A Cloud of Steam

People must have thought I was driving a coal-powered car. Waiting at a drive-through on a warm day, steam started venting from the overflow pipe, accompanied by a loud, low moan from the relief valve.

And I thought the squeaky suspension was embarassing.

I let the engine cool a while and made it home, finally coming to a stop in the driveway where steam continued to vent for some time, enveloping the car and drifting majestically up and over the neighbor’s house. I refilled the radiator–it didn’t take much–and for the next few days couldn’t drive more than a mile or two without overheating the car.

I thought I was dealing with a bad radiator cap–one that just wouldn’t hold pressure, but in the end the coolant level was just too low, and had apparently been falling for some time.

I filled the system completely about a year ago when the new water pump went in. Though some loss is expected over time, I’m going through it too quickly.

The possible reasons are not numerous, and generally not good. Best case scenario is that maybe it wasn’t filled all the way up in the beginning and wasn’t able to handle a warm day. Barring that, a blown head gasket is the next most likely culprit for missing coolant.

Replacing a head gasket is not an expensive proposition if you do it yourself, but it’s heavy time consuming work. (The engine generally needs to come out.) The first step, though, is to test the compression to see if the gasket is indeed the problem.

Stay tuned.

3 thoughts on “A Cloud of Steam”

  1. Steve, I’m going to bet/hope no on the head gasket option. I’ve been through that twice in the past (GM products). When that happens water/coolant enters the engine itself and the steam is instantaneous and there’s no driving another minute without producing steam. It almost inevitably exits from the exhaust as well, and you look like you’re in a David Copperfield magic trick; it looks like dense vaporized milk and can fog an entire intersection. Sounds like yours may be less dramatic than that, suggesting a cooling system repair. Just guessing. But if anyone can replace his own head gasket, well, I have total faith in you. Good luck, champ. Paul

  2. The car looks very nice, almost the same as mine, except I have a black interior (and yours is in better shape 🙂 ). Did you or did somebody remove the chrome side moldings from the fenders and doors? I have to say it cleans up the look of the car.

    Could your freeze plugs be leaking?

    1. I believe the chrome side pieces were only installed on the 65 model year.

      So far, haven’t found any leaks . . .

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