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Old 06-14-2014, 12:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Army wife with Samurai overheating issues, PLEASE help!

Hey ya all! I know this is VERY long, but I wanted to make sure I gave as much detailed info as possible!! Thank you so much for reading, I hope someone can help!

I have purchased a 1986 Suzuki samurai that was in poor condition about 4 months ago. It hadn't been ran for several months, no battery, flat tires, dirty oil, low tranny oil, dirty coolant fluid, etc. I am a stubborn Army wife and like to try to do all my own repairs on anything. Since buying my Sammy, I have it running nicely, new plugs and wires, oil changes, new battery, drained old radiator fluid, filled with new, and some other basic things to get her going. Well since purchasing her, she would overheat periodically. Really only at higher speeds of over 45 or 50 maybe for longer periods. I changed the thermostat and that seemed to take care of it, even though the old one opened up in a pan of hot water (so assuming wasn't really bad). After several months I noticed some very periodic overheating issues again mainly while driving high speeds again with the radio up or lights going, but would go down if I pulled over and turned the radio own, so I figures since I added 2 small amps and subwoofer that the extra amps being pulled from the alternator was just spiking the gauge. So planned on getting the upgraded alternator kit later. So recently I had a few seeping hoses so I replaced them. While replacing I flushed the cooling system with garden hose with the heater valve open to get the heater core in both directions and then the heater by itself, then radiator by itself. The hoses were lined with crud that looked almost like flaky rust, so I tried to get as much removed. After all of that all seemed fine other than a few short spikes when I would crank the radio, so I turned the amps down. Then yesterday I took a ride to go pick up a rear seat which was all interstate 90 miles away. At first all was perfect and then all of a sudden it started rising to the high side of the normal range almost hitting the hot line. So I immediately pulled over, checked under the hood and nothing seemed bad. It did not feel hot, hiss, and still had fluid, so I just topped off the overfill tank a little, let it cool some and got back on the road. Was good for about 10-15 miles and it did it again. So I repeated all of the above and jumped back on the road. At this point it started to rain pretty hard so I had to slow way down. It was running fine. After the rain I sped up and she was running GREAT! Perfect temp, rpms, and cruising nicely at 60-65 for 20-25 miles and then she started overheating again. I pulled over and seen some fluid dripping down. One of the small 5/16" hoses was leaking. So I replaced it and topped off the fluids and took off only to over heat pretty much immediately driving in town. So stopped an it felt a little warmer maybe, but no leaks. The heater running made no difference and almost made it go up, which I assumed maybe was from the fan pulling more amps. No white smoke, oil was clear, coolant wasn't dark or oily, so figured it was the water pump. I did watch it with the cap off, and it was moving but very slow, which I did not realize it was slow until I put a new water pump in and seen it going MUCH faster, but I also had the thermostat out at that point to see if it had gone bad again. After being stuck at autozone 2 hours from home, by myself, downtown changing the pump I started the truck and watched the fluid move swiftly and idled it for several minutes and the temp was fine. I pressed the gas a few times to get any air out, topped it off and replaced the cap and immediately started getting hot. So at this point I assumed my gauge was bad since it never really felt as hot as the gauge indicated and took off for home. I cruised down the interstate with the gauge at the top of the normal riding almost to the first "hot" mark. I had the heater on the floor going and periodically turned it off to see if I felt heat through the firewall, and seemed cool as could be. Nothing smelled, ran fine, so I kept cruising for about 5-10 miles and then all of a sudden the heater air got cold and I smelled antifreeze. I pulled over immediately, and it was steaming out the hood. I was in a very dark off ramp, by myself, pitch black, 3 in the morning so I was too afraid to get out and check under the hood other than stepping out my door and looking under the truck to see fluid pouring out from the overflow area. Called insurance for tow truck and cop came to sit with me and at that point he was curious so popped the hood and it had a little fluid left in the reserve tank, couldn't seen any in the radiator, but squished the hoses and heard fluid movement, but pretty flat. I started it to see if it leaked anywhere instantly and it idled fine, so the cop told me to give it a little gas and when I did, a little puff of white smoke came out of the exhaust twice and then it stopped. So I turned it off, got towed to a hotel, slept a few hours, talked to my brother, dad, and two other mechanically inclined people to see if I needed towed home, or what to do. They all recommended to put fluid in it, run it to check hoses again since I hadn't filled it with fluid that night. Oh and put the thermostat back in, which I had left out. After all that, I found a leak in the top radiator hose. replaced that, filled with fluid, ran it with cap off, heater on, and idled for 15 plus minutes, giving it gas at times, then placed the cap on and continued running it and the temp was perfect. So I packed up, and headed down the road and bam, gauge starts rising. Pulled over and was told to let it cool completely, refill, and leave cap half on and try that. This helped some, and I made it much further with it running right at half and then very slowly climbing, so I pulled over again. I did forget one thing at the hotel before I left: the oil was low and there was a drip out of the manual oil pressure gauge I had installed. The clear line had pulled a little so was loose, had some air in the line so I filled with oil, bled out the air, tightened and was good to go. However I realized that the oil I had put in prior to the overheating early that week was 5w20! Not sure how I grabbed that. Anyways, now that I am racking my brain, I wondered if the thin oil was creating too much friction? The manual said that oil viscosity could cause overheating, so I drained the old (which was filthy and not due for change yet) and put in 80% with 15w 40 and 20% Lucas. refilled coolant and back on the road. Oil pressure went up a little which it had been running a little low, and the temp seemed to hold out longer this time, but still ended up overheating after 10 miles. Again, fluid was coming out of the overfill tank, so I let it cool completely, refilled and left the cap half on and it ran cool at least twice as long. I continued this process until I got home, never letting it get all the way to the hot mark, except briefly once because of location. It still run and sound fine, no white smoke, and seems fine until it over heats. The only other thing I can think of is that shortly before the overheating started the week prior, I had replaced the valve cover with a metro one and the distributor o rings, both of them. I was pretty sure I kept the timing, but it has always idled a little high after warming up at 1300 rpms, but will take my foot and pull back the gas pedal and it lowers it to 950-1000. So timing may have been off prior and/or I messed it up a little. I have disconnected my amps. My high beam indicator light was also flickering at one point. OK, I think that is it! PLease let me know if I should just check the head gasket or if it could be something more simple. I love my Suzuki!
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Old 06-14-2014, 05:54 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Welcome!

