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Thread: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

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    Question 1986 Van Overheating Issue [seeking advice]

    If I am driving around the city or long distance in cold weather, I have absolutely no issues. If I'm making serious climbs or driving on the freeway in hot weather, about an hour of driving will cause overheating. The reason I'm overheating is because the radiator has an excess of steam built up which then pushes it into my overflow reservoir and from there it spits out until my radiator no longer has enough coolant in it and I have to pull over, let it cool, give her a refill and then its good to go for another hour or so (in a strenuous environment). But then the next day, cold and rain? Well, for example, I drove it from Santa Cruz to Seattle in the rain without any issues.

    I have been driving this thing regularly for 2 years with this problem. Including driving from NW Washington to Southern California and back TWICE. Probably not good for the engine, I know... The last time I drove home from San Diego I took Highway 1 the whole way, which at that speed and coastal temperature I had minimal issues. I-5 through California in the heat? Forget it. I'll be out of water every 45 minutes.

    What I have done:
    In this time I have changed a couple hoses, replaced the thermostat (with an OEM), swapped the radiator cap, and had a local radiator guy who owns the same van diagnose my radiator and do a full flush with some stop-leak. He doesn't think my radiator has any cold/hot spots and thought it was fine.

    I have not changed:
    The fan clutch, most of the hoses nor have I personally tried doing a full system bleed/re-fill. I'm unsure if the radiator guy bled the system or not, but he was passionate about helping me.


    I watched that video about testing the fan clutch to see if it engages or not and I honestly cannot tell if mine does. I watched the video 10 times and tried it myself (right after it overheats, I popped the seat and gave it some gas while the needle was nearly at the H and I feel like I don't notice as severe of a "whine" sound as the one I could hear in Tim's video) But the fan speed does seem to increase with the throttle. I couldn't hear a clear activation though. It seems to have the loud noise when starting it up cold like mentioned in the video.

    When I do overheat and I pop the radiator cap off, steam rushes out (and also my overflow) for a good minute or so. Then while I add more water too it, it gurgles as if there are tons of bubbles in there. I'll top it off, squeeze a couple hoses and then all of a sudden I can add another quarter gallon of water.

    I also have no other head gasket symptoms such as coolant coming out the tailpipe, loss of power, milky oil, and the coolant doesn't seem to have oil in it either.

    Other than this, the van is in fantastic health.

    ------ BACKSTORY ------

    I bought the van from the original owners. They had recently got a compression test which came back flawless. Right when I went to meet them the first time they called and said something went wrong. A week later they called me and said the water pump went out while they came to meet me and they had to get a new one installed. Is it possible the new water pump has been giving me this issue? Or, was there nothing wrong with the water pump in the first place and it was a failed diagnosis?
    Last edited by Remington; 07-07-2017 at 08:58 PM.

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Less likely that a new water pump would be the issue.

    Maybe the radiator is clogged

    Make sure the fan clutch is working

    Pressure test your cooling system.

    Two possible other things come to mind that is overlooked on these vans

    The radiator cap is worn and or the water outlet where the radiator cap is installed is corroded and thus not allowing the radiator cap to properly seal and pressurize the system

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    How do you suggest testing the fan clutch? Should I take a video of it? I have tried comparing mine to the video that Tim posted and I really can't tell if it is engaging at high temps or not. Thanks for your input, I'll inspect where the radiator cap seals, that makes sense. I'm relieved you didn't say headgasket but I won't count my blessings too quick...

