Radiator smoking - no heat from dashboard - JeepForum.com
 
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post #1 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 10:53 AM Thread Starter
JHogg11
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Radiator smoking - no heat from dashboard

I've had a hairline crack in the plastic radiator piece that attaches to the coolant hose on my 2004 Grand Cherokee for a while now, probably close to a year. It never presented much of an issue other than a little bit of fluid coming out. The vehicle is approaching 180k miles and I'm generally trying to limit the amount I spend on it, so I was content to just top off the coolant every few months.

With everything going on, I've been working from home since late March, but had to make a trip to my office yesterday, which is about a 40 minute drive each way. On the way back, I got the "check gauges" light due to it overheating. I hadn't added coolant in a while (it was definitely low), so I stopped at a gas station and got some coolant that claimed to be universal. I made it home without the light turning back on but the heat never went down to a normal range and I just crossed my fingers that this was because it had already overheated.

I took it out for a short trip today and before long, it was overheating and smoking. I actually had to stop in my neighborhood before getting to my house because I was worried about causing a catastrophic issue. I waited a few minutes and then made it home. It smoked a tiny amount yesterday but was much worse today, despite the total drive time being something like 15 minutes round trip.

I'm a little confused as to why the crack would cause overheating. I'm admittedly not much of a car expert (although learning more every year due to my aging vehicle), but I would expect the smoke coming out of the radiator to have a cooling effect if anything, so I'm wondering if it's not actually the crack that's causing the issue but something else.

Here are what I think are the important details:
- White smoke very clearly coming from cracked spot when the vehicle gets too hot
- Coolant not draining from reservoir at a noticeable rate (the level today was pretty much where it was when I refilled it yesterday)
- No heat coming from dashboard when I attempted to mitigate the issue while driving

I'm wondering if the last symptom is the most revealing, since I can't see why a coolant leak would prevent the dashboard heater from working (not to mention the fact that the coolant is not leaking quickly). From what I read, air getting trapped in the system can cause overheating, but the air is exiting through the crack. Is it possible that the coolant being low yesterday caused additional air to get trapped and it just needs to get out? But then I'm not sure why that would cause the dashboard heat to not work.

I called the shop that I usually go to and a full radiator replacement is pretty expensive, about $500. I thought about trying to do a plastic weld to close the crack, but if the air needs to exit, then maybe that's not a good idea unless I try to get the air out another way.

Any ideas about what's behind this combination of symptoms?

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post #2 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 11:04 AM Thread Starter
JHogg11
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One other thing to add. I saw that Amazon has the part for cheaper than the shop quoted me and they have an "expert installation" option (contracted with a different local shop) that's also a lot cheaper, and if I did that I'd save close to $300 (I think Amazon just doesn't know the correct labor cost). So I would be open to a short term solution that would still allow me to drive without fear for a few extra days while the part is on its way to me.
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post #3 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 11:14 AM
Golden-Arm
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your leak may or may not be fixable, for the very short term. the radiator needs to be sealed, as it's a pressurized system, that helps raise the boiling point of the water. if you can't afford a new one, maybe a local junkyard has a decent one you can pull?



as far as the heater core goes, you can disconnect both heater hoses at the engine (with the engine/coolant cold) and clamp on a barbed hose fitting (pictured below). flush the heater core out from the outlet side first, then the inlet side. repeat several times, and see if you get any decent water flow. if not, it's time for a heater core. if you do, you're still running on borrowed time, but you're still running. flush the cooling system, and refill with proper coolant (once you've repaired/replaced the radiator) and see how long it lasts. do the repair from the inside of the radiator, if you can reach it. the pressure will help push the patch into the break, instead of away from it, if you patch it from the outside.




eta: that's steam coming out of the radiator, not smoke. there's a huge difference.

