92 3FE overheating HELP!

Nov 24, 2010
Florida panhandle
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Hi all,

At 205,000 miles my 3FE suddenly started overheating. It'll run fine for 20-30 minutes at normal operating temp, then spike up and when I pull over coolant is overflowing. I replaced the radiator, cap, hoses and fan clutch 5000 miles ago. Note- apparently a certain idiot (me) didn't install the brand new thermostat sitting in my parts kit, been running the past 5000 w/no thermostat. First thought was an air bubble so I flushed the system 3 times with distilled, refilled with distilled/Toyo red, issue continues.

Obviously head gasket comes to mind, but:
-oil is clean, no coolant, changed and checked​
-coolant is clean​
-tested for exhaust gases in coolant, negative​
-no white smoke​
I'm leaning heavily towards water pump, looking for other ideas before I disassemble the girl. If I do the water pump, aside from the obvious (all hoses) anything else I should do while I'm in there since fan clutch is practically new? Going to pull the radiator for access and rebuild the PS while I'm at it.

Thanks in advance!
Nov 9, 2012
Olathe, KS, USA
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If you have been running with NO thermostat, the engine will never get up to temp. Overheating is a serious issue and if coolant is boiling out of the radiator and overflow, what does your temp gauge show?

If that's case, I would look first at the fan clutch (not the water pump), meaning your fan is not actually pulling air through the radiator.

Did you install a new radiator cap as well? What brands on radiator and cap currently?


Jan 19, 2005
South west utah
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If it is the water pump going bad on your 3fe than there should be coolant coming out of the weep hole on the bottom of the water pump.

Unless you really cooked the engine than your head gasket should be fine on the 3fe.

Did you use an oem rad cap and oem (aisin) fan clutch?

Did you ever get the thermostat installed?

If it were mine I would be doing a pressure test on the system to check for leaks.

Cooling systems needs to be sealed and pressurized to work correctly. Thus the need for a quality oem cap designed to the correct pressure specs.

As soon as a cooling system loses pressure the coolant will boil and loose its cooling ability.

Also check your belts and make sure they are all properly tensioned.

If you do decide to pull the radiator I would recommend removing everything other than the ac compressor from the front of the motor. Than you can take the time to clean the engine well. I would also clean and r&r everything removed including the threads on the two belts tensioner/adjusters and the two idler pulleys/bearings. Obviously it would be smart to also change the belts and all hoses while your in there.

When I did this to my 91 the biggest problem I had was with my thermostat housing. It was badly corroded and needed a lot of work. The thermostat housings are NLA and $300+ for a used one. Because of this I would recommend taking your time to restore your thermostat housing as good as you can. And be careful with all the old sensors, some of them are very expensive.

I went this route on my 91 and the engine idled so much smoother and quieter.

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