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Overflowing coolant, Won't start

hillkitler

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Boise, ID
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1993 Explorer XLT
Firstly, hello everybody! I've been lurking around these forums for a few years now, finding little tidbits of advice as I needed them. I've done my fair share of repairs based on the knowledge that I've found here, but it now seems that I have an issue that I can't find a clear answer to. So I've turned to you, directly, at long last.

Earlier this evening, I was sitting in line at a drive thru when I began hearing a gurgling noise accompanied by the unmistakable sound of liquid pouring onto pavement. I could also smell (through the vents) what struck me as burnt coolant. I pulled forward and noticed that I was leaking coolant behind me. I parked my X, turned it off and popped the hood to find that my coolant reservoir was overflowing at an alarming rate. There was also quite a bit of white smoke.

Being the incredibly sensible person that I am, I decided it would be a good idea to unscrew the radiator cap, which, as I'm sure you would have guessed, also began spraying out and overflowing. I immediately replaced the cap and restarted the vehicle to check the temperature. Everything looked normal, so I hopped in and began my journey back home, feeling that the issue could be better dealt with if I wasn't in a parking lot. I felt a definite loss of power and heard a constant ticking noise that increased in volume when accelerating, but disappeared once my foot was off of the gas.

On my way home, the vehicle stalled at a light and would not turn over. I pushed it around the corner and tried starting it again, successfully. I drove the rest of the way home, during which the ticking and loss of power became far more pronounced. The temperature also shot up very quickly. The car stalled again around 2 miles down the road, in front of my house, luckily enough. I popped the hood and noted that the reservoir was once again overflowing. I let it cool down for awhile before removing the radiator cap, which immediately began spewing profuse amounts of coolant. I tried starting the car again, but it has since refused to do so. I could hear gurgling in the upper radiator hose around 20 minutes after the engine had been shut off and last I checked, both the radiator and the reservoir were completely filled with coolant. There does not appear to be any oil in the coolant or vice versa and I'm somewhat stumped as to what could be going on here. Help would be very much appreciated.

TL; DR - Ticking noise when accelerating, stalled, Coolant reservoir is overflowing, won't start.

Please help!
 


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Roadrunner777

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Your immediate problem is a no-start. I'm optimistically thinking some water and steam got in your ignition wires/coil pack. Check for spark. If no spark, then clean the coil pack, wires, plugs.

Your most primary symptom was that the temperature shot up. That means some part of the cooling system failed, or you have blown a head gasket to the cooling jacket, or cracked a head, that kind of thing.

If you can get it running, then you first need to get the air out of the system. You have lost significant amount of coolant, yet the coolant res is full. So, there must be air in the system. This could be a thermostat if you are very lucky. It could be a dead engine if things are not going your way.

Good Luck!
 




rustbucketMI

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If you do get lucky and it is a bad thermostat I would do a whole coolant flush when you're done.
 




FIND

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Test for a blown head gasket by removing spark plugs one at a time and blowing pressurized air into the combustion chamber. You may have to turn the engine over slightly or rotate the crank to close the valves. Have a look at your plugs too while you have them out.

The coolant that was spraying out, how hot was it? If you do not have a blown head gasket, then you are likely just going to have to replace the thermostat. After that, you just have to diagnose your no-start.

When cranking your vehicle over, does it sound different from usual? When you turn your key to the on position can you hear the fuel pump prime? Do you have a buddy who can watch your coil pack for spark if you pull off plug wires? Did your plugs look good when you were checking for a blown head gasket?
 




hillkitler

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Good news is that it starts NORMALLY now, after sitting overnight. I didn't notice any strange noises or anything when I was cranking it; it pretty much started without a hitch. The coolant level in the radiator was VERY low, so I put some water in and let it idle with the radiator cap off for awhile to see if I could get any air out. I made a couple of laps around the block. My temp gauge showed a pretty steady increase in temperature while I was driving around. I definitely noticed a lot of gurgling, especially in the upper hose, after I parked it.