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Last edited by Golden-Arm; 07-02-2020 at 11:16 AM. Reason: added smoke/steam text.
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post #4 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 11:27 AM
blueseasons1
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You cant understand why you're having problems with the engine after driving around with a faulty cooling system for a year and low on coolant? A new radiator is under 90 bucks. I suggest you replace it and see how much other damage you may have done. Its inconceivable to think that you might consider patching a radiator that clearly needs replacing and risk further damage.
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post #5 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 11:43 AM Thread Starter
JHogg11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blueseasons1 View Post
You cant understand why you're having problems with the engine after driving around with a faulty cooling system for a year and low on coolant? A new radiator is under 90 bucks. I suggest you replace it and see how much other damage you may have done. Its inconceivable to think that you might consider patching a radiator that clearly needs replacing and risk further damage.
I don't feel comfortable replacing the radiator myself, so it may be $90 for you, but it's $500 for me, which is probably what - 25% of the value of the vehicle? It hadn't caused an issue until yesterday, and it was all at once. I just saw the Amazon deal right before posting, so at this point the patch would be to get me through the weekend.
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post #6 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 02:01 PM
Double E
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"It hadn't caused an issue until yesterday, and it was all at once."

That's the philosophy of someone that is about to junk their WJ. It is not my intent to berate but if there is one thing that should be absolutely clear is that it WAS an issue a year ago. The WJ Achilles's heel is the cooling system and the plastic end tanks that crack, spit out steam and cause the engine to overheat. That pops the head gasket and is easily $1500 or more to get fixed at a shop.
There is no "fix it later" for a radiator leak on the WJ. Any vehicle really.

Thinking fix it when it really becomes a problem is the fast way to scrapping it or spending more than it's worth to fix.

The heat never going back to a normal range after filing has 2 possible causes...either the system is no longer holding pressure (pressure is what keeps the water temp under 212 degrees, boiling) or the head gasket has let go, sending hot combustion gasses into the cooing system. Perhaps both issues are present.

If spending minimal money is a desire, don't bother with a new radiator just yet. Have any shop do a couple of diagnostics on it to see how bad the situation is first. #1 is a compression check. That will tell you if the head gasket let go, piston walls are scored, rings are sealing and general health of the engine. All pistons should be within about 10% of each other or whatever the service manual says it should be.

If that test is good, (and only if good) the second is a hydrocarbon test for the coolant. That will tell you if the HG is just beginning to let go.

If the compression check is bad, it's a scrap situation or unload it as soon as you can.

If the compression check and hydrocarbon test both come back good, you've assured yourself that you have a lucky horseshoe up your rear and for certain only need to swap the radiator. The water pump and t-stat are cheap enough and easy to do at the same time. It truly is not a difficult job.

I'm sure there's someone on the forum around Charlotte that would be willing to lend a hand for some beer & pizza and help a brother out.

If you do the radiator swap it is not a bad idea to change the oil & filter after all is buttoned up as it surely got hotter then normal during the overheat and that is no bueno to keep using.

Go the patch route if you must for now ...but this is a problem that's not going away with a patch and rare is the patch that will actually seal a plastic end tank's hairline crack.

'04 Freedom Edition HO & '04 Overland HO (previous '00 Laredo 4.7)
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post #7 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 03:07 PM Thread Starter
JHogg11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Double E View Post
"It hadn't caused an issue until yesterday, and it was all at once."

That's the philosophy of someone that is about to junk their WJ. It is not my intent to berate but if there is one thing that should be absolutely clear is that it WAS an issue a year ago. The WJ Achilles's heel is the cooling system and the plastic end tanks that crack, spit out steam and cause the engine to overheat. That pops the head gasket and is easily $1500 or more to get fixed at a shop.
There is no "fix it later" for a radiator leak on the WJ. Any vehicle really.

Thinking fix it when it really becomes a problem is the fast way to scrapping it or spending more than it's worth to fix.

The heat never going back to a normal range after filing has 2 possible causes...either the system is no longer holding pressure (pressure is what keeps the water temp under 212 degrees, boiling) or the head gasket has let go, sending hot combustion gasses into the cooing system. Perhaps both issues are present.

