bad coolant leak, tips to change freeze plug 95',3.8 - TCCoA Forums
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post #1 of 42 (permalink) Old 11-17-2012, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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bad coolant leak, tips to change freeze plug 95',3.8

ongoing problem for a year or so. car sits and I can see a small stream of very visible coolant after it sits over night. Determined it's rear freezer plug. Bought the rubber expandable one. How easy of a job is it to punch the old one out, sand it down [ any tips?] then i place the new one in and wrench it to expand and fit, and hope thats the only plug that is leaking.

side plugs look good as front. And this isnt the one in the flyhouse [ which im told would require to take the trans out to change]

Coolant reservoir goes from "cold full line" to almost empty in about 2 days...
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post #2 of 42 (permalink) Old 11-17-2012, 05:54 PM
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Ive never really been a fan of those rubber things, they usually leak, but its not too difficult. especially on the smaller 3.8. if it was a 5.0 or 4.6... forget about it.... i usually just punch a chisel through the rust hole and pry it out of their. depending on where this plug is though it might be a challenge to get a hammer and chisel in their and be able to swing it. i would just start looking underneath, see if you have sufficient room to get at it with a small hammer and maybe a loooooong screwdriver if you have too...

heck if its bad enough sometimes it just falls out with no effort involved beyond stabbing at it with the chisel

Ive seen them fall out on people while their driving because of that.... deluge of coolant on the hot exhaust = steam like you wouldn't believe... you would swear their was an old steam train on the side of the road up ahead.

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post #3 of 42 (permalink) Old 11-17-2012, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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its at the back of the engine hard to describe. but when driving it smokes like crazy off the drivers side front. it's been an ongoing problem for like half a yea and is getting worse,

I add coolant now every 2-3 days. my radiator cap doesnt hold pressure [pressure tested it] but im afraid to put a new on one as it will just add more pressure and may blow the leak or ust make the leak worse..

where the plug is at i doubt id be able to hammer a metal plug in, thats why i chose the rubber expandable one. if it lasts a few years or even a year im happy. it only costs 4$ and some of my labor.


plugs on side and front of engine look good.
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post #4 of 42 (permalink) Old 11-18-2012, 06:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blinky99
ongoing problem for a year or so. car sits and I can see a small stream of very visible coolant after it sits over night. Determined it's rear freezer plug. Bought the rubber expandable one. How easy of a job is it to punch the old one out, sand it down [ any tips?] then i place the new one in and wrench it to expand and fit, and hope thats the only plug that is leaking.

side plugs look good as front. And this isnt the one in the flyhouse [ which im told would require to take the trans out to change]

Coolant reservoir goes from "cold full line" to almost empty in about 2 days...

Unfortunately if one of your freeze plugs are leaking on your 3.8L..

The Engine has probabably been severly overheated at some point..Probably due to a blown Head Gasket..

I would do a pressure test on your cooling system after you replace that leaking freeze plug..

Cross your fingers!





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post #5 of 42 (permalink) Old 11-18-2012, 05:11 PM
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definitely.... they are picky about their coolant and air bubbles in the heads...

when i first got my 90 it had been driven with a blown head gasket for a month, the oil was so white and sloppy inside. the worms of white sludge we blew out of the push rods weren't a good sign my father and i weren't sure she would run for a week after we cleaned everything out and machined/reinstalled the heads.

but she kept going like a champ through my high school years of abuse and shes still running today. no knocks! call me lucky, i sure did.

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post #6 of 42 (permalink) Old 11-25-2012, 11:02 PM Thread Starter
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oil is fine though, still havent gotten around to doing this
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post #7 of 42 (permalink) Old 11-26-2012, 06:49 PM
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well if you oil is still good, then your still good. just get the leak fixed as soon as you can.

i was just adding my story on what 'will' happen if the coolant isn't kept full and the leak isn't fixed.

its super easy to warp a head on the 3.8, all it takes is one time when the radiator gets low enough to let air into the heads while your driving it.

