Mechanics

CLOGGED RADIATOR OR SOMETHING ELSE?

2002 Chrysler Sebring • 10,000 miles

I have an 02 Chrysler Sebring and in the past 3 months i've changed almost all of my hoses (except for radiator), water pump, and my thermostat. But my car will overheat. My electric fan does come on when I tested my thermostat, so that works. And I have no leaks of coolant anywhere. And I just bleed my coolant. The lower radiator hose is really hot when my car over heats. Does that mean I have a bad head gasket? Or what else could it be? Thanks!
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Cws4kt
September 1, 2012.



A leaking head gasket is a possibility. Your mechanic can perform a combustion gas test at the radiator to identify that. Also look at the cooling fins on the radiator to see if they're corroding away. That will reduce the heat transfer to the air. A clue to that is the overheating will stop or be reduced if you run the heater on "hot" and the heater fan on "high".

Caradiodoc
Sep 1, 2012.
I'm guessing your car is still broken since there isn't a solution posted.
Why did you replace the waterpump and hoses? Was it leaking? People always think it's a waterpump because that's how shady shops make money. Truth is, unless it's leaking or the bushing is going out (rattling noise) waterpumps hardly ever go bad. They are made from fairly solid steal, which rarely breaks under the minimal power of moving liquid, however the vanes can get clogged and need to be cleaned. Same with hoses, unless they are torn and leaking, they aren't bad. Just so you know. I hate it when shady shops try to sell people perfectly good waterpumps.

Chances are, it's the thermostat. You said that the fan came on when testing the thermostat? Are you sure you're talking about the thermostat (typically metal device with spring and wax-filled brass valve which is located inside the upper radiator hose or housing which it connects to) or are you talking about a temp sensor (enclosed thermistor which screws in to the radiator or block/manifold with a couple wires)? Sorry, I'm confused a little by that comment.

Anywho, when you find a solution, please post it. Without solutions, forums are pointless. : -)

Tiny
Heathric
Nov 14, 2012.
Not everyone posts the solution, especially with intermittent problems, because they aren't sure if it's solved yet. We're just here ready to continue the conversation if they come back with more information or questions. Some solutions are very unusual and not likely to occur on another car, so it wouldn't be of any use to post them and think they'll help other people. Some people come back a month or two later to thank us and list the fix once they're sure the problem is solved.

This forum is working just fine. We aren't like other forums where a dozen people post replies and everyone suggests something different. We have one-on-one conversations as long as necessary to reach a solution. In my case that has already taken over 50 replies over the course of a month to track down a problem, but we stick with it without interference from other people. Then all we get is a "thank you" if we're lucky, ... And we're the guys you call shady. You'll notice if you watch the list of postings here that each one goes off the list once someone replies to it. That prevents the confusing and tiring free-for-all you see on those other forums. Here, only the two people involved get automated e-mails directing them back to it when there's a follow-up posted. We don't want a crowd butting in like in other forums. You're welcome to read the posts and add comments or questions, but please don't reply to them with such non-professional comments. Mechanics have a bad reputation already just because people don't understand the machines they trust to get them back home, and comments like yours makes that false impression even worse.

Why do you assume all shops are shady? I've gone into many competitors' shops and overheard customers talking, and it's amazing how they get stuff screwed up. I've met a really lot of good, honest people but they've pretty much given up on bothering to be that way because people like you don't have a clue about how they have to cover their butts to prevent complaints. I can list a hundred examples of when a mechanic has had their customer's best interest at heart and it came back to bite them because the owners were too misinformed to understand or know what was going on.

As for your water pump comment, that can't go unchallenged because other people researching problems will read this and believe you. Many water pumps are driven by the timing belt, and by the time there's a noticeable leak, it's too late. If it's an interference engine and the belt jumps as little as three teeth, open valves can be hit by the pistons and be bent. If you're lucky, that's only a $2500.00 repair bill that all mechanics want to avoid. Recommending a new water pump is the conscientious, smart, and ethical thing to do. The extra 30 to 50 bucks is cheap insurance. What kinds of names would you be calling the professional who tried to save you a few dollars by NOT replacing the water pump, and then it failed and took out the valves and new timing belt? Not replacing the water pump, as you suggested, is the mark of a crook who is hoping the car comes back to his shop another day on a tow truck so he can sell the customer those unneeded parts AND repair the resulting damage.

