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Radiator 101

 
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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 02 Oct 2014, 09:26 am
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Default Radiator 101

Hi everybody,

I have a 2004 PT Cruiser, stick shift, 125k miles, and I have own it for an year and a half.
Finally, after an year I have been able to check the fluid level of the radiator, and I realized the reservoir is empty: both on cold and hot engine the stick I gently dipped came out dry.
Given the situation, how should I proceed to add more fluid? Correct me if I'm wrong:

1) Buy some HOAT coolant
2) Open the radiator cap and top it off
3) Open the radiator reservoir and top it off to the cold mark.

Is this right?

In an old post it was mentioned that, if I'll have to add a lot, I might have to bleed the system. How do I realize if I need to bleed the system?

Thank you all for your help, I'm learning a ton.
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 10:23 am
KA9VQF's Avatar
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Location: Savanna Illinois
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Default Re: Radiator 101

Yes, pop the radiator pressure cap on top of the thermostat housing and add coolant. You might be able to dip some out with a long hose to see what color it is. HOAT is sorta yellow color. My '05 convertible had green coolant in it so I went with Prestone.

I suppose if you want to use HOAT you could always flush the entire system and put in new {which might not be a bad idea}

If your system is low you probably have a leak somewhere. It might be a good idea to just top the system off with water then rent or maybe borrow {or even buy} a radiator pressure testing tool. My local Autozone had one they let me borrow. I had to put the full price of a new one on hold but when I returned it they gave me the money back.

Its simple to use you remove the pressure cap and install the cap that comes with the tool then pump up around 25 pounds of pressure and watch the gauge. If it doesn't leak down in an hour or more you probably don't have that much of a leak.

Once you are satisfied that you do not have a leak it might be a good time to replace the thermostat. Yours might be fine but then again it might stick from time to time which might be what caused the coolant to be low in the first place. Its cheap piece of mind. A new thermostat and gasket was under $10.00

Once you have done all the work you are going to. refill the cooling system, start the engine, let it come up to normal temperature, keep an eye on the heat gauge and as it starts to come up add more coolant if you need to, remove the pressure cap carefully, Use a thick pad of rags or something, and top things off if need be.

Find the bleeding screw on the thermostat housing and unscrew it a bit. I like to put a length of clear plastic tubing on the bleeder screw then run that down under the car into a bottle. I also like to use a ratchet wrench {gear wrench} on the bleeder screw. Coolant should be flowing nicely out of the bleeder screw. It probably won't be. There will most likely be very hot steam coming out along with spurts of really hot coolant.

I have read that Chrysler changed the way the heads are made so you really don't need to bleed the system but so far I haven't found a car with the improved head, all the Chrysler products I own have to be manually bled.

Once you get a solid stream of coolant and the temp gauge settles down to normal operating temp your good to go. All that is left is to fill the overflow tank. Remember that the system is at normal operating temp so fill to the Full HOT mark. If you fudge it don't worry to much, it will fix itself in a few days of normal driving. Just don't freak out when you see a puddle under your buggy when you come out from work. Be sure to check things out tho. Pop the pressure cap to make sure the system is still full while the engine is still cold.
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Last edited by KA9VQF; 02 Oct 2014 at 10:34 am.
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 10:28 am
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Default Re: Radiator 101

ID agree with KA9VQF but i would probaly go ahead and flush the system just to be safe a good flush and fill is not nall that hard or time com=nsuming that way you can fill it with Hoat and all should be good
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 10:32 am
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Default Re: Radiator 101

I'm pretty sure I don't have a leak, it's been an year I have been low, I think I'd be out of coolant by now if there was a leak.
I have no idea what was in before, but I'll try to see if I can get an idea from the radiator cap. I don't think I have the knowledge to change radiator and gasket, so maybe I'll be satisfied with only topping off the fluid for now.
Bleeding seems more doable; do I need to do it regardless, even if I add only some fluid, or only if needed? and do I know if I need to do that?

Thanks!
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 10:43 am
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Default Re: Radiator 101

well some say YES and Nitro will tell you you dont have to I usally belive Nitro but I dont think it can hurt to bleed the air out you ahve to make sure the bleeder is not stuck
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 10:45 am
KA9VQF's Avatar
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Default Re: Radiator 101

Is your car running hot? I'm guessing not particularly.

adding just plain water will get things up to the top of the thermostat housing then after letting it run a while the water will mix in with the coolant already in the system and you can easily dip some out.

I have a bulb type antifreeze tester here that does this job nicely. just like this one

ANTI FREEZE AND COOLANT TESTER

As you can see there is a needle that swings inside the tester with a scale that tells me how cold the antifreeze is good for. I decided it was a handy thing to have so I bought it for around $10.00 years ago.

With this tool you not only know how good your antifreeze is but you can tell the color of the liquid.

Changing the thermostat really is an easy job. My only problem was keeping the gasket in place. I ended up putting a little shellac in the ring of the thermostat housing to keep it in place. Just made the job take about half an hour longer while I waited for the shellac to dry.

If you have a basic ratchet set you can do this small thing.
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Last edited by KA9VQF; 02 Oct 2014 at 10:48 am.
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 10:48 am
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Default Re: Radiator 101

Good tool to ahve I was think IF you just add coolent to the resovior bottle you should not ahve to bleed the system or at least i think that is correct
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 10:54 am
KA9VQF's Avatar
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Default Re: Radiator 101

Quote:
Originally Posted by cruserdad1976 View Post
Good tool to ahve I was think IF you just add coolent to the resovior bottle you should not ahve to bleed the system or at least i think that is correct
I think it would depend on how low it is in the first place. IF the OP uses a measure like a gallon jug instead of a garden hose he would have a pretty good idea how much he puts in.
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 11:03 am
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Default Re: Radiator 101

The car doesn't run hot at all, I would have never found out if I hadn't checked, and even last June and September, when the weather was hotter, I didn't notice anything.
I'm wondering how to move for steps. I'd like to add some, so that I do not run dry, and in the meanwhile slowly getting set to do the work by myself. If I add some zerex or preston that should be compatible regardless what's inside, right?
I'm a little concerned to go beyond regular maintenance because I'm dependent on the car for my job, and if I fu** something up then I'm screwed.

Last edited by siddharta1979; 02 Oct 2014 at 11:07 am. Reason: Add detail
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Old 02 Oct 2014, 11:14 am
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Default Re: Radiator 101

It sounds like you don't know much about cars, if your not sure on how to add fluid...is there a friend or someone you work with that can help you out..??
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