Overheating at SPEED is indicative of insufficient heat transfer across the radiator. More times than not, it is due to radiator internal scale / debris build up, excessive use of "Stop Leak" type additives, or debris packed (outer inlet side) radiator fins. In worse case scenarios, this same internal debris build-up can also take place in the engine's coolant passages proper, again hampering heat transfer.

Along those lines and FWIW, acid compound "flushing" is a mixed blessing, being not always successful and occasionally doing more harm than good. Save that thought as a last ditch effort.

Based on your reported issues, I'D replace the radiator and cap.

1986 SUZUKI SAMURAI Radiator

A good cheap starting point, the apparent problem and a top overheating cause (aside from blatant coolant loss / leaks), IMO.

The occasional white smoke has me concerned, but first things first. Additional troubleshooting (if needed) should consist of IR Temp Gun recordings at key coolant system points to best evaluate system operation.

Also, I don't think that the overheating reasoning is attributed to voltage, oil viscosity or coolant leaks (that you seem to have already corrected) in this overall scenario.
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Old 06-14-2014, 02:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Radiator replace question and other??

Thank you so much!!! I will say the radiator looks pretty pitiful! Someone even said that it would be the next part to replace because of the condition. Embarrassingly, I do not know what "fins" are so I will look that up. I guess I could do the temp testing or just go ahead and replace the radiator, because it needs one anyways by the look, or will soon. Is there an upgrade one that you would recommend that is not too expensive? I don't know what I would do without this site!! You all have been such a blessing!!

One more question. When I did the metro valve cover upgrade, from what I had read, I had the right one. It fits perfectly as far as the shape onto the cylinder head (is that what that is called?), but it was a little taller and had two vent holes instead of the one. On my old one the guy I bought it from had the PCV valve unhooked and the hose clamped off and had put a breather filter. So for the new cover I hooked the PCV valve back up after cleaning it and put a breather valve on the other one.

First: Is it right that the new cover is a little taller? Second: did I do the vent holes right?

Thanks again!!! If you all could use any pictures of the engine or parts just to see what its like let me know. The guy had also put an after market cone air intake filter set up.

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Old 06-14-2014, 03:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The valve cover plumbing and height sound proper. The engine requires only one port from which the PCV draws air, and another for replenishment air (the breather).

Of the radiators that I linked earlier, the AC Delco is appealing in name brand and price, at only $57 bucks plus shipping. Not for four wheel drive vehicle applications though, if YOU are. You can Google up a 5% off discount code as well. Any of those listed are satisfactory replacements.

I'm only suggesting RockAuto for pricing ideas (but they ARE an outstanding mail order firm) as you can source radiators locally, I'm sure.

By radiator "fins" I am referring to the thin metal (almost foil like) interwoven portions of the radiator, that carry heat away from the tubes filled with coolant.

