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 ongoing radiator cap leak, ??? long read

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Name : G
Joined : 2010-07-14
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PostSubject: ongoing radiator cap leak, ??? long read   ongoing radiator cap leak, ??? long read EmptyMon Mar 13, 2017 10:11 pm

long thread im sure i could have made it a lot shorter but if youre willing to read:

first off not sure if i should have made this new thread or try to post in an old thread. also not sure if this is the right section. ive signed up here when i first bought my riv in 2010, and sporadically check this forum when i have problems, so to all the riv OG's and mods on here sorry that i contribute to the member count of those who just ask but dont contribute and just disappear, i am NOT mechanically inclined and do not work on my own riv, besides doing an oil change lol

[also i may have other questions not regarding the cooling system so idk if the mods will chop up my post or maybe answer direct or if anyone can PM me with help that would be appreciated, mods please dont scold me lol i understand i can search thru threads and try to get myself an answer, which i will continue to do, but right now ive gotten a chance to use someones laptop cause besides this my only browser is on my phone and i still use a blackberry lol which is hell trying to respond/search/browse thru threads]

so anyway, 1998 riv 120k miles, i originally had a coolant leak and it came from directly under the radiator cap. i was told by some friends to try a new cap, so i did (oem from dealer) did not work. so next step i had replaced the entire radiator (dont know brand was just was a replacement from o'reilly), everything was nice and dry for about one week then the coolant started to burst out again

saw my mechanic again and he concluded i had a blown head gasket. so with that being said, i ended up spending a decent amount of money

i paid for:
"new heads
new gaskets
reseal intake manifold
new hoses
new spark plugs
and fluids"

[he also changed out my sc coupler.
also had him replace my air suspension compressor which is a whole other topic- (i never even knew about the air compressor or what it was for, i used to always think it was the noise of the antenna trying to go up cause i disabled my radio and parts were missing so thats what i thought it was, until over time the compressor would run too much and asked mechanic what it was? he said it was the air suspension compressor so he went and bought a new one ($250) and simply plugged it in. that compressor would run for a full 5 minutes then time out everytime until it just started to act erratic and extremely loud, so i asked him whats up with that and he says well its junk so order another one on your own and i'll try to get you a refund (goodbye $250). so i order another one ($120) again he just plugs the new one in, and after a few days its acts erratic just as the old one, and i could literally hear air from behind both tires. i unplug it and i guess after "further examination" from the mechanic there is an air leak within the connectors or something which to me basically tells me these compressors just run themselves to death. pretty much wasted time and money dealing with this and the mechanic does not seem interested wit this task as it seems too tedious. and to this day its just unplugged)] for the cooling system job (+ coupler change and useless compressor change),
i paid $2400 (plus $120 for useless compressor)

at this time i always used my company car for commute, so i would BARELY drive my riv. 2-3 times at most per week within city limits. barely put any miles on it.

so 3 months after i get my car back, i notice im slowly but surely losing coolant, BUT no visible leaks, no puddles or anything. until it got worse and i was able to see where it was leaking from and it was from either the radiator hose or from the thermostat, i couldnt tell and so i decided myself to change the thermostat and gasket, i simply replaced it in and out but didnt do a full flush or anything, it still leaked after so i was confused.... finally the mechanic has free time and so i suppose what he did was a pressure test, and saw it was coming from the hose and the problem was just that the clamp was not screwed on tight enough! he explained that when hoses are new they shrink up so the clamp got loose thats why i would slowly leak coolant.

so i felt relieved because it was a simple fix that was overlooked, but then 3 days after he performed that test, the ORIGINAL LEAK came back!!! it would leak from right under the radiator cap and it would do that whenever it wanted, maybe every other drive i would see a small puddle. it simply flows/leaks from right under the cap, car does not overheat and stays in normal temp range. at this point the mechanic is stumped and does not know why the original problem is back, he performed tests right in front of me and he says everything is running fine but im still having this annoying leak and thats the reason i met this guy in the first place and now the only thing he is telling me is back to square one, buy another oem cap, and buy an OEM radiator. (i guess first radiator might not been oem). also he says NOT to refill any coolant, and just continue to let it leak. so at this point the reservoir is pretty much empty, and it does not leak as frequent. but still does

he says he will install the new oem radiator for free, but this has just been such a pain, i thought thats why i paid over 2000 dollars; to fix that cap leak. but right now present time and day: i still have that cap leak

is it something simple thats just being overlooked? do you think a new oem cap/radiator will be the final fix?
sidenote- way before i ever got any professional work done or replaced any radiator, i used to add sealant mix just as a quick fix until i could afford a real fix. dont know if that plays a part or is coming back to haunt me.

i dont know what to think? i dont want to continue spending money which i cant even afford.

any input or help is extremely appreciated. this has been so so stressful and im moving to florida in 3 weeks i hope to get this resolved by then

thank you to anyone who can help

[also he had replaced my pressure hose for power steering. i suffered from that shudder/vibration and saw the gm bulletin, once he replaced the hose the shudder went away for like 2 weeks but now its almost back, not as worse as it was tho. he first suggested the pump, but i said the hose, now im thinking i should try with the pump but he says my rack is leaking and i cannot afford that. any thoughts on this??]