Please don't call all of us shady when you have never done this professionally. If you think you're somehow more ethical than the rest of us, try doing this for a year. See how long you last before you want to throw in the towel. You'll find out how frustrating it is when people don't believe you when you point out a safety or reliability problem that is going to cause them trouble. See how YOU like it when customers call you names because you tried to warn them about a part that was about to fail. If you would go to an Automotive program in a community college you would learn how all the parts in a car work together, and you would learn how to communicate that effectively so the customer understands what you are trying to do for them.

We are held to much higher standards than doctors. People run from one doctor to another until they find a cure that works. Heaven forbid a mechanic doesn't find the cause of the problem on the first visit. He's obviously shady. Doctors only have to learn two models in varying sizes. Mechanics have to relearn dozens of new systems on dozens of new models every year after year endlessly, and if they only see one of a certain model in a year they are still expected to be an expert on it. People like you will accept "I don't know" from your doctor, and he will send you to a specialist. Why don't you call him shady?

We hear stories all the time about a shop owner being sued because he sold the customer a water pump, (or some other part), that wasn't needed. Then we hear about the other shop owner being sued because he should have known that water pump was going to fail, and if he had replaced it, the new timing belt wouldn't have shredded. You can't have it both ways, but no matter what the mechanic does; saves you money, or replaces every questionable part to insure the reliability of the repair, chances are the customer is not going to be happy.

If you will stand around the service area at any reputable shop, you will see they have a hard time accommodating everyone who comes through the door. We don't need to "make money" by selling unneeded parts and services. We want to go home too at the end of the day. We have more than enough work to fill our 8 to 10-hour days.

If you will reread the original post closer, you will see they never said they were tricked into having the water pump replaced. There's no mention of ever having taken the car to shop, so put the blame where it belongs, if you think there is blame needed here. Why even drag a whole profession into the mud when you don't know the full story?

What about all the water pumps we replace under warranty? Do you think we're shady because we replaced the part that solved a problem or complaint, especially when, according to you, they don't fail? Warranty always pays a lot less time than what the job actually takes. That means the mechanic gets paid fewer hours than he works on the car. It also means he is tied up and can't work on better-paying jobs. The warranty company isn't happy because they're spending money to repair someone else's car. The mechanic isn't happy to be earning less than his training and experience is worth, the shop owner isn't happy because he gets reimbursed less per hour than it takes to run his business, and those better repairs where "we sell you unneeded parts" have to wait. Even the customer is unhappy with the repairs that don't cost them anything because they had to take time out of their busy schedule to drive all the way to the shop and wait. No one is happy with that warranty water pump, but we have to do it.

You'll have to fill me in on clogged water pumps. I've only been working on cars for for 40 years, professionally for 16 years, then teaching Engine Repair for 9 years. What is it you're finding that clogs them, seaweed? Perhaps you have a GM product with Dex-Cool, (Dex-Mud) in the cooling system, but I don't know of anyone who had to unclog a water pump.

Your comment about hoses is what told me you're not a trained professional. "Unless they are torn and leaking, they aren't bad". That's real smart. So you would have someone driving their car in the country on a dark Saturday night assuming their car is reliable because the hose hasn't ruptured, ... Yet. Explain that to your customer on a Monday morning after he tells you how his wife got stranded on a deserted highway. With your logic it is a good hose right up to the minute before it springs a leak. Why do you think they rupture? They rot from the inside where you can't see it. That's why replacing them BEFORE they pop is called "preventive maintenance". You don't tell your customer to not replace the hoses until they pop, then call a tow truck. If any one of us could delete that irresponsible comment we'd do it in a heat beat, because, after all, we want to sell more parts. By that screwed up logic, you don't replace worn tires until the air falls out. You don't buy gas until the tank runs empty, because after all, if the engine is still running, the tank's not empty. You don't replace the belts at the recommended intervals because if they aren't broken, they're not bad.