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Quote Originally Posted by Remington View Post
    How do you suggest testing the fan clutch? Should I take a video of it? I have tried comparing mine to the video that Tim posted and I really can't tell if it is engaging at high temps or not. Thanks for your input, I'll inspect where the radiator cap seals, that makes sense. I'm relieved you didn't say headgasket but I won't count my blessings too quick...
    Kinda sounds like a bad head gasket to me. It's possible the previous owner didn't get it shut down in time when the water pump went out. I've had a bad head gasket with similar symptoms, after replacing the radiator cap and thermostat when buying the van... no overt evidence, like oil in coolant or coolant/white smoke in exhaust, no loss of power and it seemed to run smooth, but the pressure from the leak did push coolant out of the system to the point of overheating if driven long enough. Since putting a new engine in it, I keep a close eye on the temp gauge. Even in really hot weather or under a load, the needle never gets close to the H (1/3 of the way is the highest it goes). I assume if it went that high the damage would already be done. I have an extra temp gauge that bolts to the coolant inlet, and it runs 75-85 Celsius while driving. Reaches around 100 C at rest, when shutdown after running long enough to be warmed up all the way. For the stock temp gauge to reach H, your engine would be extremely hot. And water dumped into the system at that point is going to bubble and boil on contact, just from the engine's high temp. Probably best to have a leak down and coolant pressure test, checking the head gasket, before replacing too many parts. You can also start the engine cold with the coolant system topped off, and the radiator cap removed. I was able to see exhaust bubbles rise from my leak, which increased as I increased the throttle.

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger View Post
    Kinda sounds like a bad head gasket to me. .
    This is what I was afraid to hear :( Would your engine handle long distances in cooler weather though? That's what baffles me.. 1 hour of driving in the sun on the highway compared to 8 hours driving in the rain doesn't seem to me like it's just the exhaust gasses that is causing me to lose coolant but I could definitely be wrong.

    I'm young and pretty inexperienced with mechanical work still.. Where did you find a replacement engine? How long did you drive the old one in that condition? What did you do with the old one? How was your experience replacing the engine? I love this van and it's become sentimental to me. Being the second owner has become a novelty as well. I'd love to keep this van around as long as life will allow me. It's a fantastic daily driver if you don't plan on going more than 40 miles on the freeway.

    Pic added for more connection to my sob story ;) ALBUM http://imgur.com/a/AAJEu
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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Quote Originally Posted by Remington View Post
    1 hour of driving in the sun on the highway compared to 8 hours driving in the rain doesn't seem to me like it's just the exhaust gasses that is causing me to lose coolant but I could definitely be wrong.
    I could be wrong, too, but eight hours of continuous driving in cooler weather should still cause overheating if it were the headgasket. Then again, every situation has differences, so it might be the HG in the end (or it might be the HG now even if it didn't start out that way).

    My suggestion:

    (1) If the fan clutch is original, just replace the silly thing. It's easy enough to do, and you'll need to do it anyway.

    (2) Clean up any spilled coolant residue (which includes oily and other gunky looking stuff coolant attracts gunk) on the block and undercarriage. Be sure to go all the way back to the tranny when you clean.

    (3) DO NOT open the radiator cap when your van gets hot. Let it cool down FIRST. Yes, it feels like doing nothing and it's very boring. Do it anyway. Then you'll know how much coolant is actually lost from the system (instead of vaporizing as steam) ... and you will also have a better chance of finding a leak (if there is one).

    Gwen
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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    I'll admit that driving 8 hours in the rain no prob is odd, and counter to what you'd expect from a bad head gasket. How fast mine overheated depended on the weather how hot or cold and the type of driving I was doing. Sometimes I could just periodically add more water/coolant to the system and get around without it actually overheating. I drove it back from Colorado where I bought it, and I'm pretty sure it had a bad head gasket from the previous owner, and I got quite a ways down the highway before it got hot. Problem is, you do that a few times and if you didn't have a blown head gasket to start with you probably will, and I assume you run the risk of warping things and making matters worse when it comes to repair.

    Since I put the new motor in it, I've also had a fan clutch go bad. Oil from that flying all over the place. Even though it was obviously shot, it didn't make my van overheat. I just noticed it running a little warmer and had a hell of a mess, and then fixed it promptly. That wasn't in summer weather though, so maybe a bad fan clutch could make your van overheat to the max and blow all its coolant out. And I assume it has a fan shroud, right? Not broken or missing? Because that would definitely cause problems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Remington View Post
    Where did you find a replacement engine? How long did you drive the old one in that condition? What did you do with the old one? How was your experience replacing the engine?
    After a mechanic I know tested the motor, he found the head gasket leak and also determined that it had weak compression in the other cylinders, and was probably going to need a bunch of work to be worth a crap. If we got far enough into it to do the head, we may as well rebuild it was the thinking. That's when I quit driving the van, and I'd had it maybe 6-9 months at that point. It wasn't a daily driver. It sat most of the time.