[lol also again, im hearing this noise from my passenger side toward the front center, a black box makes sounds down there not sure what it is? sounds like a cd player trying to read a cd but cant, and just moves back and forth a few times?]
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Name :
Location : Finger Lakes of New York State
Joined : 2007-05-31
Post Count : 7514
Merit : 152

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PostSubject: Re: ongoing radiator cap leak, ??? long read   ongoing radiator cap leak, ??? long read EmptyTue Mar 14, 2017 9:31 am

I can just deal with one of these ata  time.

As for the air compressor, never replace those without first finding out where the system is leaking.  Most likely you have one or both shocks leaking, it's only a $75 or so problem, you need a pair of Monroe MA-822 or similar (see, I have KYBs on and I like them very much.   (see my Sig)  That said you can't go wrong with the Monroes.  

First just look at the shocks.  If the shocks are rusty you probably have found the problem; confirm it with a leak test (which you are going to do anyway). My guess is they are leaking, you say you hear air hissing behind the tires, well that's where the shocks are.

You do the leak test by getting an empty 32 oz spray bottle (like an empty Windex, or just go to the dollar store and buy a $1 window spray cleaner in a bottle).  Fill bottle about 2/3 to 3/4 full of plain tap water, then add about a teaspoon or so of liquid dish detergent.  Then you spray down the outside of both shocks until wet, then start the car in Park or just turn the ignition on if your battery's in top shape) and let the air compressor start.  The shocks have to be dripping wet with the bubble solution, you can keep spraying to keep them wet while you look.  When you are spraying the solution on the spray bottle may make bubbles form, that's not important because if one of the shocks is leaking you will see a stream of bubbles coming from the leak.  Once you have seen this once it will be obvious forever. You can also use this approach to spot the leak points in leaking residential natural gas lines - try not to make too big of a mess but any mess you make can be cleaned up versus an explosion; explosions are much more problematic.

As for changing the shocks - you will need new speednuts for the bottoms, they don't come with the shocks and they are often frozen in place. They are also cheap. hardware store or auto parts HELP rack items. Take a look at yours then buy 4 of them and bolts to fit.

If your dexterity is good you won't even have to jack the car up to change the shocks. You *should* jack it up, it's easier. Be sure to set the brake and chock the wheels. Then basically you unclip the air lines (when the car is parked they are vented to about ambient pressure by the computer so no drama like with a Lincoln), then unbolt the old ones and install the new ones. You *could* install new shock mounts but frankly the rears don't take that much of a beating so if the rubber (on the OE and better replacement mounts it's not really rubber, it's a specific elastomer and I forget the spec number) looks good you can get away with re-using them. As for me I just replace them but in 330,000 miles I've never seen/had them clapped out at replacement time. Anyway, first LOOSEN the mount bolts at top and bottom then remove the tops, remove the bottoms (might be easiest to just break the speednuts by tightening them to failure rather than trying to loosen them if they are rusted in place). Inspect the old mounts and replace if required - or if you bought new mounts just put them on the new shocks. You will be able to turn the shocks so the air nipple is pointed the right way while you are installing them. Installation is generally the reverse of removal. Test for leaks then take the car off the jacks. I have heard of but never myself seen leaking nylon air hoses or leaking air connectors on a Riv suspension, by the way.

I am going to re-read your post vis a vis the other problems, you piled them on pretty thick.
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Name :
Location : Finger Lakes of New York State
Joined : 2007-05-31
Post Count : 7514
Merit : 152

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PostSubject: Re: ongoing radiator cap leak, ??? long read   ongoing radiator cap leak, ??? long read EmptyTue Mar 14, 2017 11:29 am

As for the radiator leak. You probably don't have a leak in the coolant loop that goes to the heater in the passenger compartment but you might want to check. If you smell antifreeze while the heater is running, you probably need to replace the heater core. By the way, if it smells musty in teh car when the heater is running it might be a core leak or it might just be dirt - make about a gallon of disinfectant solution using Lysol liquid, odo-ban, Dettol or what have you and pour that evenly into the cowl vents (the vents just below the windshield wipers at the back of the hood)

Also, did the mechanic replace the hoses to the heater under the hood? They are a royal pain to replace but should also be at least checked. They are not likely to be leaking; if replaced they may be leaking at the clamps. I replaced mine at about 150-160K miles with Gates hoses, and don't think I'll need to do it again because of updates to the construction and composition of standard auto coolant hoses including these.