"Chances are, it's the thermostat"

Dead wrong. That's what most misinformed people jump on first because that's one thing they understand or have heard about for decades. The fact is it is extremely uncommon for them to stick closed on their own. Typically when they fail, they don't close tightly resulting the engine temperature being too low. The most common cause of a properly-sealing thermostat to not open is a leaking head gasket. If the combustion gases pool under the thermostat before it opens, it will not open. The sensing element has to be hit with hot liquid. Hot air won't do it. Most thermostats today have a small bleed hole in them to insure hot coolant can reach it to cause it to open in time. If you think a water pump impeller can get clogged, surely a thermostat bleed hole would clog too, but you've never seen that either.

I don't know what kind of shops you have where you do business, but in my city we have about 15 new-car dealers and dozens of independent shops. Only the Chevy dealer, and the two other dealerships he owns, are known for counties around for being a crook. The four Chrysler dealerships owned by one super-nice family, the GMC dealership, the Cadillac dealership, and most of the import dealers have stellar reputations. There is one well-known independent shop that is very disreputable, and his parking lot is always empty. We also have some really outstanding shops that have people who can diagnose some very difficult problems. Their parking lots are always full. All of these dealers and shops thrive on repeat business and happy customers. Of course customers are not happy with big repair bills but that's not the fault of the mechanics, and that is forgotten while good service is remembered. That's the fault of the manufacturers that think everyone wants a car with way too much unnecessary use of technology. We don't need computers to roll power windows down or turn the heater on but that's what you bought, and when those things break down, as we know they will, it's not our fault. You ARE paying though for our continual training and very expensive specialty tools that we often only use on a few car models for a few years. If I were to post a copy of all the taxes, insurances, and the multitude of expenses the shops have to pay, you too would wonder how they can afford to stay in business by only charging around $100.00 per hour. Our highest-priced shop is a franchise tire dealer. He charges considerably more than any dealership's service shop, and the dealers are right in line with the independent shops. They all have the same expenses and the same government regulations.

Everyone thinks plumbers are rich because of what they charge, but by that logic the cashiers at Burger King are rich too because they sell a hundred burgers per hour at around five bucks each. When you're a backyard mechanic with no formal training, you don't have any of the expenses, and you're free to work at your own pace. Based on your comments about hoses, I don't think you would survive in a professional repair shop where customers look to you for sound advice and quality repairs.

Caradiodoc
Nov 14, 2012.
What a nice report. You must be an unemployed mechanic. When I owned a shop, I didn't have time to write such fine novels.

The original question was asked 3 months ago. I would assume an overheating problem would have been figured out by now, either by fixing the problem or the inevitable destruction of the engine.

Either way, forums are meant to provide solutions. As experts, we can provide solutions and best guesses all we want. Without a response from the person asking the question, we'll never know if the answer given was an accurate solution to the problem. In turn, we'll never be able to add our diagnoses or solutions to our personal knowledge-base and again, the forum in particular, becomes completely worthless, unless you have nothing to do but write long novels tearing apart the posts of others who are trying to help.

Maybe you are the reason why people don't respond. Thank you for contributing to the demise of helpful forums.
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Tiny
Heathric
Nov 15, 2012.
I understand your frustration about the lack of follow-ups. I've heard it from others here and I feel it too, but unlike other forums, I do not consider it rude here to not get a reply. One of the goals of other forums is that knowledge base where people can research problems similar to theirs, but you will notice a dozen people get involved, and the threads drag on and on, and half way down the list of replies the original person isn't even participating any longer. That's like walking into a bar, starting a discussion group, and walking out in the middle of it while everyone is adding to the story.

We aren't about that here. The site owners prefer to have only one expert post a reply, and follow it through to the end. We ask each other for help now and then but not in the thread where you can see it. We also continue some conversations through private e-mail. That's why some threads end abruptly. The goal here is to help that one individual solve their problem. While others can research past fixes here, that is not the purpose of this site. That is real obvious too when you see that a good percentage of my replies are copy and paste replies that I've posted many times. Half the people I help would have found those solutions if they had researched first instead of asked first.

