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What color is your radiator fluid? (plus other topics)

Discussion in '80-Series Tech' started by Altaf, Feb 20, 2004.

  1. Altaf

    Altaf

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    I was looking at the radiator of a '96 LX 450 (aka Land Cruiser) and noticed that the radiator fluid was brown, kind of like engine oil. I heard its supposed to be red, but is it red like automatic transmission fluid or another shade? Is it possible that the engine oil has gotten into the radiator and mixed with it somehow?

    ***EDIT***
    In this thread are discussions about radiator fluid, temperature gauge, rear main seal, and differential lockers. So look around! :D
     
  2. ginericLC

    ginericLC Wagon Wheeler! SILVER Star

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    You probably need a flush and refill with the right stuff. Somebody probably mixed green with the red making the brown. The red is actually more of an orange/pink color than a true red.
     
  3. Junk

    Junk

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    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    Should be Toyota Red. You have any sludge you can see? If so, you got problems. You may have problems if you can't see it, but if you can, then they are bigger probs. A lot of previous owners have mixed green with red which equates to gunk over the long haul.
     
  4. Altaf

    Altaf

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    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    Let me give everyone a little more background info...

    I just purchased this vehicle from the dealer a day ago and was driving along when the engine oil light came on. I pulled over and noticed that there was about an 1/8" of oil on the dipstick! I put two quarts of oil and drove home. I checked the other fluids that night and noticed the radiator fluid was brownish. When I soaked a white paper towel with the radiator fluid, it was brown, very much like engine oil brown.

    I've taken the car back to the dealer to have it checked out. When I showed the service writer the brown paper towel and asked him to identify the fluid, he didn't know what it was or where it came from. I told him it was from my radiator, and he then said that he recognized it and that my truck requires that type of red fluid (even though the fluid I showed him was not red). So now I'm a little skeptical what is going on with the truck and asking for your thoughts.

    Thanks for the feedback… keep’em coming.
     
  5. MoJ

    MoJ Moderator

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    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    1. Get a good coolant system flush
    2. Replace with correct coolant
    3. Verify the other fluids are ok.
    4. Drive around with a smile on your face because you have an 80.
     
  6. NovaFZJ80

    NovaFZJ80

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    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    Definitely do a coolant flush and replace all fluids as a precaution...Thats what i am slowly doing with my LC i got recently. The coolant in my radiator is red, however the overflow tank is a bit darker red. Trying to do as much preventive maintance on it that i can.
     
  7. Rich

    Rich

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    As reported by others Toyota factory fill coolant is red. Let this get old or mix the normal Prestone green coolant and you get nasty looking brown coolant.

    The other problem being mentioned is that a number of owners, including me, have discovered radiators partly or mostly blocked by grey sludge that collects mostly in top of the radiator tubes. I have read various theories as to the origin of this sludge, but no convincing explanations. One theory is that mixing Prestone and Toyota coolant causes the problem, but the problem also happened to CDan, who bought his truck new and uses only Toyota coolant, so that casts considerable doubt as coolant mixing being the cause. Others have reported that Toyota says the grey sludge is casting sand, but it looks more like mud than sand to me and in some cases there is so much the top of the radiator is totally covered quite deep.

    I believe the root cause is a failure of the coolant in some manner that results in either considerable corrosion or considerable precipitation of additives out of the coolant. This is conjecture on my part.

    Anyway, what you should do is have enough coolant drained from the radiator so that you can see the tops of the tubes from the filler opening on the top of the tank. If you have the problem, it should be visible there, as that side of the top tank is where most of the sludge collects in the radiator.

    If you have the sludge, then at minimum the radiator needs to be removed and pressure flushed, or the tanks removed and rodded out, or the radiator replaced and the engine block flushed best as possible.

    The sludge also collects elsewhere in the cooling system, including the heater cores.