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Old 06-14-2014, 04:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Oh! And the aftermarket "cone" filter is more of a hindrance than anything, as you are now ingesting hot under-hood air, as opposed to a stock unit that is typically ducted to the cooler FRESH air stream. It's more cool looking than functional, and you get a throaty engine sound when accelerating when using one.

Cone filters do have the capability to move more air through them, but are only advantageous at levels FAR exceeding what your little engine can muster or use.

Additionally, cone filters hamper engine performance in extreme cold climates and if you were an avid off-roader, they offer a direct path for engine water intrusion, such as when stream fording / hitting large puddles. But people use them!
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Old 06-14-2014, 04:45 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Wow, you are so awesome!! My radiator has several dented in fins, all over! I checked Autozone, Advance, O'Rileys and Napa and have to have the radiator ordered, so I might as well get it from where you are recommending!

So, should I take the air intake back to stock? I have considered that before because the cone just hangs in the corner and I too wondered if it just didn't pull warmer engine air versus cooler air. Is this going to be an expensive and difficult task? I know I am always fussing about "price", but right now I am finishing my Masters and not working and my husband I Army (not the highest paying job). Not complaining for we are happy, love life, and happy to have a job......period, but it does limit how much I can do at once to my Sammy. Unfortunately my transmission went out on my Trailblazer which is my mommy mobile, so have to rely on my Sammy until we find a used tranny. Hence the reason I went on the trip to get the bench seat in the first place, so my boys could ride with me. So now I need to cheaply and quickly fix the Sammy I pray that the head gasket or block is not messed up. It only blew that white smoke out those two times right after it first blew most of the antifreeze from the over fill tank all over the engine. After the first two hits on he accelerator there was no more white smoke since then. I do not hear any knocking or pinging.

When I first got the Sammy the radiator fluid was rusty orange and the overfill tank had sludge in the bottom of it and just filthy, filthy, filthy. I had already driven it around some so I probably circulated that nasty stuff. When I drained the fluid the first time and I just opened the plug on the bottom of the radiator, but could not find the other plug in the block (I think that's where they said). When I flushed it recently I just used the water hose. I started by flushing the entire system by hooking the water hose to where the top hose went into the engine area and expelled it from the top radiator where I disconnected it. Then I reversed it. I had the heater open. Then I flushed the heater core both directions, then the radiator by itself both directions. My water does not have crazy pressure, but the water flushed was dirty at first and then clear when done. When I changed the hoses, there was still that build up of some kind of lining in the hose. They did not have an upper hose in stock, and its angles I could not use a straight hose without kinking it, so I tried to clean out the loose debri. So when I change the radiator I will get new hoses.

I cannot thank you enough for all your help!!!
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Old 06-14-2014, 04:50 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Question about ordering radiator

Not sure if all 86 Samurai's have 4 wheel drive, but mine does have that option, but I never use it and do not plan on 4 wheeling in it. I like just driving my Samurai as I am now getting over 26 mpg and started with 23.5, so am happy about that.

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Originally Posted by Max View Post
The valve cover plumbing and height sound proper. The engine requires only one port from which the PCV draws air, and another for replenishment air (the breather).

Of the radiators that I linked earlier, the AC Delco is appealing in name brand and price, at only $57 bucks plus shipping. Not for four wheel drive vehicle applications though, if YOU are. You can Google up a 5% off discount code as well. Any of those listed are satisfactory replacements.

I'm only suggesting RockAuto for pricing ideas (but they ARE an outstanding mail order firm) as you can source radiators locally, I'm sure.

By radiator "fins" I am referring to the thin metal (almost foil like) interwoven portions of the radiator, that carry heat away from the tubes filled with coolant.

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Old 06-14-2014, 06:02 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Your cone filter will serve you adequately. IF you had the old one or happen to find a used one for cheap, you could change back to stock. No biggie really, especially in Ga. and for mainly on-pavement transportation use.

Keep us posted on the overheating situation.

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Old 06-14-2014, 06:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Awesome thank you Mr. Max!! And thank you for your service as well! I love the support military families give each other no matter what the issue!! I will definitely keep you posted. I am getting ready to take the radiator out now and will be ordering the new one!!
Thanks again Max!!
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Old 06-15-2014, 10:40 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Samurai help in Savanah area

Hey everyone, I am stumped on an overheating issue on my Samurai. If there is anyone in the Savannah, Ga area that specializes in the Samurai please let me know. It is possible that it is in need of a new radiator which whether that is the problem or not, its still in rough shape, but I fear it is something more. Before I order a radiator or spend more $ on things I don't need I really need some insight. I can more details if interested for more specifics or I have posted a detailed synopsis in my previous post. Since that post I did find bare wire from alternator and found out the alternator was bad and replaced it, but still having some issues.
Thanks ya'all!
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