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Old 10-28-2012, 05:36 AM   #1
Tom Wesenberg
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Default Radiator Cleaning and Mess





Earlier this summer I ran straight vinegar in my cooling system for 3 days to clean it out. Turns out 3 days removed some rust, but not enough. I bought 3 more gallons of vinegar to run in the car for a month. I then flushed it with water and Cascade dish soap, running it for a couple days and draining, then repeating it again. Yesterday I flushed it with straight water 4 times before the water finally came out clear. Now I can reinstall the thermostat and antifreeze and see how well it works.

It wasn't so much of an overheating problem, but the coolant was filling the top tank and going out the overflow due to plugged tubes. They may have been blocked by grease, water deposits, or rust flakes. I'm not sure, but I wanted to try to open them by cleaning solutions, before I was forced to remove the tanks to rod it out. I connected an overflow bottle to catch anything coming out the overflow pipe. When driving over 43 MPH I'd get about a quart in 10 miles. Yesterday I only got a spoonful in 30 miles.

I rebuilt my water pump exactly as original, and it hasn't leaked a drop in 10 years, but you can see the vinegar removed the grease and let it leak, making quite a rusty greasy mess. You can see the fan even blew it back on the firewall and coil. It'll clean up with diesel or WD-40, then I can regrease the pump. At some point I will install the brass rear bushing with the double lip seal, as this will keep the grease out of the coolant.

BTW, while the water was draining I started the engine and when I gave it some throttle the flow quit momentarily and sucked air into the drain cock.

Last edited by Tom Wesenberg; 10-30-2012 at 11:14 PM.
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess



I decided to remove the radiator, lay it flat, fill it with water, and turn it upside down to see if any more rust flakes are in there. I did this 3 times and got a lot more rust flakes out, so now I should be good to go. I'll stick a nylon in the top hose to catch any more junk that might block the tubes. This is a temporary engine I'm using while I rebuild the original. I've never had the head off and didn't realize it was so full of rust. The bottom end was fairly clean when I first removed the pan 10 years ago.

I'll also be installing the new rear bushing with the double lip seal in the water pump. When I grease the rear seal I'll just unscrew the packing nut and pump in grease, then screw the nut back on.

Removing the radiator also makes the cleanup easier!
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:11 PM   #3
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

Tom, thanks for posting the results of your project. I now have an idea on what to expect. It appears you've accomplished your objective. No reason to change the engine now.

Charley
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:18 PM   #4
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

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Originally Posted by ckulchar View Post
Tom, thanks for posting the results of your project. I now have an idea on what to expect. It appears you've accomplished your objective. No reason to change the engine now.

Charley
I'm not ready with rebuilding the original engine yet, but I was trying to get good flow in the original radiator without having to unsolder the tanks to rod it out. Just hope no holes show up now.
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

you will have to rod out the radiator for good flow
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:47 PM   #6
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

Just recently cleaned out a friends motor/radiator using a set of connections (made from PVC) which I had seen in a recent MARC or MAFCA club magazine. The friends complaint was that he could not go over 45 without the radiator boiling over. We decided to put kerosene and Simple Green in the radiator and drove it approx. total of 50-55 miles. Flushed system with clear water and then put in some anti-freeze. Then drove car over 700 miles to the New England meet with no problems and no water lost.
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Old 10-28-2012, 08:14 PM   #7
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

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you will have to rod out the radiator for good flow
Could be if the tubes were plugged, but I think the problem was the tubes were blocked by rust flakes laying over the openings. A month of vinegar dissolved most of the rust and todays upside down radiator removed the rest of the flakes. Even before I removed the radiator today I had good flow, as the coolant was no longer going into my temporary overflow bottle.
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Old 10-29-2012, 05:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

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Just recently cleaned out a friends motor/radiator using a set of connections (made from PVC) which I had seen in a recent MARC or MAFCA club magazine. The friends complaint was that he could not go over 45 without the radiator boiling over. We decided to put kerosene and Simple Green in the radiator and drove it approx. total of 50-55 miles. Flushed system with clear water and then put in some anti-freeze. Then drove car over 700 miles to the New England meet with no problems and no water lost.
I also saw the PVC flushers in the "Restorer". We're you pleased with their back flow ability? I had a plumber grab me the right parts, but haven't put them together. Any tips? Thanks.
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Old 10-29-2012, 12:48 PM   #9
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

Occasional Radiator Maintenance:

Had luck cleaning radiators with water mixed with water based POR 15 "Marine Clean". (Also cleaning old 600W from insides of stubborn, greasy axle housings).

As stated in the POR manufacturer's literature, Marine Clean works far better when the water solution is quite warm, such as that of the warm temperature of radiator water.