    This sludge can lead to overheating. The overheating problem is compounded by the fact that the factory temp gauge is designed to lie. Once the engine is at normal temp the gauge sits in the middle, even it if continues to get hotter. The engine has to get really hot before the gauge moves up to the red zone. This behavior can mask an engine that, due to cooling system problems, is running hotter than it should.

    I know from 200 - 226 degrees my temp gauge sits in the middle. I don't know how hot it would have to get to move up from the middle. One of my projects is to determine why the coolant gauge is so nonlinear and modify it so that it more accurately reports engine coolant temp.

    Rich
     
  8. quicktodoze

    quicktodoze

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    I've had two cars that had major overheating problems and now I keep a close watch on my temp gauge in any car. If the stock gauge stops in the middle and jumps to red only after overheating, this is bad news but good to know. You're sure that this is by design, not just a sensor prob?

    Nic
     
  9. landtank

    landtank SILVER Star

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    My theory about the sludge is quite simple. We have a known design flaw in the HG, we also realise that there is a sludge problem. I personally am not aware of any other model Toyotas that have this problem. So why would anyone think it's the fluid? Mixing different fluid types isn't good but why is only the 4.5L engine effected?

    It's the gasket, period! The sludge is a by-product of the gasket leaking combustion gases into the cooling jacket. Slowly at first but once the sludge builds up enough to hamper cooling then it's quick trip to a total failure. I'm sure under normal situations the temp guage is adiquate. There is no way these or any engine shouldn't survive a slight increase in operating temperatures even for an extended time.

    I'm so convinced about this next month the gasket gets changed. Mark my words.....It's the gasket, nothing more!
     
  10. ppc

    ppc M Go Blue

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    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    With the oil level down two quarts and the coolant in the condition you describe I think this cruiser has had a hard life and not properly maintained. The dealer at minimum should have done an oil change, inspection etc. before putting on their lot. This sounds like a very poor dealer. If possible I would look a the option of returning it and get your money back.
     
  11. RavenTai

    RavenTai

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    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    just flushed mine. replaced PHH and thermostat,

    the old fluid was a mix of red and green, when light hit the surface it reflected green but if you looked through it (back-lit like in the overflow bottle and in my drain pan) looked red/brown really odd the way it changed colors

    if you have oil you your cooling system it will float to the surface of the radiator and overflow bottle, if it is in there long enough and mixed throughly it will form a white milky substance

    a note on the PHH I have not seen before, the transmission dip stick tube is 2 pieces if you remove the 2 bolts holding the upper part, one on the intake another on the bell housing the upper portion of the dip stick tube can be moved out of the way, I would not have been able to do it with that tube in place
     
  12. otis22

    otis22

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    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    just did my flush yesterday. Had a mix of red and green, looked brownish in the plastic bottle, but once it drained out of the radiator and engine block it was more of a clearish red.
     
  13. MoJ

    MoJ Moderator

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    [quote author=quicktodoze link=board=2;threadid=11820;start=msg107873#msg107873 date=1077302203]
    I've had two cars that had major overheating problems and now I keep a close watch on my temp gauge in any car. If the stock gauge stops in the middle and jumps to red only after overheating, this is bad news but good to know. You're sure that this is by design, not just a sensor prob?

    [/quote]

    Nic -
    I'll second Rich's comment on the inaccuracy of factory temp gauges. A few year back Car & Driver published an article on this very topic. According to the article all major auto manufactures purposely make the gauge insensitive to variations in temp thus reducing the number of folks who show up at the dealer for warranty work every time the gauge is not reading dead center. When I read the article it made perfect sense. On a few occasions when driving through southern Utah across the desert in a Honda the outside temps would be 110-120-125 (110 miles between any sign of civilization). Being that there's not many cops in that area I would average over 100 mph for over an hour, running the hell out of the car. I was always baffled that the temp gauge never budged, not even slightly. As long as the vehicle is within the spec tolerance for normal operating temp most temp gauges will point to the middle.
    -Jason
     
  14. Gumby

    Gumby Supamod Staff Member s-Moderator

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    Mine was red, then brownish, then bright green, then bright green again, then bright green again and now orange, which is the color of prestones new you-can-mix-it-with-anything coolant. I change it so often I don't worry about Toyota red lasting longer. Every fall I need a vehicle to demonstrate a coolant flush on, so my coolant only lasts a year at the most anyway.
     