You're right that I am unemployed, but I'm a former mechanic, a former tv repairman, and a former instructor. I worked really hard, sometimes a full-time job and two part-times jobs for four years, and a full-time and part-time job for over 30 years. Now I have no intention on looking for a job when the government takes 51 percent of what I work for. I was doing pretty well in the stock market, but now the government changed the rules. Next year the income tax on dividends will go from the previous 10 percent to 43.4 percent. They stifle what they tax, then think they will take in more money by raising the rates even higher. I'm lucky that I'm young enough to stay home and work on projects at my leisure.

What I mainly take issue with is your calling all mechanics shady. I will never defend a dishonest mechanic or shop, but other than the four I know about in my city, there just isn't that much trouble with fraud or dishonesty. While I was teaching, almost every week I had someone ask me to look at their repair bill and confirm they got ripped off. Almost all the time they changed their opinion after I spent a lot of time explaining what was involved in the diagnosis and repair and why certain things were done the way they were. Most of the people in shops don't have time to spend like that with every customer. They wouldn't get any work done. The biggest majority of problems stemmed from a severe lack of communication. Doctors do not talk with their patients with the same terminology as they do with other doctors. Mechanics can describe a problem and fix in half a sentence to another mechanic, but they have extremely poor communication skills when talking with car owners. Strike one.

Most dealerships don't want mechanics having contact with customers. Instead, they have to relay their diagnosis and cause of the problem to a service adviser who usually never was a mechanic and knows little about cars, but he DOES have good communication skills. Some things get lost in translation, and the service adviser has to translate what he thinks he heard into something he thinks the customer will understand. Strike two.

Customers have many preconceived notions about the cars they know nothing about. Every car that overheats has a bad thermostat because "that's what fixed my neighbor's car". "All you have to do is read the diagnostic fault code and that will tell you which part to replace, so why was I charged an hour for the diagnosis?" One shop gives a repair estimate $100.00 higher than the other shop so we know they're dishonest. There are so many arguments to disprove that notion, and very often the higher estimate is the best value. In addition, customers don't understand much of what they're told so they assume they're being lied to. Your comments perpetuate that. Instead, I take the time to help people understand their concern and make them understand their mechanic is not the enemy. Teachers and students are not adversaries. We are partners working for the same goal. Customers need to look at their mechanics the same way, but they have some responsibilities too. The mechanic is going to have to know all of the related symptoms to know where to start diagnosing the problem. Customers are woefully inept at this. Strike three. Service advisers have learned to not grill the car owner too much for information because it can be too misleading. Instead, the mechanic may have to test-drive the car to see what it's doing. If it's an intermittent problem that acts up once a day, what is he supposed to do with that?

Just read through these forums and count how many times people have posted "my car doesn't start". I roll my eyes now because I see that many times every day. How do you think a doctor would feel if they kept getting phone calls from people saying "I'm in pain"? How can he possibly know if you have a stomach ache, a hang nail, or you cut your foot off with a chainsaw? People don't understand that "doesn't start" can have a dozen different symptoms but that is top secret information that we have to drag out with the same questions over and over. Owners can't understand the difference between an alignment pull and an off-center steering wheel. Normally the mechanic has to test-drive the car to know what to look for on the alignment computer. We don't have that luxury here. Now imagine telling a customer they need a pair of tires to solve the pull when they know the wife's car only needed an alignment. Different cause; same symptoms, and a different diagnosis, so of course the mechanic is just trying to sell a pair of unneeded tires. That lack of understanding about cars is expected. Owners don't have the extensive training and experience of mechanics, but it's only mechanics who are not trusted as a result. I don't know what the daily routine is for my accountant, or the paperwork police officers have to generate, or what's involved in plopping a burger down in front of me, but I don't automatically assume I'm being ripped off by shady people. Strike four.

Some people don't know that "crank" and "turn over" are the same thing, as in "it cranks but won't turn over". Well, does it or doesn't it? Kinda makes a difference on where to start the diagnosis. Some people think "turns over" means turning the ignition switch. Do you see how things get all messed up in communication? The owner could hear the mechanic saying "it doesn't turn over" meaning it doesn't crank due to a bad battery, but what do you suppose he's going to be thinking about that mechanic when he thinks he's referring to turning the ignition switch?

