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Thread: Coolant Recovery & Make-up Tanks

  1. #1
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    I own an '84 Diesel Westy, 90km miles with 35km on a rebuilt. Just a few days ago, after 5min of driving through town, the temp gauge shot up all the way to the right and then in a matter of seconds, the recovery bottle exploded and that was the end of my trip. While the shop locates another bottle to replace (and check if I don't have a blown head gasket), I'd like to know what could have caused this problem. One thing I can share is that after having an oil change about 700 miles ago, my oil light has been coming on more frequently. My temp gauge sits at the 1/2 way point and after slowing down, goes to 3/4, then back to 1/2 after I hit 4th gear. It definitely has been running hotter (according to the gauge) then before my oil change. I also noticed that the coolant in the overflow bottle was bubbling. The mechanic suggested that too thin of oil might have been one cause. I believe 10/30 was put in, and they assured me it was for diesel (but I can't confirm). Too many things have been noticeably different after the last oil change and I'm curious if any of this could be related. Any suggestions? Thanks, Michael

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  3. #2
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    Oil has been covered in detail under engine and on the TIPS forum. Too thin will cause the oil pressure light to come on quicker and more often. Diesel vs. gas oil is a matter of additive specifications, not weight. Both are available in various viscosities and you should pick a diesel spec oil based on the viscosity for your climate. A 15W-40 will cover most applications and Shell's Rotella-T is pretty much the industry standard.

    The fact that your temperature rises in idle and traffic and then cools at speed indicates the auxiliary fan is not kicking in. Whether a defect, sensor or disconect will have to be checked out via the Bentley section 19.4.

    Coolant should never be "boiling" in the tank. Your symptom indicates excessive pressure is leaking into the coolant system and a blown head gasket could cause that.

  4. #3
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    winefood Junior Member posted June 10, 2002 08:47 PM

    In the past 8 months my '86 Westalia has gone through 4 expansion tanks. Three have split on the seam and one blew the top off. My mechanic has been blaming it on poor quality tanks. Now he is looking for the problem. Does anyone have any idea what it could be? The engine had a compleat rebuild about about 24,000 miles ago. According to the people I bought it from and the mechanic that I spoke with. The heads are not leaking and I have been attentive to maintenance and upkeep.

    Since buying the van 1 year ago, I have put less than 10,000 miles on it. Where shoul I start looking for the problem?

    Thanks for any help,

    Larry

    Capt. Mike

  5. #4
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    If you are buying legit Vanagon expansion tanks, then you have excessive pressure that is not releasing through the pressure relief cap -- see Bentley 19.13. The cap should release excess pressure and coolant to the refill tank at 13-17 psi. Test per Bentley 19.18.

    Capt. Mike

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    Transferred to consolidate same topic.

    Expansion tank overflow

    Phyllis Gordon Junior Member posted October 03, 2004 03:59 PM

    I think I could rent a storage unit just to hold all the records on the "repairs" done to the cooling system on my 91 Wesfalia camper, manual transmission. I am into about 40,000 miles on a rebuilt engine and think the original one died for lack of appropriate care by the numerous mechanics who have "worked" on it. I get conflicting opinions from these mechanics as to what "color" of coolant to use (green now) and no one has ever told me how much or if I should mix the coolant with water when I fill it myself so I have always poured straight coolant in. Even the manual is vague about that. The mechanics at the nearest dealer (in Tucson) did such a horrific job this summer that they actually broke a coolant pipe I had to pay for (heh, heh, it was going to break on your way home) and left several screws out when they unsucessfully worked on the a/c so can't depend on them for help. The latest "repair"shop that worked on the coolant leak put a new cap on the expansion cap three months ago. I am still losing coolant from the "fill" tank and yesterday, it all disappeared and puddles appeared under the vicinity of the expansion tank. The engine always smells hot to me after I drive it but another mechanic said, "Well, it should." The red light doesn't go on and the temperature needle moves up to the circle at max, but I can't figure out if that is the approriate place for the needle as again the manual is of little help. I live on a dirt road and drive up a steep hill to my house (about 1/10 mile); sometimes the fan kicks on when I get to the top; sometimes it doesn't.
    By the way, I am 71 years old, love my camper and want to keep it as my only vehicle but hate to keep having to make costly repairs that don't work. What next on the cooling system?
    Phyllis Gordon, Patagonia, Arizona

    icarus Super Member posted October 03, 2004 09:15 PM

    Phyllis,

    Sorry to hear about your seemingly ongoing and endless travail with your cooling system.