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post #8 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-19-2012, 01:18 AM Thread Starter
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so bit the bullet took it to a shop i trust, and had them put in the rubber/expandable seal. total 140$ pure labor.

get this the one the took out wasnt even rusted, said it was leaking around the freezer plug. my old plug they took out, looks pretty much new....

engine does not smoke as much so far, had one episode. will see how much freezer leaks...

other leaking part is gasket at front of engine something, but will cost 600$ to repair... need to take out water pump, etc etc lot of work.
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post #9 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-19-2012, 06:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blinky99
other leaking part is gasket at front of engine something, but will cost 600$ to repair... need to take out water pump, etc etc lot of work.
Head Gasket?






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post #10 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-19-2012, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
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intake manifold gasket i think

car still smokes and is leaking coolant, guy said may have to go back to re-tighten the rubber seal freeze plug. already had to top it off twice.
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post #11 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-19-2012, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blinky99
intake manifold gasket i think

car still smokes and is leaking coolant, guy said may have to go back to re-tighten the rubber seal freeze plug. already had to top it off twice.
It might be a good idea to start looking for an extra engine if you plan on keeping the Thunderbird..




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post #12 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-19-2012, 08:26 PM Thread Starter
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gonna check and see how low coolant level is tomorrow, i left a big piece of cardboard to see where its leaking/ how bad. then take it back to shop for them to tighten the expandable seal and hope that does it.

if i dont have to keep adding coolant ill be happy, til lit runs/dies.

est repair for said mainifold gasket 600$

EDIT - car doesnt smoke all the time like it did, and coolant isnt being lost as fast it seems. colder weather it smokes more, guessing the rubber seal contracts some and mroe fluid leaks...

Last edited by blinky99; 12-21-2012 at 07:02 AM.
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post #13 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-22-2012, 03:42 PM Thread Starter
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ya still smoking, mostly when its colder out. i think the plug is contracting when cold < 35 degrees or so. and expanding around 40 outside temp. still leaking lot of fluid though sadly...

seems lieka common thing ?

http://troubleshootmyvehicle.com/for...intake-gaskets
but thats 96 + mines a 95...


**i know my radiator cap failed the pressure test, but i was hesitant to change it as i had the other leaks, of unkown origin. I have a new one in my car, would putting it on help or hurt?

`"The radiator cap should also be pressure tested, especially if the system has been overheating or losing coolant with no obvious external leaks. A weak cap that cannot hold pressure will allow the system to boil over. If the cap cannot hold its rated pressure, replace it. "
- but i have a external leak-

side note im adding coolant to the "reservoir" to the "cold fill line" when im checking and it looks low

Last edited by blinky99; 12-22-2012 at 04:33 PM.
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post #14 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-22-2012, 04:39 PM Thread Starter
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ughg ok so i got my parts wrong, they have listed the "timing cover gasket"

saw this on a thread as well
"If you can smell it inside the car, then it is likely the heater core."

which i can smell coolant in my car windows up, heater on

i recall him saying they'd have to remove the water pump and another thing or two to replace this part, and over all 600+ to repair.
are there bolts on this part i could try and tighten?

weep hole? random yahoo article.

"If you are using a gallon of coolant a week, you have a water pump problem (possibly the weep hole on the bottom of the water pump has broken the seal, to let you know there is a problem"

another note the temp gauge flucuates, from normal to below normal/cold while driving, if thats useful or not. exhaust smoke also seems more white than normal while driving.

ive seen a "white build" up on what i think is the exhaust under the freezer plug, [ back of left head] was the rubber seal location listed on receipt of what they replacd.

Last edited by blinky99; 12-22-2012 at 05:01 PM.
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post #15 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-22-2012, 06:38 PM
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There was a recall years ago on the front timing cover, definitely could be your problem.

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post #16 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-23-2012, 07:06 AM Thread Starter
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There was a recall years ago on the front timing cover, definitely could be your problem.

