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Devin

FIXED - Brown sludge where the coolant should be

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Devin

I did a bit of searching and found that brown sludge is not entirely uncommon on the board, but I figured I'd have a go.

 

I moved my car about 10 feet and got it up on ramps to change the oil. Car was probably on for two minutes total. I decided to crack the rad open to check the fluid level because it's been a long time, and I get covered in chunky, brown coolant. What gives? Is it a head gasket leak? I've seen lots of mention of Deathcool, but nothing really relating to this year. It's a 2004 Impala with the 3400. Ideas? I'm at a loss. My first thought is to flush it, but now I'm a bit concerned.

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Devin

Well, there is no coolant in the oil, which is good. I'm at abot 85K on the original stuff, so I will try a flush. Failing that I guess I have no choice but to dig around. Is there any way to find out if it is the HG without taking it apart first?

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spiderw31

I've heard that sludge is a result of the Dexcool breaking down over time, and that it is relatively normal. A good flush and coolant change should be all that it needs.

 

There are a number of ways a head gasket can blow, and there are ways to check for each. As you know, look for coolant in the oil and vice versa (blown between coolant and oil passages). Lots of white smoke out the exhaust is another indicator (blown between coolant passage and cylinder). You can also remove the spark plug and pressurize the cylinder with compressed air. Pull the plug on the adjacent cylinder and see if any air comes out, and you'll know if you've lost the gasket between cylinders. There is also a kit that you can get to test your coolant to see if exhaust gasses are making their way into the cooling system.

 

I doubt you need to worry about any of that though, but the info could come in handy some day :)

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Andrew

im guessing its never been flushed before? i know my 98 was very nasty having not been flushed for over 3 years. I had a local shop flush it for me and he said it was the dirtiest he'd ever seen!

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Crazy K

flush, and expect the worst soon. you should do your intake gasket if there is any question as to their need, and you may need a new waterpump and radiator in the near future.

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carkhz316

You need not necessarily worry. Just do the basic tests first. If it's a bad enough head gasket problem, you can usually see bubbles in the coolant; sometimes only cold, other times only hot. Also, do a compression test, or an air test like someone mentioned (pulling adjacent plug out and listening) Pressure test the coolant system. You could pretty much elimate every possibility of a problem by simple observation and testing. More than likely (since it seems that everyone fails to mention): they've been putting a stop-leak equivalent in from the factory since late 90's/ early 2000's IIRC. That almost always causes a buildup of brown sludge on the filler neck on the rad, and on the cap itself. The coolant is still clean right? As was mine in my '98 Monte. Had the sludge always as well, until I did Uppers and lower intake gaskets (there wasn't a problem, just preventative maintanance) and flushed to original DexCool. Since then (over 25K miles ago), no more sludge, and still no head gasket, or other gasket problem.

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Leadfoot

Without seeing a picture it is hard to say. I saw several cars when I worked at the dealership where people had mixed Dexcool with ethelin glycol anti freeze (green stuff). This mixture will turn brown black and (if left long enough) become very much like tar. We had to repair several cars from this. Whatever is wrong, I would flush the system immediately.

 

I know many of the newer version of coolants claim they can be mixed with no problems, but I have seen to many problems that cost $$$$ to fix that I will never mix the 2 ever.

 

 

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ShockTherapy

i'm going to go ahead and say a flush and fill is all you should need, you'd know if you have a bad HG or LIMG.

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Imp558

Mine was like that when I bought it. I had a cracked coolant elbow too. I replaced the elbow, ran some alumaseal (I'll hear about that) and flushed the cooling system. My overflow looked like it was painted black inside so I pulled it and shook some rocks and acetone around in there and cleaned it out. That was 6 months ago and so far so good.

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Devin

I finally got around to flushing the coolant. I don't know of the dexcool had gone bad and somehow seperated, but this was not coolant anymore: it essentially looked like dirty water. I pulled off both hoses and flushed the radiator until it ran clean. I also pulled off the heater hoses and flushed the core until it was clear. The only thing now is that the brown sludge is still stuck to the inside of the radiator, and the car is not cooling it self like it used to. For instance: I only get heat when the accelerator is push down. Other wise it cools down like the car is off. The heat routinly climbs to the last quandrant of the gauge, which is unusual.

