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Vette troubles Overheading Do's and Don'ts Part I


Apr 14, 2010
Tucson, AZ
1984 C4 Coup
The other day (7/1) was a record-setting day for me. Oh..yea..setting some personal bests, that….well….frankly I could have done without!!!!

So I thought I’d take a minute or two to jot down the events of the day, as a form of therapy, and maybe I won’t feel like having all my cars crushed and moving to a small Quaker community in PA.

Ok…. that does feel better. Now say it with me…”I’m OK and You are OK”.

So here’s the story and I’m being as dramatic as necessary!!!!

Drove my 84 C4 to work as normal yesterday………

>>>Oh..hey wait…..I did this Corvette owner thing a few weeks back…guess what it was?…..{silence….cricket…cricket….cricket..} Give up? Ok..fine I’ll just tell you. I got a personalized license plate…No..not a vanity plate that says “Studly” like my wife wanted me to get!!! {{If you only knew how funny that last statement was..my wife hates those plates, although I believe he thinks I am studly!!!}}.

Nope I had to get clever, I wanted something that defined my car. You have no idea how many times I get asked…”Yo…what years is it?” My neighbor next store ask me that every time he see me outside my house…he’s 80 something…so I’m very polite about it (’cause I’ll be 80 some day), and tell it’s a 1984, and always ask him if he wants to take it for a spin and we both laugh. (Man..you’re getting your money’s worth reading this one..three stories in one.) Any way I thought if I could squeeze the year of my Corvette into the plate and I wouldn’t have to answer it as much. ( I actually got a stamped “1970″ plate at a place a shopping mall for the front of my Mustang for the same reason…Arizona only requires a rear plate…funny..they still sent out two plates though!!!) (Geezzzeee..there’s 4 stories for ya…I don’t think I remember what the orignal was??!?!?!). The plate reads “84C4WOT”. deciphered it means 1984 C4 (the generation) and WOT = Wide Open Throttle.

Wow as that painful to read through? Hope not!!!

Ok, back to the original post.

Got to work just fine no problems. Now, this time of year it’s get’s pretty hot here is Southern AZ and think yesterday was about 105 or 107. My work day went by as slow as it possibly could and I had to hang a little late to finish up a task. I headed home and I got about 4 miles from work and I noticed the cars behind me slow down and to a little swerve in the road. If you’ve driven here in Tucson much, such things are not extraordinary, there’s a lot of weirdness here on the roads.

Approximately 1000 yards down the road I see my digital temp gauge, jump to 260 degrees. Now the 1984 C4 runs hot by factory standards. The electric fan has a factory setting of 223 degree before it kicks on…but 260…is not good…not by any stretch. And picture my expression on my face when 200 feet further it shot to 280 degrees. I’m doing about 45 and I’m in the middle lane of a 3 lane street and traffic is heavy. I know I need to pull this thing over or that which is currently is going very bad..is going to get even worse. I cut off the next car where there was the smallest of a gap and dove for a Circle K (like a 7-11) parking lot about another 500 yards away. As I pulled in to the parking lot…by temp gauge read 299 degrees (my first new record of the day..beating the old temp by a whopping 17 degrees…”Tell him what he’s won Johnny!!” ” Well Wink, he’s won a cooked corvette and gas saving trip on the back of a tow truck!!!!”.) DOOM!!! was the only word that came to mind….ok..fine…that wasn’t the word…but it did have 4 letters.

I stopped it, turned it off, popped the hood latch and jumped out of the car to get the front lifted up…. I expected to see coolant gushing out of every place imaginable, but the engine compartment was pretty dry…I’m thinking..this is not good…nope….not good at all. There was a little fluid on the frame and a small wisp of steam, but nothing to make you think there was an Old Faithful event about to occur. I checked the coolant overflow tank and it had a small amount of fluid in it..very small, odd for something that was about to blow. I quickly checked the hoses that I could see, without touching anything….every thing was hot, and they looked fine. I could even see a portion of bottom hose it seemed ok. I stepped back and looked under the car and there was only a very small puddle. Corvettes are pretty low to the ground which makes hard to see anything will out getting down on the ground, but I had on white paints and when it is a 107 degrees in Tucson, the pavement is about 115!!!

So what my observations imply is there wasn’t enough coolant in the car to boil…and at about 300 degree…it would be boiling!!!

There are only a couple of things that would a complete drain of the cooling system.
1. A hose coming off or. Since there wasn’t any coolant on the upper part of the engine, so the top ones were fine and what I could see of the bottom hose it seemed normal.
2. A cracked block or a head would have that the Vette running poorly before hand and I would have noticed.
3. Freeze out plug failing. I’m thinking this was the problem. A freeze out plug is just that, a metal plug in the block and heads of your engine. They are there mainly for cold weather climates. If the coolant was mixed wrong with too much water and should this mixture freeze, the plugs will pop out during a “freezing event” allowing expansion of liquid hopefully saving the engine’s metal from cracking from the pressure.

Freeze Out Plug (PIC)

Freeze Out Plug in the engine block. (PIC)

Why is that so bad? They look pretty simple to put back in. Sure they are, right…after you pull the entire engine out!!!

So there I stand, white paints looking soiled, red Vette with hood up and smelling like burnt carrot, 107 degree, humid as hell, and it starts to rain. Can you picture it?

I made a quick call to my GM Motor Club and they arraigned for a flat-bed. 2 hours later my lovely wife meets me at the Circle K and we wait together for another 45 minutes(total of 2.75 hours) for a truck to show up (my second record of the day breaking my last tow truch wait by 1.25 hours) and 45 minutes after that I waiting in my favorite repair facility parking lot waiting for my poor Vette to be dropped off (where it would sit, in the dark, overnight, all alone and wounded). Too much drama?

Let’s get to the do’s and don’ts.
1. Do pull over in a safe spot as soon as possible.
2. Don’t continue driving. Don’t try to make it home or one more block/mile. You could just be making it worse.
3. Don’t keeping it running after you stop in a safe place. It isn’t normally going to cool it down and again you could be making it worse.
4. Don’t touch anything under the hood. Don’t open the radiator. Don’t open the coolant overflow reservoir.
5. Don’t try filling it with water or coolant immediately. Just let the car cool down all the way down.
6. Don’t try driving it after its cooled down, even if you filled it with water. 100% change that what caused the overheating, didn’t go way.
7. Do call a tow truck.
8. Do call a friend so someone and let them know where you are at the least.
9. Do get a motor club of some kind. Average Guy with average budget..right? Towing is expensive, very expensive. I like the GM Motor Club. I pay about $69 a year and I’ve used it twice this year already. I have my son’s car covered and my Corvette. (The Mustang is covered by Haggerty insurance.) Within town the towing is free up to a certain mileage, both this years tows were free, saving about 250 bucks a shot, that a good deal.

More coming up.

Thanks for reading

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