Joe
saw that too,sadly i cant cash in on it...

timing cover is at front of engine though, constant steam is coming from drivers side rear of engine, [wear the plug was replaced]. but when i had cardboard under it there was coolant at front of engine as well..
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post #17 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-26-2012, 02:25 PM Thread Starter
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good news took car in new freeze plug seems fine/not leaking.

bad news head gasket is on same side.

estimate for both head gaskets [ guy recommended replacing both since they are taking one off already and it may leak down the line since may of over heated engine at some point since coolant leak began, and mine are aluminum]

both head gaskets $1,100

if head is needed + per $450 each side
+ 600 for timing cover gasket

said can save me maybe 150-200$ on labor if its all done at same time

total $2,000-2,100 + tax

also mentioned a sealnt since the leak isnt to bad by the head gasket " liquid silver" or something, but he didnt know much and what i've read they arent good..
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post #18 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-26-2012, 05:27 PM
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If you want to keep the car go buy some tools and a repair manual and get to work. Unless you have enough to pay to have it fixed which out values these cars in stock form 9/10 times.

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post #19 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-26-2012, 08:15 PM
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yikes! yeah, its not that hard to do that job yourself with the patience, organization of removed parts, and some tools, including a decent torque wrench. manuals are also VERY helpful, and will usually have the dis-assembly process layed out with pictures, diagrams, and most, if not all the torque specs needed depending on the quality of the manual.

i mean, you can get some tape, and start labeling vacuum lines and wire connectors before the disassembley. get some Ziploc bags and label them for what your taking off, keep the bolts, nuts, etc inside them. then start from the top down. disconnect the battery!

take off what you need to to get at the heads, alternator AC compressor, etc. then uplug everything up top. (labeling is recommended, especially if your not putting it all back together right away...) remove the intake manifold, and valve covers. then attack the heads and get them all out of the way.

once you get the intake, valve covers and heads all off, clean the block mating surface up real good with some scrapers and things, just don't get too aggressive with it and scratch the surface all up.

look for cracks on the block, heads, and cylinder bores(rotating the crank helps to spot cracks down low in the cyl's). check your heads for leaking valves by setting them face up and poor some fuel into each valve area, and let it sit. if the fuel leaks out your valves are not sealing in that cylinder.

then have the heads milled smooth at a shop(valve job done if needed), get some new head bolts and reinstall using the recommended torque spec/pattern. then work your way back up from their with all new gaskets. also a good time to replace any old dried out vacuum lines.

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post #20 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-26-2012, 09:16 PM
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yikes! yeah, its not that hard to do that job yourself with the patience, organization of removed parts, and some tools, including a decent torque wrench. manuals are also VERY helpful, and will usually have the dis-assembly process layed out with pictures, diagrams, and most, if not all the torque specs needed depending on the quality of the manual.

i mean, you can get some tape, and start labeling vacuum lines and wire connectors before the disassembley. get some Ziploc bags and label them for what your taking off, keep the bolts, nuts, etc inside them. then start from the top down. disconnect the battery!

take off what you need to to get at the heads, alternator AC compressor, etc. then uplug everything up top. (labeling is recommended, especially if your not putting it all back together right away...) remove the intake manifold, and valve covers. then attack the heads and get them all out of the way.

once you get the intake, valve covers and heads all off, clean the block mating surface up real good with some scrapers and things, just don't get too aggressive with it and scratch the surface all up.

look for cracks on the block, heads, and cylinder bores(rotating the crank helps to spot cracks down low in the cyl's). check your heads for leaking valves by setting them face up and poor some fuel into each valve area, and let it sit. if the fuel leaks out your valves are not sealing in that cylinder.

then have the heads milled smooth at a shop(valve job done if needed), get some new head bolts and reinstall using the recommended torque spec/pattern. then work your way back up from their with all new gaskets. also a good time to replace any old dried out vacuum lines.
My machinist showed me a really neat trick to checking for leaking valves. Put the port side of the valves you're checking up (like exhaust or intake), fill the port with water, then blow around the valve seal (from the combustion chamber) with compressed air. If the valve is leaking, air bubbles will bubble up the water.

