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Old 09-07-2010, 02:08 PM   #1
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Cleaning Your Radiator and Condenser - The Quick Overheating Fix

This DIY is more of a band-aid repair for those who have heating issues. It will help most and depending on what is stuffed up in your radiator/condenser area, it may help a lot. If you manage to get a lot of dirt, twigs, grass and leaves out of these areas, you will see a significant improvement. For those who have heavily modified engines, you may want to just invest in a bigger radiator.

First, a little knowledge on overheating. One misconception that runs rampant is that installing a lower temperature thermostat will cure overheating issues. This is quite far from the truth (I use to think this also). I'll give you a perfect example.

If it took you 2 hours to get to work because:
  1. Traffic was so thick that no one could drive over 15mph.
  2. The road that you took to work could not handle the amount of traffic on the road.
  3. Most of the people commuting on this road were not going to work, but were 90 year old gray hairs who were just out to take in the scenery.
  4. Your car had only 23 horsepower.

So what do you do? You go out and buy a 2009 Z06 with every horsepower option there was. Your new Vette can do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. You leave for work in your new beast and arrive at work 1 minute later than you did in that 23 horsepower beater. Why? Because you never addressed the other variables which are more important than the horsepower of your old beater.

The thermostat simply regulates the minimum temperature of the cooling system. As the coolant heats up the thermostat begins to open at the specified temperature and allow coolant to flow through the radiator at a higher rate.

When you start your car the t-stat is "closed" (some coolant still flows by) and the majority of the coolant circulates through the block (etc...) as it comes up to temperature.

So by installing a lower temperature t-stat, it will allow the coolant to begin flowing through the radiator at a lower temp and slow the warming of the car (not hold it steady).

It will not lower the maximum temperature or operating temperatures of the system. This is a common misconception. It takes a larger radiator and/or improved air flow to lower operating temperatures when moving, and you will need to set your fans to come on sooner to lower temperatures when driving in stop and go traffic. This is true for modified engines.

If your engine is NOT modified, you need to address the problem that is creating your overheating issues, not redesign the system as you would on a modified engine. If you address the problem, your overheating issues will disappear. That I know from experience with my stock engine.

There is one disadvantage in installing a 160 degree thermostat. If you do lots of short trips in a cold climate, the car will never reach its designed operating temperature. You want the oil to get to at least 190 degrees every drive in order to evaporate any condensation in the oil.

Now that you realize that there are multiple variables that need to be addressed in order to lower your temperatures, get up under that puppy and check the radiator and the condenser for anything that may be blocking air flow. I had Jimmy Hoffa stuck in mine. Okay, maybe it was just a bag but that one plastic bag made my temperatures go through the roof. Twigs and grass clippings will do the same thing.

With all that said, let's get to work!
  1. Unclip the air filter retaining clamps. This is a perfect opportunity to replace the air filter with a K&N air filter. A much better filter than those crappy paper ones.

  2. Situate the clamps out of the way.

  3. Raise and remove the air bridge retaining pins.

  4. Loosen the screw that holds the air bridge onto the throttle body.

  5. Next, loosen the bolt at the other end of the air bridge.

  6. Now this step was a PITA for me. You want to disconnect the MAF sensor. I, for the sake of all that is ugly about Lyle Lovett could not get that plug off. I didn't want to pull too hard because I knew that breaking it would throw all kinds of codes once I started the engine. Thus, I left it connected and loosened up its harness by removing it from the clamp that holds the cable in place. You'll notice that the MAF sensor is still in place in the following pictures.

  7. Now you're ready to remove the radiator support which is held in place by 4 bolts.

  8. Now you'll be able to see all that crap that is causing your temperatures to go through the roof.

  9. IMPORTANT: Forcing high PSI's of air or water into the radiator or condenser will cause the fins on the units to bend and close, thus rendering these units useless! You must use extreme care when messing around these units so that you do not destroy them!

    Now here comes the fun part. You need to delicately brush the dirt off of the front of both the condenser and the radiator. I cannot stress enough how delicate you need to be. This is why I will be pulling my radiator out of the car this winter so that I can do this the right way. I may even replace the radiator with a bigger and better one. Once you have brushed as much dirt off the front of the units, use low PSI's of compressed air to blow out as much debris as possible. After you have removed as much debris as you can with air, finish the cleaning with water. You only want to blow air and water into these units in one direction.

    Blowing in the other direction only causes stuff to further lodge itself into the units. Now the tricky part is finding a brush, hose, or air tool that will fit in between these units. Again, this is why I will be removing mine. There are devices out there, you just have to do some hunting for them. I just wiggled stuff around and did the best I could. My cleaning did make a difference but I still can see junk stuck in both units. Once you remove the radiator, cleaning the condenser is rather easy.

  10. Once you finish cleaning, do the entire engine. Then move on to the car. As you can see, I only work on mine when it's dirty!

That's it boys and girls. Get out there and drop them temps!

The Junkman

Last edited by Junkman2008; 10-11-2012 at 07:10 AM.
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