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the trials and tribulations of an owner op
ne of the recurring issues with Sally is a problem with the coolant system. I've been told by a mechanic that something is causing compression in the coolant. This causes me to lose about a half gallon of antifreeze over the course of a day through the overflow tube. I'm thinking of trying to rig something to "catch" the antifreeze as it overflows so that it's not just money down the drain. My guess is that this is a major, internal motor issue which won't get solved until I do an overhaul, which won't be for at least another year.

More annoying than that, however, is the overheating. More than likely this is related to this problem, though I'm not entirely sure. When laden and pulling a grade, however slight, the temperature creeps up quickly in a truck. This is ordinary and the engine fan kicks in at 210 degrees and knocks it back to down to 200 before turning back off. In this heat however, on really long grades, even the slightest of them, I've been experiencing problems with it climbing over the 220 mark, which results in the computer shutting the engine down. I've learned over the course of this summer how to avoid this: I have to keep the RPMs above 1500 so that the fan turns fast enough to cool the radiator sufficiently. This isn't difficult to do, just annoying. Sometimes you have to slow down and grab a lower gear just to keep the RPMs there.

Since I've figured this out, my previous two students both had a good deal of experience with road tractors and making them understand this principle wasn't difficult. With Tom, however, it's been more difficult impressing upon him the importance of this. He learned this lesson the hard way the other night as we were driving into Memphis. It was a long, gradual grade; virtually flat to the eye but Sally sure knew it. The "high coolant temp" warning was given and I instructed Tom to get onto the shoulder as quickly as possible. In times past when it's happened to me, getting off the road and letting the engine idle quickly enough will sometimes avert disaster.

Okay disaster is a strong word. Pain in the ass might be more appropriate, only this time it was disastrous.

The truck shutdown from the high temperature as expected. Ordinarily, I fix this problem by CAREFULLY venting the coolant reservoir, letting the hot vapor escape then refilling with some fresh coolant. Apparently I wasn't careful enough and the cap blew off the reservoir as the pressure inside sought its way out. I was greeted with a blast of hot coolant to the face. I was standing on top of the motor when this happened and I immediately turned and jumped for the ground before I got myself completely scalded by the green geyser spewing from my motor.

Thankfully I wasn't hurt, from the coolant or the jump. The sudden pressure release had resulted in a complete loss of coolant. I had four gallons of coolant on-board with me and began pouring it into the reservoir, watching it all disappear down into the motor. There simply wasn't going to be enough to run it. What's worse was that the reservoir cap was nowhere to be found. We tried looking up and down the highway, in the nooks and crannies of the motor, and the ground beneath... it was gone. I'm guessing it was ejected into the corn field and lost. So even if I had enough coolant, I had no way to keep it in.

First I called the breakdown department of my company. After being on hold for over twenty minutes I sent a Qualcom message to them. After no response for 15-20 minutes that route, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I called welfy and got her to run some Google searches for a Freightliner dealer in the Memphis area. Armed with phone numbers I placed calls until I got myself hooked-up with an area towing/repair service. I employed them to pick me up a cap from the dealer and to bring me copious gallons of antifreeze and water. The entire ordeal took 3-4 hours and we were finally back on the road. Ever since then, Tom has been more vigilant in monitoring the temperature guage on grades, making sure Sally keeps cool and it hasn't been an issue again.

Otherwise, it's been a great week. I've covered nearly 5,000 miles in the past seven days. It's much needed after the way last week went.

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dude, be careful with your writing style. until i scrolled down to see the beginning of the sixth paragraph, i thought for sure you had been horribly disfigured for life.

If that had happened there would've been photos.

that happened to my dad once, actually, with our car. he got a slight burn on his face, but luckily it didn't scar. scary stuff! hope sally perks up soon.

It happened to me once this past winter. I had just had this new reservoir put on and I was unfamiliar with the new cap. I just twisted it off and WHOOSH, I got covered in hot antifreeze. I don't burn too easily, so mostly it just stings for a bit then it's all good... no scarring or redness or anything.

Sally's doing much better this week. She's just old, cranky, and obstinate sometimes. This thing with her over-heating, it's annoying but if you pay attention to her and drive her right, she does okay. It just took Tom a little while to get used to her.

I didn't quite follow, does the overflow on the truck's radiator go into a secondary reservoir, or straight out on to the road?

Straight out onto the road. I'm thinking of rigging some sort of reservoir, maybe just bungee an empty antifreeze jug up in there to catch it so I can stick it back in later and not lose so much of it.

Hmm. My '74 Valiant and my '82 and '84 Falcons had the overflow go into a secondary reservoir which was not pressurised so if it seriously overflowed it wouldn't blow the system. My '95 and '00 Falcons pour straight out on the road. I never understood why they removed the secondary, although no doubt there is some method to the madness.

I might try to rig this up tomorrow, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. What's worrying me though is that today, I noticed some hairline cracks in the coolant reservoir. I'm guessing from the increased pressure that's forcing the coolant out. I just keep reminding myself that I have less than a year of payments left then I'll have tons of cash to invest into Sally and get her running real nice. I just need to baby her until then.

I don't know if this holds for trucks as well, but I do remember hearing that a friend of a friend drove his car dry, poured room-temperature water into his searing hot radiator, and put cracks in his engine block as a result, just to add insult to injury. Although it sounds urban legend to me.

Ooh, if you have hairline cracks and you're increasing system pressure by driving at higher RPMs, I think that would force more coolant out. There's an unpleasant little cycle.

Ahhhh the joys of mentorship...and of hands on learning! I bet Tom won't ever second guess you when you tell him to do something "NOW!"

Glad you're ok after the inadvertent baptism, and that Sally's going to be OK too (even though she will still need "medical" attention for that hot flash issue in the future). YAY for welfy! What a gal!

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