I thought that trick was pretty neat and more accurate than the leaking gas test. (the heads were off the vehicle, btw - in case that wasn't obvious)

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post #21 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-26-2012, 11:03 PM Thread Starter
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im in Michigan and winters here, no place [dry/warm/clean ]to work on car is this something that i can save till spring/summer?

have the money, its time i work midnights and sleep till mid day usually.

anyone any experiences with this liquid sealant stuff you add to the radiator?

any estimate on raw part cost money wise would cost for gaskets/ then heads if i possible need them?

-timing cover gasket
- both head gaskets [ im assuming there is one for each side] ?
- heads [ if bad?]
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post #22 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-27-2012, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by blinky99 View Post
im in Michigan and winters here, no place [dry/warm/clean ]to work on car is this something that i can save till spring/summer?

have the money, its time i work midnights and sleep till mid day usually.

anyone any experiences with this liquid sealant stuff you add to the radiator?

any estimate on raw part cost money wise would cost for gaskets/ then heads if i possible need them?

-timing cover gasket
- both head gaskets [ im assuming there is one for each side] ?
- heads [ if bad?]
I hate that crap, it doesn't work far more times than it ever works. HOWEVER, I have seen someone use it in the past and it worked for awhile (which sounds like what you are looking for).

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post #23 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-27-2012, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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if its something that can get me through the winter, with out adding more problems, i may do it.

however if i can get through the winter without it and fix it myelf id also do that.

just looking at raw part costs now, if it costs around 1000$ in parts/shipping etc myself and 2 days work id rather just pay someone else.

I dont even know [aside from what i listed] what exact parts id need to buy, plus once i get in there what else I may need to be fixed replaced. then i have to pay to mill it down too. and get the current aluminum head gasket tested...
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post #24 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-27-2012, 11:14 PM
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yeah, don't put that sealer junk in your system.... its literally nothing but flakes of crud and reactive adhesive.... whenever some of that junk covered in glue finds air, it hardens up. usually at the leak, but also around the top of your coolant reservoir, and pressure cap... it will also harden up over time sludging up pretty much everything including your heater core, which is a nightmare in itself to change...

i would only ever use that stuff in a desperate situation, and in a car i didn't really care about keeping.... otherwise its always a better solution to just fix the leak.

and in the end with all the gaskets and things you will need purchased, your probably looking at around $300-400 with the machine work on the head surfaces. at least that's around what i payed for my old Tbird when i got her back in 03. and that was all felpro stuff from the local parts store, and local machine work. already had all the tools required.

i doubt very much you will need new heads unless they are cracked, and that's rare, but they will be warped slightly so you don't want to skip the milling. otherwise the head gaskets will just blow again later.

same with new head bolts, they are stretch to yield and NOT reusable. you can sometimes get away with it... but the bolts literally stretch slightly as you go through the multiple torque procedures. if they are reused, theirs a big chance they will snap during the torquing process leaving large pieces in the block, and if they don't snap. your heads might pop off the block a few hundred miles down the road.

in the end if your sure theirs not water in the oil, and she runs ok. i would just keep a VERY close eye on the coolant, and keep driving her till spring. if theirs water getting into the block, park her and find some other means of transportation. water in the oil will destroy your rotating assembly and score your cylinder bores. not to mention the oil turns a really thick consistency of mashed potatoes and looks about the same too.

and if all else fails, and you really need to drive her. 3.8's are dime a dozen. just about every salvage yard in America has at least two of them. you could find a decent low millage 3.8 that runs good and swap the whole darn thing. much quicker and easier then opening it up to do heads. i'm sure their getting much cheaper as well since i don't think ford still makes them, and their showing age. i want to say everything gets the 4.2 now. suppose its possible they still put 3.8's in minivans. i know they used it for quite a while in windstars.