    I have a couple of suggestions, which I'm sure Capt. Mike will second. First, find a new and compentent mechanic. Look through the posting here reagrding the good and bad in your area. (You may have to travel a bit to find a truely good one) There are many good ones out there, but because of the age of our cars, and the speciality of them finding people who know them enough is getting harder. Most citys have someone who does nothing but vanagon. A V.W or euro car "clinic" may not have enough experiance, ditto with the dealer. The dealer works on so few of them now, it is rare to find a dealer "technician" that has ever worked on one.

    The other suggestion is to read all the post regarding cooling system/heat/coolant on this site. If nothing else it will give you an idea on how it works, and you will have a leg up on some incompetant "tech" who tells you "your left handed muffler bearing needs to be replaced"

    Unfortunatly, mechanics run the gambit from fantastic to unreliable to utterly dishonest. I don't let anyone work on my syncro who I don't have faith in. (My guys work on Benz'z Porsches as well as V.W, but they drive syncros!

    Good luck and don't hesitate to use this site for all it's worth. It has saved me tons of dollars over time.

    Icarus

  7. #6
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    The coolant system is pressurized. If someone replaced a coolant expansion tank cap with the incorrect cap, it will overflow, particularly soon after shutting off the engine.

    You have a litany of problems but they have all been addressed on this site. Please read the site Guidelines, especially #4. The site also has a search engine (Find). The "overheating -- water cooled . . ." topic discusses many of your symptoms. There is a very complete primer on coolants in the TIPS forum. Gauge functions are discussed in both this forum and in the electrical forum.

    I'm surprised at your condemnation of the dealer since the MECHANICS forum has a recommendation (with contact names) for one dealer in Tuscon. However, there are other AZ mechanics listed. Some members are finding taking their Westy to a distant dealer for good competent service is justified. I've had members from CO come to NC just for the service at a superb mechanic here. I'm not saying go that far, but look at the shops recommened in nearby states and maybe plan a dual-purpose trip.

  8. #7
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    Thank you for your comments on my post of cooling problems in my 90 Wesfalia. I am going to a new mechanic tomorrow, and, now thanks to all the information I have read and copied from your site, I will be better able to understand what might be done to address and correct the problem. I will also take a list of maintenance that I want done as past mechanics have sorely neglected them, not even mentioned they should be done. I hope this new mechanic will have a better record of fixing problems than the last three: the dealer: 0 out of 3 problems fixed for more than three months; the next mechanic: 1 out of 4 worked; the one before: 1 out of 3 worked. fillus

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    There are 'recommended' maintenance lists posted on the Tech Drawins link at the top of the index pages. These are compilations of VW recommendations and personal experiences. Some, like repacking CV joints, are geared towards HD and remote country use where absolute reliability is critical. They can be reduced in daily driver or local trips.

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    Transferred to consolidate same topic.

    Slowtrain Junior Member posted March 16, 2005 07:21 AM

    Hi all,

    84 Westfalia, 1.9l wasserboxer, 270 000Km
    Gasket kit replaced 5 years ago (previous owner).

    Minor coolant leak on both left and right waterjacket seals but ONLY if the van stays parked for long periods of time or if the weather gets really cold, no leak when running and no overheating. Tested cooling system last summer for combustion gasses and rad shop said results were negative but confirmed waterjacket seal had minor leak. They suggested rad replacement soon but no leaks yet. I have also gone through 2 aftermarket expansion tanks that keep leaking at the seam. Finally installed a new one made in Italy (seam appears to be better design than previous ones - new expansion cap installed also but I had done that on the last "cheap" tank).

    My question: While removing the last expansion tank (westy had been stored for winter) I noticed a fair amount of metal shaving deposit on the bottom of the tank! Does anyone know what type of problem this could indicate? I'm planning on re-doing all the head gaskets and changing the waterpump but could these "metal shavings" be an indicator of something major? Thanks!

  11. #10
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    I'd lean towards the water pump because 'shavings' require something from a moving part of the cooling system. The pump is about the only one that does -- it could be a bearing going or impellor rubbing. The rest of the cooling system is pretty passive and doesn't interact with the engine areas that could develop shavings. The only other cause is mechanic-introduced shavings, such as mounting the metal-to-metal pipes or engine work.

    Question: Why would they recommend radiator replacement? That's probably not the source of your shavings. It should be replaced if it is clogged but that can be determined by a heat scan. (See Tools forum, "Electronic diagnostic tools" topic.) If it just needs a cleaning, that's a reasonable procedure. A lot of the bargain discount aftermarket radiators don't mee the OEM standards.

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