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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited by Moderator)
Hi Folks

Please tell me this is NOT a clear indication one or both of my head gaskets have blown? (see attachment) This is the view I have when looking into my radiator when the engine is running (cold start).

Haven't driven it for a couple of weeks.. But I start it up weekly. I always check the water and oil before and during warm-up. Didn't notice this last week and as I said I haven't driven it.

There doesn't appear to be any water on the oil dipstick. Once hot, the coolant in the radiator turns from this brown colour to a white colour. There is antifreeze in the system. Upon inspection, I cant smell oil in the water (not sure if I could anyway) nor does it have an oily texture, It feels coarse (texture) like antifreeze.

Any thoughts..

Thanks in advance.
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When was the last time the cooling system was flushed?

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited by Moderator)
Hi Action

The cooling system was flushed a few months ago, and it was a thorough flush. Since then, the motor has done maybe a few hundred miles.

About 20 minutes after the engine was switched off, a look inside the radiator showed clean clear coolant (see attachment). In the photo, it looks rusty, but it's red antifreeze and very clean.

Since water is heavier than oil (I think) would there not be evidence of oil on the surface of the coolant (when not running)? I remember many years ago, when I was a young mechanic, depending on where the head gasket had blown, you could get oil into the water, rather than water into the oil if that makes sense which usually resulted in a thick creamy coffee-like build-up which would coat the radiator cap, hoses, etc. Well, we are nowhere near that stage.

I just don't have experience with this particular engine, to know whether this is common or not in some cases. The next step I suppose is a compression test?

Also, keep in mind, I do have a leaking water pump, and currently, no thermostat, which is why I'm not driving it, Until my parts arrive from RA.

Thanks in advance.
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Year and engine size would be helpful.
However based on the avatar I am guessing mid-1990s F-series. If pre-1998 and a V-8 the engine will be either a Windsor block or a 460. Both would be well advanced in design and nearly bullet proof as far as engine sealing.

If there is coolant into oil or oil into coolant, the typical reason is due to over heating.

The cooling system pressure max will be under 20psi
The oil will be between 10 and 50 psi at max based on engine RPM.

IF the head gasket is not sealing it is possible either could leak into the other depending on engine temp and engine RPM. IF there is engine oil flowing through the gasket. However it is more likely that oil is in the cooling system for a head gasket issue. The passageways in the gasket area are rather small or do not exist depending on engine. I think the upper engine oiling may be through the push rods and not through the head. I need to check. If that is the case the only other possibility is the timing cover on the 460. But that puts coolant into the crankcase NOT the other way around.

I think what you are looking at is left overs from the flushing. The good thing is you are taking the cooling system down again. My suggestion when doing the future repairs-

Drain all of the coolant. Save if you want to reuse
Make your repairs
Refill with water
Run for several trips or so. 150kms should do it
Drain and flush for a longer time
Refill with water and run for 5 minutes. Does the coolant look clear or ????
If clear then drain and refill with coolant

How long had this vehicle been sitting before you got it?


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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi, sorry didn't mention the year and engine size. It's a 1996 E350 Econoline XLT Clubwagon. 460 (7.5L). Not sure how long the vehicle had been sitting before I got it, but I can tell you that it had been garaged for 13 years throughout its life. It's done 75,000 miles (verified).

I think you might be right about the possibility of what I'm seeing is residue from prior, as it hasn't been for a good run, or any run at all during the last month. And today when I started it, there was no sign of that brown colouration in the coolant, like I saw yesterday.

However, when it's time to do the repairs, I will follow your instructions.

Thank you.
 

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By model year 1996, the 460 engine was 28 years in service. All of the bugs had been worked out.

A couple of flushes with water may serve to clean out any foreign stuff. Coolant doesn't necessarily degrade from use. (Miles or KMs) it degrades from age with some use. Being in a garage isn't much of a help for coolant. Once the coolant has been placed in service and used, the clock is ticking. It is the chemicals that will degrade or lose their effectiveness over time. By the time 3 to 4 years rolls around the effectiveness has ended for standard coolant of the era. Newer coolant lasts longer. BTW what was supplied back then was green colored coolant. If any of the green was left, it may have a reaction to the red colored coolant. Some different coolants do not play well with each other. So complete flushing including the heater core is necessary if changing the coolant type.

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Hi Folks

Please tell me this is NOT a clear indication one or both of my head gaskets have blown? (see attachment) This is the view I have when looking into my radiator when the engine is running (cold start).

Haven't driven it for a couple of weeks.. But I start it up weekly. I always check the water and oil before and during warm-up. Didn't notice this last week and as I said I haven't driven it.

There doesn't appear to be any water on the oil dipstick. Once hot, the coolant in the radiator turns from this brown colour to a white colour. There is antifreeze in the system. Upon inspection, I cant smell oil in the water (not sure if I could anyway) nor does it have an oily texture, It feels coarse (texture) like antifreeze.

Any thoughts..

Thanks in advance. View attachment 49712
If you can find someone with emissions testing equipment, start the motor and hold the tailpipe probe at the opening in the radiator. If it shows exhaust emissions, head gasket is blown.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If you can find someone with emissions testing equipment, start the motor and hold the tailpipe probe at the opening in the radiator. If it shows exhaust emissions, head gasket is blown.
Wow, you learn something every day. Sounds like a simple but effective way to diagnose blown head gaskets. I'll give it a try.

Thank you.
 
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