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post #25 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-28-2012, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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i asked about swapping the engine at a local shop, non dealer, and the labor alone was $2-3 grand. They mentioned i can run into the same problem with a salvaged engine as well, then ho knows what if any warranty they come with.

been checking the oil and it looks fine in color, no milk shake type stuff.


ya i have no tools to do this job as well, any tips to do this when spring comes round. Ironically i have a week off work coming up, but its to damn cold ot do anything..

so maybe $500 for tools/parts/bolts etc/

is "felpro" the go to brand for this sort of thing? I know nothing of part quality, except factory gm parts etc.
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post #26 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-28-2012, 11:37 PM
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Felpro is good stuff.

Also, just an FYI, not saying to do it or not, but every new car gets stop leak on the assembly line. You think they are going risk warranty comebacks for slight casting imperfections or less than optimal torque? You think all the radiator seals are perfect, especially cars that may sit a year in all temps until they are sold? Leaks often happen when cars are older and the coolant is swapped out and the stop leak isn't replaced.


Now, the problem is people putting in 5 tubes of the stuff to cure a leak that really needs repair. These tablets are sold by Motorcraft and GM: http://barsproducts.com/catalog/view...ak-tablets-hdc

When used as directed I don't believe they cause problems. That is my opinion and experience. Optimal solution - no way. But when you are talking about a car pushing 20 years - it may be an option.
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post #27 of 42 (permalink) Old 12-31-2012, 07:15 PM
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holy cow! 2-3grand!?!? man a couple of friends a hoist and some beer and you could have it done for the cost of the beer... granted your friends all know what their doing and don't leave a convertor nut of something loose. :P

and a lot of salvage yards have decent warranty's on their motors, like 90 days full refund. and they usually run them before removing to listen for noise and check for leaks. of course that requires installing, figuring out the motors bad, removing, and returning for warranty/replacement >.> but hey, its a heck of a lot cheaper then $3k

also while the motors out, you pop all the freeze plugs and change them just to be safe, redo the rear and front main seals and pan gasket, and you should be fine for quite a while. granted you don't find out the motor knocks on the first fire up. but that's quite rare. i know some of the salvage yards i go too, and even one i worked for for a while, scraped motors if they made even the slightest noise from a cam bearing or lifters. customers coming back unhappy is bad for business...

and also i know for a fact if you add sealer to deathcool (or anything but distilled water for that matter) you will have pellets of sludge floating around in your coolant in no time flat. not sure about that whole leak sealer thing from the factory. suppose it could be true on some manufacturers. but that stuff usually has a habit of turning all black and hard after a while so i would think you would be able to see it 60k down the road in your new car..

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post #28 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-01-2013, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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ive been using tap water to mix with my concentrate coolant ive been buying. guy at the shop and some others have said distilled water thing is a myth. I dont know?

thing is if i buya cheap engine, to have it installed is still a grand or so. i dont have the time/knowledge to do it myself, nor my friends sadly.
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post #29 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-02-2013, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by blinky99 View Post
ive been using tap water to mix with my concentrate coolant ive been buying. guy at the shop and some others have said distilled water thing is a myth. I dont know?

thing is if i buya cheap engine, to have it installed is still a grand or so. i dont have the time/knowledge to do it myself, nor my friends sadly.
Distilled water a myth? It kinda makes sense that if you put distilled water (ie no foreign objects) into your cooling system, it's better than tap water that has iron, chlorine, florine, and who knows what else in it flowing around your coolant passages.

Kinda makes sense to me anyways...

Do you have to use distilled water? Of course not. Should you? Can't hurt, can it? It can only benefit your engine cooling.

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post #30 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-02-2013, 12:09 PM Thread Starter
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Distilled water a myth? It kinda makes sense that if you put distilled water (ie no foreign objects) into your cooling system, it's better than tap water that has iron, chlorine, florine, and who knows what else in it flowing around your coolant passages.

Kinda makes sense to me anyways...

Do you have to use distilled water? Of course not. Should you? Can't hurt, can it? It can only benefit your engine cooling.
explained like that it does. but im refilling like every 2-3 days going to get expensive.

still dont know if i should wait till spring/summer to do this and try and get through the winter. or pay the 2 grand and have it done?
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