  15. cruiserdan

    cruiserdan SupportingVendor Emeritus Moderator

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    Ahhh yes,

    The perks of running a child-labor sweat shop......... :rolleyes:

    That being said, my vehicle has been the demo for transmission fluid exchange, power steering fluid exchange, new alignment rack training,................... ;)
     
  16. landtank

    landtank SILVER Star

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    The one time I knew the truck was running a little warm was driving out of Death Valley. It was 130 deg f and a hell of a climb. The AC shut itself off. After a few minutes I turned it back on and it was fine.
     
  17. Rich

    Rich

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    [quote author=landtank link=board=2;threadid=11820;start=msg107951#msg107951 date=1077312468]
    The one time I knew the truck was running a little warm was driving out of Death Valley. It was 130 deg f and a hell of a climb. The AC shut itself off. After a few minutes I turned it back on and it was fine.
    [/quote]

    This is how I know the guage lies. I have made the same trip, same place, outside temp 127+ F. According to spec the AC cuts off with at a coolant temp of 226. With my AC cut off due to high temp limit my coolant temp gauge was still sitting happily in the middle. All I know is that if everything was according to spec my coolant was at least 226 degrees; it probably was hotter. I want my gauge to accurately indicate the coolant temp. 226 degrees is hotter than normal. I would like my gauge to tell me when the coolant is hotter than normal. It doesn't do that.
     
  18. scottm

    scottm

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    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    My '97 was dealer maintained, got the records to prove it, but green coolant. I flush and fill with Prestone Orange every year. It's doing the job so far, and hopefully the sludge won't accumulate further, wherever it's coming from.
     
  19. robbie

    robbie Guest

    Re:What color is your radiator fluid?

    Several years ago when prestone orange extended life coolant came out I started useing it. I then noticed stuffing happening that I never had happen with coolant before, hose creep being one of these, deposits in the radiator, head gasket failures, etc. I worked for my self doing mobile service and it hurt to lose labor and money (replacing parts etc.) I did some reasearch on the web and found articles written on the subject of extended life coolant. The eruopean model of a cooling system was the best for extended life antifreeze. It was totaly closed system unlike the Japanese or US vechicles. The open systems alllowed more oxygen into the system and allowed more breakdown of the coolant, thus not getting full life out of the coolant.
    My experence like most of the others that posted is your coolant is either real old and not doing it job or is a mix and not doing its job.
    I believe that the coolant can not handle the slight squeeking of compression gasses and burns the fluids and breaks down sooner. Also it does not handle all the disimliar metals in the engine as well. The only differences between the 95-97 80's and the 93-94 coolant systems is the radiator, aluminum (95-97), brass and copper(93-94). But fuel managment systems changed also in 95 to OBDII and this runs the engine leaner to get better emissions and fuel milage. So a different electrolisis is set up breaking down the coolant and then it not controling corosion, this I think is what we see in deposits. I see more deposit building up faster in the 95-97 trucks then in the 93-94. Just my thoughts. later Robbie
     
  20. Altaf

    Altaf

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    What color is your radiator fluid?

    Got a call from the dealer today, looks like there is a leak which has caused the oil level to be so low, even though I did not see any oil on my driveway or garage. I didn't get any details regarding exactly where it is leaking, but I should have the truck back early next week. They also said that the radiator fluid is fine, but after reading everyone's posts, I will double check it and probably get the system flushed soon.

    I'll post an update when I get the truck back next week.