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Old 08-31-2010, 05:28 PM
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I've never experienced this before

After 50+ years of being an avid gearhead, this is a new one. I just finished building and firing up a SBC. The engine runs great, idles great and sounds great. The bummer ....... The engine is losing water. I tested the cooling system with a pressure tester and it holds pressure. There are no leaks and the radiator cap is brand new (the old one was bad). If I drive the car four or five miles I need to add about a pint of water and I've done this little drive thing at least ten or 20 times with the same results every time. I've even put a plastic bag, with a hole at the top for expansion, on the end of the overflow drain line to make sure the water is not going out the overflow. There's no water in the oil (I drained eight ounces of oil into a clear glass after the engine has sat for a long time and no water). And, on the cylinders I could get a compression gauge on (headers) the compression is good and consistent.

The engine has never been overheated although as the water goes away, say on a ten mile trip, the temperature rises to about 200 to 210 degrees.
I know I do need a stronger fan, but that's not the problem and the fan is on order.

I have a hunch it's the Edelbrock heads I bought on Ebay. Like maybe the head is cracked in an intake or exhaust port, but there's no water dripping out of the exhaust and no white smoke and the spark plugs look fine.

I put a sealer in today, but it doesn't look like it worked because I pulled the radiator cap about four hours after I had idled the engine for 30 minutes, which the sealer required, and it looks like the water level is about a quart low.

Once again, there are no leaks. Anyone have any suggestions???????

Thanks in advance.
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Old 08-31-2010, 05:45 PM
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The leak can be small enough that it wont be seen exiting the exhaust. My guess is Head or Intake gasket, Head gasket.
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Old 08-31-2010, 06:02 PM
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Well the fluid only has a few places to go, either the cylinder(s), the oil pan, on the ground or on the floor through the heater core. I assume that it is not on the floor of the car?, its not in the pan or on the ground so it must be a head gasket, intake gasket or like you say a crack and its getting burned off.

were these used heads?
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Old 08-31-2010, 06:08 PM
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I'd pressure check the cooling system. There use to a pump that hooked to the rad. cap and applied pressure to the rad and system which had a gauge so you could monitory the pressure for a drop. I'd check it hot and cold. lol
p.s.If the pressure drops, pull the coil wire and turn it over a few times (15 sec.) then pull the plugs and see if there're wet.
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Old 08-31-2010, 07:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoops
After 50+ years of being an avid gearhead, this is a new one. I just finished building and firing up a SBC. The engine runs great, idles great and sounds great. The bummer ....... The engine is losing water. I tested the cooling system with a pressure tester and it holds pressure. There are no leaks and the radiator cap is brand new (the old one was bad). If I drive the car four or five miles I need to add about a pint of water and I've done this little drive thing at least ten or 20 times with the same results every time. I've even put a plastic bag, with a hole at the top for expansion, on the end of the overflow drain line to make sure the water is not going out the overflow. There's no water in the oil (I drained eight ounces of oil into a clear glass after the engine has sat for a long time and no water). And, on the cylinders I could get a compression gauge on (headers) the compression is good and consistent.

The engine has never been overheated although as the water goes away, say on a ten mile trip, the temperature rises to about 200 to 210 degrees.
I know I do need a stronger fan, but that's not the problem and the fan is on order.

I have a hunch it's the Edelbrock heads I bought on Ebay. Like maybe the head is cracked in an intake or exhaust port, but there's no water dripping out of the exhaust and no white smoke and the spark plugs look fine.

I put a sealer in today, but it doesn't look like it worked because I pulled the radiator cap about four hours after I had idled the engine for 30 minutes, which the sealer required, and it looks like the water level is about a quart low.

Once again, there are no leaks. Anyone have any suggestions???????

Thanks in advance.
If it's not on the ground or in the oil, check the passenger side carpet.

Bogie
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Old 08-31-2010, 10:52 PM
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Pul the plugs and take a good look at them, usually if the water is going into a cylinder that plug will be really clean compared to the others. Also a small leak could be evaporating before it hits the ground.
When you did the pressure test was it warm or cold. I would make sure you run the pressure test while the engine is hot.
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Old 08-31-2010, 11:53 PM
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I have had a radiator leak that were INVISIBLE! I mean that unless you actually put your hand or a piece of paper in the way- you just could not see it.

Being as how the water was hot, and the stream so small, it evap'ed as soon as it hit the engine- which was the direction the leak was in.

It doesn't have to be the radiator, either. A hose connection, gaskets, castings, all can leak in this manner, i.e. too small to detect until enough time has elapsed for it to show up as a low coolant level.

I will also agree that a 'wet' cylinder's plug will be as clean as new, usually. It might take some run-time for the dry holes' plugs to color- but the wet one probably never will.

Also X2 on the hot/cold cooling system pressure check. Leave the pressure on the system until it has dropped to atmosphere, then spin the engine over w/o the plugs in it to check the cylinders for water.