    Just for the hell of it, I visited some local salvage yards to see if there were any used motors to be had. None of them had seen these vans in years, but one had a 4y motor in a crate, deep in their storage where we had to dig it out from behind a bunch of stuff. It had been there for 10 years according to their records. I took a chance on it, not knowing where the reman was done or how good a job it would have been. I guess I lucked out, because it runs great and hasn't given me any trouble years after the fact. I kept the old motor just in case, to have for a rebuild if the reman was junk. Replacing the engine was on my mechanic, since I was too busy to mess with it. I don't think he enjoyed doing it. And I regret not replacing as many parts with new as possible... because I've been replacing things myself ever since, one at a time. At this point, just about everything is rebuilt or replaced though. My friends all think I'm crazy, all the money and time I've put into it. I probably agree with them at this point.

    If you're dead set on keeping the van, replace the fan clutch. Like the previous comment said, it probably needs it anyways. If that doesn't help then you can get it tested.

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    My recent happenings with my van may or may not benefit you, but the story does sound pretty similar to mine. My van was a daily driver for a good amount of time. Just last August, I went on vacation for 2 weeks, and my van sat. When I got back, it started and drove fine at first, but on the way to work (which is up and down several hills) the temp needle started to creep up to 1/2 and even a little over. I thought it was odd, but nothing too serious. After a couple weeks, It was full-on overheating. It would run great until I took it up the final large hill before my work, then I would have to pull over. I brought it to my mechanic and we were trying to discuss what to do with it. He thought the problem was my radiator (which I believe him to be right as I am writing this). So we decided to go to the cheap way and try a radiator flush. My mechanic sent the radiator for a flush, got it back, and took the van out for a good drive. He also let it sit while it was running for a bit. I think altogether, it must've ran at least an hour, and no overheating problems!

    Great, I was back in business. Drove my van to work (which is only 12 miles from my house and takes about 17 minutes to reach) and on that final hill, it started to get well above 1/2 on the temp needle again. I made it to work, noticed there was lots of fluid dripping out of the coolant reservoir overflow tube. Before leaving work, I topped off the coolant filler cap with water and drove home. The ride home is at night, when it is significantly cooler. My van seems to make it back without overheating. This pattern continued on for a few days. Slowly, but surely though, the problem got worse. Everytime I was on my way to work, the van would seem to overheat a little more. My mechanic was starting to scratch his head and thought there was not a good seal on the filler and radiator cap, so he replaced the filler housing and new radiator cap as well. He repeated his standard procedure of driving around the neighborhood for 20 minutes, letting it sit for a while, and sure enough no overheating.

    I come back to get the van, and drive it to my work, which is very close to where my mechanic is. No overheating and looked good. Drove it home that night. Worked fine. Drove it to work the next day, and it overheated pretty severely - like almost maxed out the gauge. I got off the highway and pulled it over before I was even at work and I could hear boiling under the seat, which when I inspected was actually steam and vapor coming out of the inlet tube into the coolant reservoir and bubbling through the coolant in the reservoir.