If spending minimal money is a desire, don't bother with a new radiator just yet. Have any shop do a couple of diagnostics on it to see how bad the situation is first. #1 is a compression check. That will tell you if the head gasket let go, piston walls are scored, rings are sealing and general health of the engine. All pistons should be within about 10% of each other or whatever the service manual says it should be.

If that test is good, (and only if good) the second is a hydrocarbon test for the coolant. That will tell you if the HG is just beginning to let go.

If the compression check is bad, it's a scrap situation or unload it as soon as you can.

If the compression check and hydrocarbon test both come back good, you've assured yourself that you have a lucky horseshoe up your rear and for certain only need to swap the radiator. The water pump and t-stat are cheap enough and easy to do at the same time. It truly is not a difficult job.

I'm sure there's someone on the forum around Charlotte that would be willing to lend a hand for some beer & pizza and help a brother out.

If you do the radiator swap it is not a bad idea to change the oil & filter after all is buttoned up as it surely got hotter then normal during the overheat and that is no bueno to keep using.

Go the patch route if you must for now ...but this is a problem that's not going away with a patch and rare is the patch that will actually seal a plastic end tank's hairline crack.
Thanks for the clarification on it holding pressure and overheating. I think the crack actually worsened a little bit from when I first saw it last fall. Is it possible that it could have been leaking coolant previously without depressurizing enough to overheat and, to the extent that it's now worse, that was enough to let the steam through?

I've had to fix a number of things in the last couple years where I was on the fence about scrapping it, but this time feels different in terms of it being a money pit situation. Would it hurt at this point to try to do a little plastic weld? I've pretty much decided that I'm not going to pay $500 for a new radiator (it's more mental than actually being a sound financial decision since I'd be dropping $1k in sales tax on a newer vehicle, not to mention interest and depreciation), but if I can wait until next week and pay $240, I might continue to roll the dice.
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post #8 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 07:37 PM
GmanWJ
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Once cracked, you can expect the crack to grow. It is possible for a little crack to hold enough pressure to avoid overheating, but once it grows large enough the coolant will boil and it will vent steam which is what you are seeing. Drive it for any length of time like that and it will blow all the coolant out. Without coolant, the heater does not work.

If you continue to drive it like this, count on buying a new ride soon, and that will cost much more than doing the diagnostics now to find out how bad the damage is. If you are lucky you may be able to save it rather than scrap it, but your next road trip should be straight to the shop.


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ok mostly just repairs, but we are closing in on a lift
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post #9 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 09:23 PM
Tarneg
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i didnt see this mentioned yet but since you have no heat in the cab and this is a very very common problem on any newer vehicle where the radiator is lower then the block but it seems like it leaked enough to put an air bubble in the system (happens when drained most times too) so the water is not actually flowing in the system and just sitting in the block. also why its not pulling from the reservoir. yes the crack is bad but the plastic tank (which i have one too) should have the designer fired cause its a stupid idea. mine has a leak and a tiny crack but its at the top and its above the engine block so it never gets low enough to do anything and my engine runs about 165 degrees in 95 degree weather, which is basically too cold and i have run it this way for decade. most of the things already said would be good to check but if you can get it to temp and literally (carefully and slowly) grab the upper radiator hose and the return line for the heater core and see if they have any heat in them from the water. this is an unreliable test most times though as its hard to tell unless its full 190 degree water in it. even then you may have a lot of heat bleed from everything else. this system should work with an open radiator cap, yes the pressure helps with boiling point
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post #10 of 15 Old 07-02-2020, 09:37 PM
speednjay
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I’ve used crazy glue to seal up a radiator a few times in a pinch. Worked beautifully
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post #11 of 15 Old 07-03-2020, 05:59 PM Thread Starter
JHogg11
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UPDATE: So I took it to my usual shop today and the guy did a test on the head gasket. He said that the test didn't reveal any issues but that it wasn't necessarily 100%. I asked him to try to bleed the system, since I hadn't done that, but he didn't want to without replacing the radiator.