 

I'm gonna get a new cap, and t-stat. The question is: is there a good clean-the-beejeeses-out-of-the-coolant-system kit, or should I have it professionally flushed?

 

 

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tornado_735

I finally got around to flushing the coolant. I don't know of the dexcool had gone bad and somehow seperated, but this was not coolant anymore: it essentially looked like dirty water. I pulled off both hoses and flushed the radiator until it ran clean. I also pulled off the heater hoses and flushed the core until it was clear. The only thing now is that the brown sludge is still stuck to the inside of the radiator, and the car is not cooling it self like it used to. For instance: I only get heat when the accelerator is push down. Other wise it cools down like the car is off. The heat routinly climbs to the last quandrant of the gauge, which is unusual.

 

I'm gonna get a new cap, and t-stat. The question is: is there a good clean-the-beejeeses-out-of-the-coolant-system kit, or should I have it professionally flushed?

 

 

There is some stuff you can buy at Wal-Mart or parts stores that cleans out the gunk and shit that accumulates in the cooling system. There is also a flush and fill kit I bought at Wal-Mart that made back flushing the cooling system of my Jeep a cinch. It was a whole hell of a lot cheaper than having it professionally done, and only took about 20 minutes.

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White93z34

It sounds like someone may have mixed green and dexcool at some point and overtime it will make a really nasty concoction as the 2 coolants hate each other. at least on my bonneville that is exactly what hapiened, when I flushed it looked like nasty brown water.

 

as for whats up with your car, you most likely need to bleed it out, there should be a little screw near the top of the thermostat housing open that up while the car is running and edventually coolant should start flowing out of it, tighten it back down and you should be good to go.

 

as for how to flush it, I've always just used a garden hose and removed the radiator hose or heater hose and flushed it in as many places as I could.

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frank b

The problem with the heat only on when your on the throttle sounds like a vacuum leak. The flappers and controls that direct air in through the core and out the vents are vacuum operated. On my lumina, there are several valves under the glove box, and the vacuum reservoir is under the battery, you have to lay under the car and take the plastic panel off to get to it. The battery can slide and crimp/ break the hose too.

 

The rad, keep flushing with proper rad flush. Maybe take a bit of that sludge and pour different things on it to see what breaks it down. Like vinegar, drano, baking soda in water, etc.

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Devin

I noticed there was a bunch of coolant on the belt and dripping from the left of the water pump. I'm gonna pick up another water pump and set of belts to be safe. This is getting increasingly worse.

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xtremerevolution

I noticed there was a bunch of coolant on the belt and dripping from the left of the water pump. I'm gonna pick up another water pump and set of belts to be safe. This is getting increasingly worse.

 

Don't forget the felpro water pump gasket.

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Devin

I installed the pump and the thermostat. Scrapped off the old pump gasket, gently RTVed the new one, stuck it on and started the car with the cleaning solution. Forgot to reconnect the heater hose and the two hoses running from the throttle body to the long black heater return line, so I got those back on. Waiting for the car to cool off so I can flush it again.

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Devin

So everything was going great until I took the black metal coolant return line off at the bleeder screw to RTV it (coolant was bubbling out) and then I snapped the bolt off.

 

 

Will thi blow off when it gets hot or is that side unpressurized?

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Devin

I fixed my problem. Here is the bolt that broke off:

 

imp_help_extracted_bolt-01.jpg

imp_help_extacted_bolt-02.jpg

 

I ended up pulling it out with a left-hand drill bit and screw extracter (#1 FYI), which worked beautifully. Took me about 5 minutes, and most of that was getting the hole as close to the middle as possible. Anyway, I applied RTV to the underside and torqued on the new bolt. After a night to let the RTV dry, I flushed engine twice more (for a total of about 5 flushes). Yesterday I filled the radiator to the top following the bleeding procedure in the manual (which worked great as well), and now my temps are great, the heater works fine, and no more noise in my cooling hoses!

 

Thanks for your help everyone! I'm still learning this engine, as this is the first work I've ever had to do on it in the 4 1/2 years I've owned it.

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rockfangd

those bleeders are very common for either being snapped off or snapping them off. There are 2 of them, one on the pipe shown in the picture, and there is one on the thermostat pipe that goes to the upper radiator hose. When one of them breaks i just unbolt the whole piece, (like a 10mm bolt) and bolt on a new one. Most of the time they are overtightened. glad to see it worked out

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