Mixture as weak as of 1 part MC to approximately 8 parts water works well -- so does 1:10, just depends on what one is cleaning.

Hardened & soft grease mixed with dirt & rust goo begins to emulsify & turn loose with the constant flow of the warm, "moving" water mixture, whereby one can tell what is happening within the cooling system by the color of the drained water.

If MC mixture leaks through the water pump, overflow, (or anywhere else), & gets blown around the engine compartment, it can be removed with clear water; however, it will not harm engine paint or firewal paint.
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Old 10-29-2012, 08:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess



Today I cleaned the mess off the engine and firewall by using some old outboard mix that came with a 1955 outboard I bought two days ago. As soon as I poured it out of the pressure tank I knew it was a good thing I never tried to run an outboard on it. I wasn't even sure it was good enough to use as a cleaner, but it worked OK. In fact I was very lucky that it was so old because when I was cleaning by the starter, the steel band on the paint brush hit the stater switch and rod at the same time making a spark. Luckily the old gas was so bad it didn't even start on fire.

This radiator has been boarderline overheating since I put this motor in about 10 years ago. I thought it might be from 80 years of water deposits on the tube tops. I'd loose 2 quarts of coolant on a 50 mile drive. A thermostat helped to cut that loss to almost nothing in a 50 mile drive. Then last summer I was on the freeway going 45 to 50 and it was suddenly blowing steam due to loss of coolant. I had to add a lot of water all that day, and couldn't figure out why all of a sudden it had gotten so much worse. Well, appartently the drive on the freeway sucked the rust flakes out of the engine and blocked the tube tops. After all the rusty mess the 30 days of vinegar removed and all the flakes that came out when I turned the radiator upside down yesterday, I'm sure I'm good to go now. Tomorrow I'll clean up the water pump and install the new rear bushing with the double lip seal, then I can hit the road again. I'm sure the salt will be on the road in a week or two, so I won't get much more driving in this year.
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Old 10-29-2012, 09:09 PM   #11
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

Tom, I feel your pain regarding having dealt with boarderline overheating. It is great to see the engine clean and I am glad to hear that you think the vinegar did its job.
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Old 10-29-2012, 09:34 PM   #12
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

TOM .......................
Before you put your radiator back on, hit the insides of the block with a pressure washer. You'll still get a lot of loose stuff out of there.
MIKE
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Old 10-29-2012, 09:39 PM   #13
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

What a mess!! That vinegar sure did the trick!!

Will the vinegar eat out the seals of a "leak less" pump?
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Old 10-29-2012, 09:49 PM   #14
Ken Ehrenhofer
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

Hi Tom,
I tried a few months ago to clean a radiator. I removed it and laid it face down on a piece of cardboard. I then blocked up the overflow tube and put a radiator cap on that closed it off. I then poured lacquer thinner into the lower water outlet tube and let it soak over night. In the AM I sloshed it around and drained out a lot of greasy thinner.
I then tried it again with clean thinner and it started to look real clean. I thought this might also be a good way to clean a radiator out as the thinner cuts the grease usually in there from the water pump grease fitting.
It seemed to do very good job. I have not tried the radiator but it seemed to improve the flow of water. obviously, I did this out side in the open air so the fumes did not get near a furnace or hot water heater.
Just some thoughts,
Ken
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Old 10-29-2012, 09:50 PM   #15
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

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What a mess!! That vinegar sure did the trick!!

Will the vinegar eat out the seals of a "leak less" pump?
I don't know, but I've seen several "leakless" pumps that leaked or the bearings went out. I'll keep rebuilding them original, except for adding the rear double lip seal.

I wonder if the vinegar would work just setting in the car and not being started? I drove mine several times over the 30 days and by looking down the head through the water pump hole it looks good.

Ken, I was thinking of doing the same thing with gas, but it looks like rust flakes was my main problem.
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Old 10-30-2012, 10:27 PM   #16
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess



This probably should have been the start of a new thread, but this is the last step in fixing my cooling system problem. The water pump was still in perfect condition, but I want a seal in the rear bushing, so now is the time to do it. The solid brass tool shown is something I turned on the lathe to press out the old bushing, which is still in perfect condition. I'll add a seal to it later and use it in my next rebuild. Also shown is the locking collar, which I like and always use. That way one pump will be ready to go on any head.

I also am adding a filter to catch anything that might block a radiator tube. I went to Menards and bought a 2" barbed coupling and cut off the barb portion as shown. One fitting will give two barbs for two cars. I slipped a dryer vent nylon through the inside of the barb, then over the outer edge and pushed the fitting with nylon into the upper hose. Be sure to push from the top down, so the barbs will lock the thermostat from being pushed up the hose. No third clamp needed. Now I can slip the thermostat against the fitting and clamp it to the engine outlet, then tuck in the radiator inlet and clamp it.