I got home a few hours ago (barely) and just did a bleed by pouring the coolant in through the radiator cap hole. Being not a car person, I was unaware of the air bubble issue until this happened and had only ever poured coolant into the reservoir. But I have to say, I poured in what felt like a shocking amount of coolant. I actually ran out before I could fill it up, but it was more than half of a container and I could see the bubbles while I did it (despite it never getting completely full). I turned the vehicle on and had the inside heat back pretty much immediately and I ran the engine for a few minutes in the driveway with the temperature maxing out at about 175 at idle (based on this thread, it looks like normal, I'm assuming for the highway, is around 200-210: https://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f310...ature-2740130/). I haven't taken it out on the road yet, but all signs point to the immediate threat being resolved. I'll post another update if it's not overheating once I get it on the road.

And yes, I'll get the radiator fixed soon.
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post #12 of 15 Old 07-03-2020, 11:24 PM
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Is this a 4.7l v-8? If so, and you didn't open the bleed port while filling at the radiator, YOU STILL HAVE AIR IN THE SYSTEM!. There is no way to get all the air out, without opening that bleed port. And air bubbles traveling around in the system are notorious for killing these engines with dropped valve seats. If you dont know enough to repair this Jeep properly, then you have to pay someone else to do it. If you refuse to pay the money to the mechanic, you will pay it and more to someone else for a replacement. There are two types of Jeep owners-one that can fix things themselves, and one that has the money and sense to pay someone else who can. If you cant do one or the other, than old Jeeps aren't for you.... We are here to help those who want to work on them themselves, but in order for it to work, you have to be willing to take the advice we give. Jeep WJ's with 4.7L are not a vehicle to practice bubble gum fixes on the cooling system. They simply wont tolerate it, It's their achilles heel...

'00LMTD-4.7l,242hd,D30,D44A,3.73's,True-trac front,Spartan rear,4" short arm lift,JK'sW/32's
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post #13 of 15 Old 07-07-2020, 11:06 AM
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His profile says it is the 4.0.
Not a good reason to put off the issue though.

'04 Freedom Edition HO & '04 Overland HO (previous '00 Laredo 4.7)
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post #14 of 15 Old 07-07-2020, 07:22 PM
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My son smashed the front end of his Toyota Corolla. That's what happens when you drive 55 down hill on a curve during a rain storm.


So, being the evil father I am, I told him to get a quote so he could cry a bit. Then I had him watch some videos on youtube about replacing the radiator and we did it together. It wasn't that hard.


I'd imagine replacing the one on your WJ would be easier then his car: we had to use the tractor to pull out his frame to put the new radiator in & drill some new holes because the old one didn't line up.


It will be easier then you think. Just give yourself a couple days, "just in case".

If it runs, steers, and stops, it's good.
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post #15 of 15 Old 07-09-2020, 10:05 AM
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I had a 99 4.7 WJ and it's radiator gave up the ghost after about 4-5 years. I looked at the FSM procedure and noped it to a garage. Garage quoted me parts, 4 hours of shop time to replace the radiator and another 4 hours to replace the thermostat. The thermostat is a 15 minute job, especially on a service lift. The radiator is an 8 hour job so I figured I was getting 15 minutes of free shop time. I told the guy, who scoffed at me. When I went back to pick it up, I got "the look" from him that I get when something goes left field bleachers exactly as I predicted. New radiator worked great for 3-4 years until the timing chain skipped and I noped that to a mechanic who said I was better off selling it to a shade-tree car flipper and using the money as a down for another vehicle. He actually had never seen a 4.7 with that many miles on it before. Whatever you do, avoid bottled radiator stop leak--it will stop the leak by clogging your radiator and damaging your water pump--use it only if you are in a situation where you are too far for AAA to tow you home and you need to limp back.
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