If the heads were ported, the problem could lie there. Or even casting porosity will cause problems w/coolant leakage/loss. Was the block known to be good before the build?
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Old 09-01-2010, 12:45 AM
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Fernco is a brand name for rubber plumbing fittings

We have a home made kit. A cut off section of radiator hose with a pipe bushing in it, bushed down to 1/4npt, a 1/4" tee in that with a gauge and a schrader valve screwed into the the tee.. It clamps over the stat housing.
Then a Fernco rubber cap from the plumbing supplier <<I think it's 1 1/4". << That goes over the water pump.

A hose to bridge the two heater outlets on the engine. Hose and plug when there is only one outlet.
With that we air charge the block to about 15 or 20 psi, whatever our fuel pressure gauge goes up to. If it's normal it takes two hours or more for the gauge to get down 2 or 3 pounds. That's just an air charge; no water. An engine that holds air that long won't lose any water at all.

But with your engine losing coolant as fast is it is, it should push water out somewhere. In your case I would use a long length of hose on the stat housing adapter so it could be filled up the hose well above the engine, and the water would be loaded with dye.

You can get everything you need including the dye at a really good hardware store. They sell the dye for adding to herbicide so it can be seen on weeds. It's not permanent.

If it won't lose the charge I suppose you could start and run it until it borders hot using a Raytek temp device on the intake, shut it down at about 200 deg.
If it's a crack in a chamber or anywhere it should show color after the charge falls off. It's quicker than it sounds.
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Old 09-01-2010, 02:06 PM
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This forum is great! There's a lot of good ideas from you guys and it's appreciated. Most of the ideas suggested I've already done, but there are a few items that have me thinking.

As for the test I've done:

1) I have pressure tested the cooling system when it was hot (still have the scabs from the header burns) and when it was cold and the system held pressure both times.

2) I did check the carpet under the heater core.

3) I have checked the plugs and they all have good consistent color.

4) I retorqued the heads and that didn't help.

5) While the system was hot and pressurized, with the plugs out, I brought each cylinder to BDC and using a bent wire with a q-tip taped to it I ran the q-tip to the bottom of each cylinder and came up with no signs of any moisture.

Also, I forgot to mention the block is a brand new GM 4-bolt 350 and I had the heads pressure checked for cracks and surfaced by our local machine shop.

I should have added in my original post that the Edelbrock Heads I bought on Ebay were used and the guy who sold them to me lied about their condition in that they had a broken rocker arm stud and a cross threaded spark plug hole. He said was selling the heads because the engine they were on blew the lower end, but I wonder now if, because he lied, the heads were cracked and he knew it. Bottom line ......... I'll never buy used heads again unless I know the person.

If the sealer I put in yesterday doesn't work when I drive the car this afternoon I'm going to try the dye and if nothing comes up there I'm going to pull the headers (a pain) and do a compression check on all the cylinders. I'll let you know what happens after that.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed.

Thanks again to everyone

Last edited by hoops; 09-01-2010 at 02:27 PM.
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:48 PM
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Fixed

As a follow-up, I found the problems. There were two leaks. I used some dye in the cooling system and both leaks jumper out at me when I pressurized the system. Water without antifreeze doesn't show up well on polished aluminum and high gloss engine paint.

When I pressurized the system this time I pumped it up to 18 pounds. In the original pressurized tests I had only gone to 15 pounds, which is what is specified and the pressure held.

I feel like a dummy. Another lesson learned.

Thanks for all your help.
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Old 09-21-2010, 07:24 PM
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I'm glad you solved it but don't leave us hanging! Where were the leaks?
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:29 AM
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One was the lower radiator hose where it connects to the radiator. The other was the hose connected to the heater core.

What was funny is that the clamps on all the new water hoses were tightened real tight when the engine was installed, yet when I found the two leaks I decided to check all the clamps and all of them needed tightening. That was weird to me because I've always made sure to tighten clamps to the point where I'm concerned about over torquing them.

It's been years (maybe 30) since I've installed new hoses and I've never had any that leaked. It makes me wonder if environmental laws have changed the rubber compounds so that hoses need to be retorqued after they've been heated up a few times. I know from now on if I install any hoses clamps I will retorque them after a few miles.
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Old 09-22-2010, 01:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoops
One was the lower radiator hose where it connects to the radiator. The other was the hose connected to the heater core.

What was funny is that the clamps on all the new water hoses were tightened real tight when the engine was installed, yet when I found the two leaks I decided to check all the clamps and all of them needed tightening. That was weird to me because I've always made sure to tighten clamps to the point where I'm concerned about over torquing them.

It's been years (maybe 30) since I've installed new hoses and I've never had any that leaked. It makes me wonder if environmental laws have changed the rubber compounds so that hoses need to be retorqued after they've been heated up a few times. I know from now on if I install any hoses clamps I will retorque them after a few miles.
I suspect it's the Chinese made clamps. Over the past few years re-tightening clamps has become a regular part of preventive maintenance around here.

Bogie
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