@FIND - The coolant that sprayed out was not terribly hot; it got all over my hands without burning me. :banghead:

Now I'm trying to figure out where I should go from here. I'll try blowing air into the combustion chamber, but I'm not really sure what kind of result I'm looking for.

Thanks everyone!
 




FIND

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If air bubbles out the radiator, you have a bad head gasket. It is possible that if your coolant that was spraying out was cool, that you just have a thermostat that is stuck closed. If your engine was running without coolant circulating, then it is very likely your engine shut down due to overheating, and that is why it did not start enough till the next day when it cooled down.

The gurgling you noticed is probably air working out of the system. Your thermostat may be functioning again (assuming that was your original problem), but should probably be replaced even if your head gasket is good.
 




hillkitler

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I bought a new thermostat and removed the old one. I tested them both and sure enough, the old one didn't open. Hopefully this is my only culprit.

@ FIND - It didn't look like there was any air bubbling out and the top radiator hose was flattened, so I don't think there was much, if any, air in the system. I don't know if I would call the coolant that was spraying out 'cool', but it was most definitely not scalding hot.

I'm going to do a complete flush of everything, as the coolant I drained was very, very brown and rusty looking. No rainbow-y, oily appearance though.

Thanks again, everyone. I'll keep you updated.
 




FIND

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Warm coolant is one thing, that is what I would call cool, since normally your coolant should be ~190 when running, which would leave burns. Flattened radiator hose is a pretty good sign that your thermostat was in fact stuck closed. I'd be inclined to say that that was most likely your problem. Good luck with the coolant flush!
 




hillkitler

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Finished 1st flush. I'm going to drive around with the Super Flush in the system for awhile, then drain it and flush it again. Everything seems to be working normally, but only time will tell.

On an unrelated note, it seems that the rheostat for my airflow (the airflow selection knob thingy) is no longer functioning; it just spins freely. The knob isn't physically damaged in any way. Thusly, I can't get the A/C or heat to turn on. I mean, I can turn them ON, but I can't get any airflow into the car. I'm almost 100% sure that it's not the blower or resistor, as I've recently replaced them. Does anyone have any experience with removing the dash/replacing the climate control panel?

BTW, thanks to everyone for the help and support.
 




FIND

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All you have to do is pull off the panel that goes in front of the radio, instrument cluster and hvac controls. The HVAC controls are held in by a couple screws.
 








yavapaires

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A good check for a blown head gasket is after you have the system filled and all the air is purged, start the truck, remove the radiator cap and watch for air bubbles. You may rev the engine to about 2000 or so if no bubbles present at idle. If there are no bubbles, you should be good to go. Just be sure to keep the reservoir at a sufficient level.
 




BIGTREAD

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I experienced almost identical symptoms last year. Cracked head or most likely head gasket. Cylindar pressure gets pushed into block and behind coolant. Funky thing to watch as it spews out of the radiator. I ended up using BAR LEAK and got another 6 mos out of the truck before final failure. Symptoms were often intermitent. Cold days, hot days, blah, blah, blah. After enough coolant was ejected it would run good, then later, hot. The bar leak plugged the gasket and fixed everything, until it failed. Not saying I know what's wrong with your truck, just sounds identical.

I opted for an eng swap instead of gasket replacement. Now a whole load of oher problems. If you do end up going for a swap use only the same eng, same year, same vehicle. Too many incompatibles othewise. After a swap no one can figure out what's what and ordinary repairs become huge mysteries, codes are misleading, etc.
 




Currency

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I agree with you Bigtread, I've swapped several motors in my day.

@HillKitler, Can I call you killhitler? Your username looks like that to me anyways. My ancestors were Jewish.

As for compression tests, you can buy or rent gauges to test this. Pull one plug, screw in the fitting and crank the engine. You could pull the plugs off or unhook the coil pack if you fear the engine will start and run on five cylinders.

http://www.autozone.com/autozone/ac...d-Equipment/Compression-Tester-Gauge/_/N-263y

That's the gauges. I've used a similar set that my father owns, just never used them on my explorer. the back passenger side plug may become a pain to get too. I'd recommend doing it first. Their only $40.
 




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