had risen slightly, but then returned to normal.
Early Saturday morning, I arrived to find the Falcon sitting down the road from her house, unable to make it up the hill home. A quick check revealed low or no coolant, and full oil levels, although extremely dirty, and smelling like it had been cooked. The battery appeared to be ok, ruling out most electrical problems, as it seemed to be charging and supplying power properly.
I quickly dropped around to one of my air force mates house, a former Mitsubishi mechanic, and we grabbed a few tools and headed back to the stricken EF. We started filling the radiator with water, only to find water streaming out of the left side tank. A quick check revealed a huge crack down the side of the tank, giving us an idea of where to start. The car, being cold, seemed happy to start, and we tenderly drove it the short distance back to my mates house, where we parked it.
Being a Saturday morning, we quickly drove into town to find a side tank for the radiator, one of the local workshops happened to be open, and 30 bucks later, we headed back to fit it. When we removed the thermofans, however, it became apparent the side tank was not the only problem. The fans were covered in water, and the back of the radiator was discoloured and quick wet.
We removed the radiator, and flushed it, only to watch huge amounts of deterioration and casting sand pour out. (When Ford manufactures the engine blocks, they mould them in sand, and the sand is not completely washed out before the engines are assembled. The radiator specialist we talked to said this was a known problem with the E-series cars, and has kept him in business for years.) When we removed the side tank from the radiator, huge chunks of sand and deterioration filled the bottom half.
We quickly ran the radiator down to the local radiator shop Pat Burkes Radiators (Wagga Wagga), who stayed open after hours to help us out, and did more for us than he needed to. He explained to us how the sand builds up in the bottom of the radiator when they are not flushed regularly, which decreases the cooling ability of the radiator, and increases temperatures and pressures inside the cooling system. This causes higher pressure than designed applied to the side tanks, which then proceed to crack. He advised us that E-series Falcons need to be flushed regularly to avoid this problem, he said owners should take a car to a radiator shop and ask them to flush the car and replace the coolant, which costs less than 50 bucks, including new coolant. He also explained that coolant becomes acidic after a while, which begins deteriorating the inside of the cooling system, another reason to have the system flushed and coolant replaced regularly.
We installed the new radiator, and because of the damage already caused, we put on new hoses. A quick check of the thermostat revealed it was seized at ¾ open, so we replaced that also. We started the car, and waited to ensure all the cooling systems were working properly. After the car had heated suitably, the thermofans kicked in properly, and the thermostat was also working correctly. After we were happy the engine had purged all the air from the system properly, we moved the car backwards toward the road for a test run, only to reveal a huge oil spill.
We feared the worst, so we turned off the car and checked the oil, which showed no signs of water, and no oil appeared to be in the water either. The car was leaking huge amounts of oil, so with our heads under the bonnet, started the car, which quickly revealed the source of the leak. The oil pressure switch, located on the passenger side of the engine, has a diaphragm, which has a set of contacts attached. When the pressure builds up, the contacts separate, removing the earth to the warning light on the dash, extinguishing it. When the diaphragm is over-heated, however, it can fail, and with 30-40psi of oil pressure applied, provides a great escape route for the oil. The small ten dollar part replaced, and the Falcon was once again running.
The loud tapping noise was one of the lifters on one of the valves, the oil was so dirty, it had been unchanged for quite a while, and the conditions of the oil and the heat has caused one to seize.
What were the lessons learned from this somewhat costly exercise?
1) Flush your radiator every 40 thousand kilometres. Pat Burkes Radiators recommended every 20 thousand for E-series car because of the casting sand, at least for the first few. Doing it yourself with a hose does not remove all the junk accumulated, you need a combination of fluid and high pressure. It only costs you less than 50 bucks, and could save you a lot of expense and hassle. In this case, my friend was lucky that the car did not warp a head or do a head gasket when it over-heated. I wasn’t so lucky last year when a similar thing happened to me. I cannot stress this enough, it is important to flush it at the very least every 40 thousand.
2) Service your car regularly. This car lived a typical family car life, it was not serviced regularly, therefore a lot of small problems went unchecked. This caused the lifter to seize and create a loud tapping noise in the engine. It also caused a number of small checks to be not carried out, which let problems build on each other.
3) Check your coolant levels regularly, especially if your car has indicated a high temperature. The coolant temperature switch indicates the temperature of the coolant when there is coolant in the system, but once the coolant has leaked out, it then indicates air temperature, which appears normal on the gauge. This was the reason that her temperature gauge rose, but then dropped again.
Learn from other people’s experiences, I hope that people can read this and avoid having the same problems themselves…
Pictured below is the oil pressure switch, the oil breaking thru the diaphragm and out of the electrical contact.
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