    At this point my mechanic is thinking the radiator is still clogged up, so he asked me to start the van in my driveway and let it run for about 20 minutes (which should get the entire coolant system up to a consistent heat) and then turn it off, get under the van and feel the radiator. Sure enough, the top is piping hot, the bottom is only luke-warm. So now I'm on TVT trying to figure out what to do and a few people suggested sending it up to Ability Radiator in Yuba City, CA. Yikes, this was an expensive fix. But I decided to go for it. I had them rebuild it with a 4-row high efficient core. Got it back, installed it. It seemed to run alright for a few days, then it overheated again like all the way to the H! WTF! I was really stressed and angry about the situation. It seemed like we could not fix this no matter what. My mechanic finally did some sort of vapor chemical test on the coolant as the engine was running and sure enough, found emission gasses in the coolant. There were no other obvious signs of this like liquid coming out of the tailpipe or anything like that. So the head gasket was blown. Now it's been in the shop for at least 3 months getting that done and the head gasket is all set, but the overheat literally fried so many things. I believe from sitting so long, the injectors now needed to be replaced, but upon replacing them, all the connectors had deteriorated from the amount of heat, so once you took them off, you could not get them back on. So we're trying to track down various connectors for injectors, IAC valve, and other things. What a PITA. Me and my wife have been planning a cross country move, but these van problems have put a halt to that as I do hope to get something decent for the van after all these fix up jobs. I do plan on selling this van shortly after it gets out of the shop, and I'm located in San Diego, so stay tuned if you want it. It's had a ton of work done to it including a recent engine rebuild. There shouldn't be too much more that can go wrong with this van.

    Anyways, I hope that story helps you. Unfortunately overheating can cause a whole network of different problems and the head gasket can sometimes just be the start. I wish you luck with trying to decide what to do and try not to get yourself into too much of a stressful situation with it. They can be very frustrating, and when they are your daily drivers, and then you want to move cross country, you may find yourself in a pinch!

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    My hot-running van story is similar to Remington's and Usaviator's:

    After lot's of time and money wasted having a radiator flush/recore that was poorly done, if not an outright scam... done by a questionable shop, I had a co-worker friend who is an ASI certified mechanic tackle my problems.

    1) My radiator was mostly plugged-up. Got the 4 row high efficiency radiator from Yuba City.

    2) The radiator fill housing which has the metal overflow tube which goes to the coolant overflow reservoir was corroded. This allowed hot coolant to flow to the overflow coolant reservoir when coolant temp was hot, but the corrosion impeded the back-flow, so coolant wasn't getting sucked back into the radiator under vacuum. Replaced.

    3) New OEM thermostat, dual electric cooling fans with adjustable on/off temp sensor relays. Custom stainless steel radiator shroud. (This step eliminates the fan clutch entirely and gives you a little more horsepower.)

    4) Custom aluminum "Hose of Death" outlet plate on upper rear of engine with new Hose of Death.
    This was a critical and PITA fix.

    5) Lot's of new sensors: VSV's, BVSV, hoses, vacuum hoses, etc.

    6) New OEM headgasket and exhaust manifold.

    All this work took time and money. But it was worth it in the long run.
    If you go this route don't "cheap-out" on aftermarket parts. The cooling system on these vans is a delicate
    balance walking a tightrope. If any one component goes bad you are risking a blown head gasket.
    If you tackle one problem and another arises, get 'er done. Like Yoda said: "There is no try".
    Last edited by trestlehed; 07-10-2017 at 03:36 PM. Reason: .
    "You came in that thing?... You're braver than I thought!" - Princess Leia

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Thanks for the replies everyone! Sounds like we all share a similar frustration.

    Well, I think a cracked head or blown head gasket is unfortunately confirmed... Running the engine with the radiator cap off has a constant flow of bubbles coming up to the top which increases as I rev the engine. Even a slight amount of foam. If I cold start with the radiator cap off, it actually shoots some water out of the radiator.

    It's pretty crazy how far I've driven with this problem haha. Two round trip adventures along the west coast U.S. It's odd how the problem comes and goes, I'm wondering if my local radiator guys stop leak treatment worked but isn't consistent.


    Any suggestions on what I should do? I'm 21 with minimal mechanical knowledge and not a ton of money to blow (actually trying to buy a short bus to convert right now)
    Should I part it out? Sell it as is? Try and toss a new engine in there? I do have a very mechanically inclined cousin with a shop to work in. I feel like it will be hard to find an engine and it's a gamble on whether or not that one will have the same problem too, right?

    For the record, I bought the van for $1600 and it almost has 275k miles on it. Parts are mostly original minus the water pump, thermostat, and alternator.