BTW, my mistake, the rear seal is not a double lip seal as I thought, but a single lip with a spring, so it should still work well to keep the grease out and antifreeze in. The impellor and shaft are original Ford parts and still show no wear, and the same goes for the front bearing and the rear bushing I removed.

Last edited by Tom Wesenberg; 10-30-2012 at 11:29 PM.
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Old 10-31-2012, 10:26 PM   #17
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess





I had to use WD-40 and my fingernails to get the rust junk off the generator. The paint held up OK, but the plating on the cutout took a bit of a hit. I still have to clean the hood, but I got everything back together and put a few miles on it today. Sure is nice to have the radiator flowing like it should. I think these rust flakes are the answer to two other mysteries I've had about this engine.

This is not an oil burner and doesn't have carbon buildup. It has the correct heat range spark plugs and only has 50 lbs compression on each cylinder, but the engine always liked to ping with the slightest throttle unless I really retarded the spark. This made no sense on a low compression stock engine, but now I'm sure a bunch of these rust flakes were piled in one spot and made a hot spot for one cylinder, causing ping. No more ping since the cleanout.

Also this engine always had a light noise that I figured was a loose piston skirt or loose wrist pin. I'll bet the cylinder with the rust flakes ran hot and caused a loose piston skirt. Anyway, now that it's cleaned out it's running fine and highway drives should be no problem, even though I try to stick to back roads.

BTW, I oiled all the bolts and hood hinges, and that's what you see.
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Old 10-31-2012, 11:12 PM   #18
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

Nice job Tom and thanks for posting the photos.
A lot of crud piles up inside the bottom the water jackets over the years and you probably loosened up some of it.

With the head off my block, I inserted a piece of coathanger down into the jackets and spun it with a drill which dislodged literally handfulls of rust.
I also fished out several pieces of thick, corroded wire....apparently left over from the original casting process.
Then when I unsoldered my radiator bottom tank, I found 10 or 11 tubes plugged solid with gravel, grease, feathers, wood bits and both red & white sulphated powder chunks.
Oh yes....2 radiator experts flow tested it beforehand and said it was wonderfull.
I must remember to rig up some kind of filter like yours when I start driving it.
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Old 11-15-2012, 12:33 PM   #19
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

As I wrote on a previous post I was having problems with the radiator flow rate and so I ran straight vinegar in my system for about two weeks and on a trip up the freeway at about 45mph the rust in the radiator blew throughout the engine compartment making a mess equal to the one depicted in Tom's post. I thought that in came from the radiator cap but maybe it was the waterpump (although the pump is not leaking now). As I am about to make a long trip in the truck I bought a new radiator (Ouch) to avoid having a problem on the hiway. I am thinking about having the old radiator roded out and keep it for a spare.
Cleaning the mess from the engine compartment was a real joy!

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Old 11-15-2012, 12:48 PM   #20
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

Yes, had I known it was going to make such a mess, I'd have wrapped a rag around the water pump.

Has anyone tried DERUSTO in the cooling system?
I'm wondering if it's safe for the radiator solder?
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Old 08-27-2018, 12:15 PM   #21
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

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Originally Posted by TreeTopFlier View Post
What a mess!! That vinegar sure did the trick!!

Will the vinegar eat out the seals of a "leak less" pump?

Was wondering if there is an update to this, vinegarvleakless seal/shaft damage?
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Old 08-27-2018, 10:41 PM   #22
Tom Wesenberg
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

This thread is almost 6 years old already. If I run into such a rust filled block again, I'll try RUST911 first, as it won't make the mess the vinegar did.


BTW my engine is no longer pukes out the overflow and no longer overheats.
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Old 08-27-2018, 11:26 PM   #23
Chuck Sea/Tac
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

I just used the evaporust product, available in auto parts store, called thermocure. I left it in for a couple of weeks. I’ve put 5 or 6 hundred miles on since then with no problems.
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Old 08-28-2018, 07:30 AM   #24
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Default Re: Radiator Cleaning and Mess

Have already been flushing occasionally with vinegar, had severe rust/scale issues, for the last 1-2 years. Am concerned because I was unaware of the follow up flush using baking soda/water. Always flush/backflushed extensively with a garden hose, then adding distilled water and Macs rust inhibitor. Was wondering if I am damaging leakless pump seals and if I could have caused any other damage. Have seen other posts about thermocure/evaporust and rust911, wish I had known before, but was not aware of the Barn at that time. Am blown away about this resource, and the willingness to help and kindness of its members. Am a new member of the Barn, and am not an expert or a mechanic, more of a newbie finding his way on As.


Thanks.
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