Operation Keep Cool

I have been stacking up parts over the last few weeks, planning the next small project for the Cutlass. I am upgrading the cooling system so there is less worry of overheating during the Hot Rod Power Tour. I can’t believe Power Tour is less than 60 days away.

Since my car was born with a 2 barrel, Olds 350, automatic transmission, without air conditioning, it was not optioned with the heavy duty cooling. This means it had the smaller, non thermal fan, smaller radiator, and no fan shroud. My plan is to install a 4 row aluminum radiator, fan shroud, heavy duty fan, and fan clutch.

My first step with any of my garage projects is spraying bolts with penetrating solution. I let the oil soak into the transmission line connections and the petcock so that I wouldn’t have to fight with them. While those items soaked, I cleaned and applied a coat of paint to the radiator cover plate.

Once I lined up the drain pan, I opened the petcock to release the coolant from the radiator. I was surprised to see how clean and green the used coolant was as it filled the pan. Dark, dirty, or rust colored coolant is an indication of a bad radiator or other engine problems. I then opened the radiator cap to depressurize the system. Then on to removing the upper hose, lower hose, and hard transmission lines.

In removing the transmission lines, it it important to use the right tools. This line wrench allows you to grab the connector without risk of stripping or rounding the bolt head. Rounding these connectors would mean replacing the entire hard line back to the transmission or possible issues later.

Another tip for minimizing risk to the coolant system is using rubber caps on the transmission lines while they are disconnected. This helps keep debris and air out of the line while you work. These can be purchased at your local auto parts store. These caps were from a recent brake line purchases. I try to reuse when I can.

Since I am also replacing the fan and fan clutch, I then removed the belts, pulley, and fan. My car came with a non thermal fan, meaning it was always turning based on the engine speed. I am replacing it with a thermal clutch fan which slows down or speeds up the fan based on the engine temperature. This method helps the engine get up to operating temperature during cold starts, reduces fan speed on the highway, and overall improves gas mileage.

I am waiting for a few more parts to arrive, so after test fitting the radiator I called it a day. The radiator squeezed into the stock location. After massaging the radiator top plate and trimming the holder bushings, it fit.

Stay tuned as Power Tour Long Haul prep continues with the final installation and testing. I have a few other maintenance items to complete before the Cutlass is back on the road. Join the mailing list so that you don’t miss a moment of the action.

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