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Quote Originally Posted by Remington View Post
    Thanks for the replies everyone! Sounds like we all share a similar frustration.

    Well, I think a cracked head or blown head gasket is unfortunately confirmed... Running the engine with the radiator cap off has a constant flow of bubbles coming up to the top which increases as I rev the engine. Even a slight amount of foam. If I cold start with the radiator cap off, it actually shoots some water out of the radiator.

    It's pretty crazy how far I've driven with this problem haha. Two round trip adventures along the west coast U.S. It's odd how the problem comes and goes, I'm wondering if my local radiator guys stop leak treatment worked but isn't consistent.


    Any suggestions on what I should do? I'm 21 with minimal mechanical knowledge and not a ton of money to blow (actually trying to buy a short bus to convert right now)
    Should I part it out? Sell it as is? Try and toss a new engine in there? I do have a very mechanically inclined cousin with a shop to work in. I feel like it will be hard to find an engine and it's a gamble on whether or not that one will have the same problem too, right?

    For the record, I bought the van for $1600 and it almost has 275k miles on it. Parts are mostly original minus the water pump, thermostat, and alternator.
    Bought a 1989 toyota van 4x4 and the same happened too me. Overheating, missed oil engine and blow the engine. 257k miles

    I'm 21 too and not a tons off money with somes basic mechanical knowledge.. no more

    Help us ?

    Thank you

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Remington wrote:
    I do have a very mechanically inclined cousin with a shop to work in.
    "You came in that thing?... You're braver than I thought!" - Princess Leia

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Does anyone have an estimate on a number of hours it would take to do an engine swap (and the other recommended parts) with two people working on it? That shop space is limited because my cousin and his friends always seem to have a backlog of projects in that shop.

    thanks

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Remington, Just pulled one in about six hours- tim did a full swap in just a bit more than that from what I read on thread a while back. I feel it could be quicker if you cut the injector harness and not split the intake manifold till the engine is removed than put the quick connectors on (covered in other threads on engine removal/installation). Its not that bad once you get into it. Buy pb blaster and use it on every bolt youre planning to take out. Also used 12 point sockets and wrenches on all bolt removal (no 6-point for stripping). I didn't mark any thing (have a couple more vans for reassembly reference and have done head gaskets before so didn't)- take lots of pictures for reassembly. Cut the vacuum hoses off the bsvs valve if you want to reuse it otherwise the plastic barbs will break and add $70 to the project. Change the rear main oil seal while engine's out too. Just randomely threw some stuff at you, hope it helps. - Austin

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Quote Originally Posted by austinfromflorida View Post
    Remington, Just pulled one in about six hours- tim did a full swap in just a bit more than that from what I read on thread a while back. I feel it could be quicker if you cut the injector harness and not split the intake manifold till the engine is removed than put the quick connectors on (covered in other threads on engine removal/installation). Its not that bad once you get into it. Buy pb blaster and use it on every bolt youre planning to take out. Also used 12 point sockets and wrenches on all bolt removal (no 6-point for stripping). I didn't mark any thing (have a couple more vans for reassembly reference and have done head gaskets before so didn't)- take lots of pictures for reassembly. Cut the vacuum hoses off the bsvs valve if you want to reuse it otherwise the plastic barbs will break and add $70 to the project. Change the rear main oil seal while engine's out too. Just randomely threw some stuff at you, hope it helps. - Austin
    Is it a full rebuild do I need for a seize engine from overheating? (Remove the engine and rebuild or a Swap?

    Thanks Austin
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Gingervan, I read your other posts and it looks like the engine you have is rare. You are probably better off trying to do a full rebuild and machining the head. You should make your own thread though because our issues are quite different. Combining threads isn't helping either of us haha.

