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Erratic idling with a burst of steam

 
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 08:33 am
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Default Erratic idling with a burst of steam

2003 Cruiser, manual transmission, AC equipped. Vehicle starts fine but as it warms to normal operating temperature the idle becomes erratic on an almost predictable cycle as if there's a load on the engine. Ive accelerated the rpm's to 2k and the symptom remains. On more then one occasion the front-lower end of the engine has let out a burst of smoke or steam which I'm not sure exactly what it is or where its coming from. This occurs at normal operating temperature, while in neutral with the AC off. Any ideas on what this burst of smoke is or why the idle is fluctuating, on the verge of stalling every 20 seconds or so? It is not overheating or stalling as of right now, just unnerving to watch.
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 08:42 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

a vacumn leak in the cooling system will do this , i would look over the hoses for pinholes as well as look over the radiator cap it may be leaking steam
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 10:03 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

Agree with crazyptguy but also check to see if the fan is working on both speeds. Have you ever had the radiator fan changed? Common problem with the PT.
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 10:06 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

Good info so far... but vacuum in the cooling system? I have to say Im not aware of vacuum anywhere besides ventilation, cruise control emissions etc...but cooling? Ive watched for the fan functions, so far I have not seen the fan activated. This would cause erratic idling?
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 10:39 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

Sure would. I would think your A/C isn't as cool as it should be either. The fan cools the compressor as well as drawing air through the radiator.

Low speed of the fan is hard to see or hear. You have to know where to look to see if it's spinning. The high speed makes so much noise with the rushing of the air, you can hear it above the engine noise.,
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 10:47 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

So far I havent observed any movement from the fan. Its not seized, but I havent seen any movement at all.
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 11:10 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

What you could do is turn on the A/C. The fan comes ON every time the compressor is engaged either for A/C or Defrost. If the fan doesn't come on then, it needs to be replaced.

There could be another reason why it wouldn't come on but 99% of the time, one or both speeds of the fan motor has burnt out.
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 11:16 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

Ok, Ill start buy replacing the fan. Most research is advising me to pick up a used one to save $. Is it better to buy it new? During the replacement Ill keep an eye out for any possible vacuum leaks.
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 11:24 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

Hang on. First, no, I wouldn't buy a used fan. A new one at AutoZone or on-line at RockAuto Auto Parts is under $100 (Dorman fan) and has a lifetime warranty.

Second, did you try and see if the fan comes on with the A/C or darn certain you never see it come on which THEN, it's time to replace it.

Edit: if you do decide to replace it, we have instructions and pictures here on the forum for a 1 1/2 hour job.
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Last edited by CREWZIN; 21 Sep 2012 at 11:26 am.
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Old 21 Sep 2012, 11:30 am
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Default Re: Erratic idling with a burst of steam

$75 for a Dorman, good call! Ive never seen it move but I havent tried it with A/C yet. Ill actually go out and check that now. Any thoughts on the burst of mist? Would the compressor be overheating and venting pressurized freon?
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