There have been times I've spoken with customers and was amazed that the stories they thought applied to their cars were not even close to what I had given to the service advisers. I found it interesting to learn how it got so twisted, and I rarely found any intent to be dishonest or cost people more money than necessary. We all have the same goal. That is to fix the problem as quickly and inexpensively as possible, but we have to balance that with reliability and the quality of the repair. At issue is where to draw that line between the two; cost and quality. We don't HAVE to machine brake rotors during a routine brake job, but no professional would risk his reputation to try to save a couple of dollars. We don't HAVE to fill your washer fluid or check for loose battery cables during an oil change, but we do. I didn't HAVE to go back and readjust toe a second time during the alignment because it wasn't exactly perfect. You'd never see it in the tire wear, but I'd know it could have been better. That could be another ten minutes per car each day that I gave away. Customers never know about that and they never share with their neighbors the extra care I took on their car. But let me overlook a small detail and the whole neighborhood will know that I'm incompetent and the shop is not to be trusted. You don't hold it against Burger King if they forget your fries. Why do you hold it against an entire industry when a mistake is made on your car?

Keep in mind too that the professionals you deal with rarely have a clue about your level of competence or understanding about cars. Until they learn that, to someone who barely knows how to put gas in, the service adviser may sound arrogant or like he's talking down to the person. To someone with experience with cars, he may sound condescending because he's oversimplifying the diagnosis. Neither of those is rude, fraudulent, or accurate, but it is the perception people are left with. We combat that here too. We have people who don't know what the oil light on the dash means. We also have people who are so far into the diagnosis before they ask for help that it is obvious they know what they're doing. For the rest though, we don't know their skill level or the type of answer they're looking for until we get into the conversation.

And sometimes, (gasp), we get stumped too. Most people understand we are at a disadvantage because we can't see or hear their car, but on occasion someone will post a rude reply when we don't have the right answer. I guess they think we're psychic, but really, ... We aren't that good.

In the future you are more than welcome to ask people for followup information or the final fixes, but don't be offended if there's no reply. Some people get new e-mail addresses so they stop getting the automated e-mails when there's another reply. Sometimes the car is fixed so they don't bother coming back to read what others have posted. Some people try to piggyback on an old post with their similar problem. We don't like that because the only people who will see that are those who had a previous reply. No other experts will ever see it or get a chance to respond, and they might know the exact solution.

With my 40 years as a tv repairman, I'm used to troubleshooting down the component that failed and replacing just that part. I tried to do that as a mechanic too, thinking I was being conscientious and saving people money, but what is acceptable to do on my own car is not always in the customers' best interest. Case in point is a defective generator. I just replaced the nine-dollar brush assembly on my '88 Grand Caravan. It took a leisurely hour. If I messed it up and the repair failed a day later when I'm out-of-town, it's my fault. The bearings could fail too; then what, repair it again? On the job the quality of the repair is guaranteed and will last longer by replacing the entire unit. The part costs more but the labor is a lot less. If you are lucky enough to know how generators work and what is likely to fail on them, you might think your mechanic ripped you off by replacing the entire thing, but it also has a warranty. I could share stories all day about things that I could have done less expensively for my customers, but for every time I was successful, I have another sad story about how my actions saved a few dollars up front, then left the customer stranded on the side of the road at worst, or he had to come back another day for me to make remedial repairs.

What I also found interesting was the customers we knew could least afford the needed repairs were the ones who were the most appreciative of whatever we did to their cars and any attempts at saving them dollars. People with more money were the ones who screamed the loudest if they had to come back a second time. They didn't quibble about the cost. To them time was more valuable and important. They want their cars fixed right the first time, and that's what we were trained to do.

Now, if you'll let me roll up my sleeves and get back to work, I have to stick my nose in a service manual to research a problem, and people are waiting for advice.

Caradiodoc
Nov 16, 2012.
A novel was never required. Nor was a second. Fortunately, I have too much work to even read it.

Anyways, I figure this guy's car is fixed by now. I was just trying to help someone and making a point about proper forum etiquette and common courtesy, in general. Doesn't look like anyone else is here, so I apologize for your documentary never being read. You might want to copy and paste it for other forums you're currently trolling?

Busy Busy, back to work.

Tiny
Heathric
Nov 16, 2012.

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