Next, those hose clamps. The original spring clamps are mad tight and generally don't have the problem you saw with leakage at the band clamps. The headache is that you should use a special too to get the spring clamps on and off. Some mechanics don't have that tool, it's about $40 and you don't use it much. The issue with the band clamps is not the clamps themselves, just that the some of the coolant hoses are hard to get to for cinching a band clamp. No surprise you had one loose, you probably should check them all yourself. You'll need a screwdriver or nut driver depending on the clamp. Just go look.

As for the radiator leak, instead of an OE cap you may want to get a 16-lb Stant from an autoparts store or even WalMart if they have them in stock. I went through 2 OE caps before switching to a Stant. I have an OE cap for parking the car with hood up on cruise nights...

Oh by the way, DON'T let the coolant run low especially on this supercharged engine. Keeping the coolant up is MUCH less expensive than repairing this engine after it is allowed to overheat.

As for radiators, the aftermarket Spectra Premium has a bigger oil cooler (6 plates) which should help your transmission in the long run. I replaced mine with a Valeo (at ~150K) and it's still running happily. I bought the Valeo because it had extra rows. I do not know where to get a Valeo now, though.

You should top off the coolant - if you are still running Dexcool (it's orange or maybe pink), get some Dexcool (again, walmart) and refill the cooling system. (if not dexcool, then the 100,000 mile green "mix with any" stuff) Before you refill, open the radiator cap and dump in some dye (get the dye at a car parts store like autozone or advance). Finish filling at the radiator. Don't bother putting dye in the overflow bottle, just put in the antifreeze/water mix, you want to be able to confirm that the coolant expands into the overflow when the car warms up and goes back into radiator when it cools and anyways leaks there are easy to see. What you have to do is top off both the radiator and the overflow bottle. The service manual has specific instructions for this, hopefully someone will post them (don't have mine ATM). By the way, you may want to use distilled or de-ionized water to mix your antifreeze if you're not buying pre-mix. I use condensate from a dehumidifier.

After running the car for a day or 3 with the dye in, use an ultraviolet light to find evidence of the leak. In a dark area, or at night, open the hood and shine the black light on the engine compartment. You should see residue glowing in the vicinity of the leaking. NOTE: This may not work. On my Riv I had a hairline crack in a radiator tank that sprayed coolant perfectly onto the ground. There was no evidence of dye on anything in the engine; I found out almost by accident while looking under the hood with the engine warm and running. The mechanic at the dealer had put dye in the system - twice - over the course of a couple months while we were trying to find this stupid leak. I actually forget why I was looking under the hood with engine running -- I was troubleshooting something else -- and I noticed the coolant wizzing in a threadlike stream from the driver's side radiator tank onto the pavement. You could not see the leak with engine off and there was no residue anywhere. I am not sure what's going on in your case -- is it a problem in the overflow recovery system, maybe a different clamp missing or loose, or cracked overflow bottle or some silly thing; or the radiator was damaged on install maybe (rarely if ever happens) or come to think of it there is one more thing.

When you work on a Riv cooling system, or any other GM 3800 engine from the late '90s (and the Northstars too), you most likely need to put stop-leak tablets in the coolant. If you don't the engine will usually seep coolant due to myriad issues. The tabs are available from autoparts stores, many truck stops, walmart and many GM car dealers have them in their parts departments. GM call them 'cooling system sealant tabs.' They are sold elsewhere as 'Bars Leaks radiator stop leak tablets.' I think they are made from ground up ginger and nut shells or some darn thing.. but they work perfect for this application. My experience -- follow the label directions. IF you have to top off again and there's no apparent leaks consider adding one more (that's why there's 6 in the blister pack when they say you need 2-3, duh) but DON'T put in too many or you'll clog the heater core. On my car, after a coolant change (I've done 3) I need to add an extra tab the first time I top off after the coolant change. You really should read the GM explainer on this; you can see it on the Cadillac forum at this LINK. GM quit using the tabs routinely after making some manufacturing changes, BUT still uses them from time to time. People were complaining about the visible residue in the coolant overflow from the tabs.

You have a Riv with a bunch of miles on it -- you might/should get a copy of the factory service manual set, they come up on eBay from time to time.
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