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    Quote Originally Posted by austinfromflorida View Post
    Remington, Just pulled one in about six hours- tim did a full swap in just a bit more than that from what I read on thread a while back. I feel it could be quicker if you cut the injector harness and not split the intake manifold till the engine is removed than put the quick connectors on (covered in other threads on engine removal/installation). Its not that bad once you get into it. Buy pb blaster and use it on every bolt youre planning to take out. Also used 12 point sockets and wrenches on all bolt removal (no 6-point for stripping). I didn't mark any thing (have a couple more vans for reassembly reference and have done head gaskets before so didn't)- take lots of pictures for reassembly. Cut the vacuum hoses off the bsvs valve if you want to reuse it otherwise the plastic barbs will break and add $70 to the project. Change the rear main oil seal while engine's out too. Just randomely threw some stuff at you, hope it helps. - Austin
    Thanks for that info. Are you rebuilding yours or swapping? I'm so nervous buying an engine to swap in because it would be pretty lame to find another one with the same issue. I guess the first step is ripping my motor out and seeing the extent of the damage.

    If I were to sell it as is, what price would you see fair? It doesn't burn oil nor does it have oil in the coolant, but it does seem to leak exhaust gas into the system (unless I just have a ridiculous amount of air coming in from somewhere I can't seem to locate). I have had the exact same issue for 2 years of long distance driving and it hasn't ever changed. Realistically, you could drive it around the city for a long time with no issues. This kind of driving does not fit my lifestyle though.

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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    I pulled mine and was going for rebuild from an old school chevy motor head guy that I hear is the man in my area. I left for vacation and was hoping to return to a finished product yet he stopped when he tore the motor down and it had a broken crankshaft! The van didn't overheat and was actually the most powerful and quit engine Ive had out of all my vans (150k miles). I decided not to do the engine because I believe I was getting into the 2k dollar range for a rebuild. I fortunately am in negotiations with a local friend with a van he can't get running with 105K miles on it which ran fine 3 months ago and shut off one day. He threw a lot of money at the van and is over it. If that falls through I have another 2wd van that may become sacrificial. I went through the same battle of choices your at now yet I have 2 other engines available that I KNOW are good strong engines. I feel a low milage good running oem engine is the best swap. I have some free time after work the next three weeks and will be making a move. I let you know of hours spent and anything I can think of to help you out. I forgot in my last response to tell you to use a muffin baking pan and label each spot for the areas you took any bolts/nuts off e.g. air intake bolts, alternator bolts, transmission bolts etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Remington View Post
    Thanks for that info. Are you rebuilding yours or swapping? I'm so nervous buying an engine to swap in because it would be pretty lame to find another one with the same issue. I guess the first step is ripping my motor out and seeing the extent of the damage.

    If I were to sell it as is, what price would you see fair? It doesn't burn oil nor does it have oil in the coolant, but it does seem to leak exhaust gas into the system (unless I just have a ridiculous amount of air coming in from somewhere I can't seem to locate). I have had the exact same issue for 2 years of long distance driving and it hasn't ever changed. Realistically, you could drive it around the city for a long time with no issues. This kind of driving does not fit my lifestyle though.

  19. #19
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    Toyota HiAce
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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]



    Great picture! Mine overheats a lot too. Very annoying.

  20. #20
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    1985 LE
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    Re: Good ole 86 Van Overheating Problems [seeking advice]

    It seem we all have the same problem with our Van's engines.

    Here, in HCMC of VN, we have a group of Van Fan - and almost all of ours have the same head gasket leakage. and we have following notice:

    1. It always goes with overheating problem - but not so very seriously and clearly (like lack of power, water spray to the tail, milky oil...) -
    2. It always has bubbles (big or small) in the water neck while running engine with open water cap
    3. It often flushes water out of the neck if we start the engine with an open neck.
    ...

    and as our regulation here, replacing an engine for a car is extremely difficult to get the car license to run again, then we all resolve this problem by replacing the gasket. Most by ourselves... and we have a lot of discussion on it by our website (it's a Vietnamese one, so you may can not to read it... but I put it here anyway, just for a case...
    http://otoxuyenviet.net/forums/showt...t-quy-l%C3%A1t)

    and now, we can say we had resolve it all. Not cost too much, but with a lot of time and love with our vans.

    regards,

    NDS

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