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Old 03-12-2015, 10:40 AM   #1
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89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pass

Recently picked up my first SMB and promptly proceeded to head out on a week long road trip with it the day after I got it. I've probably made smarter decisions in my life but I've learned a ton about these things in the past week.

For the most part she ran great. It's a 1989 e250 with the 5.8. I think it has the C6 tranny and it has the Gear Vendors under/overdrive. About 3k miles ago she got a full engine rebuild. On the highway we cruise right along at 65 no problems, gas mileage could be a little better (10 - 12) but it's about what I expected. My previous van is a 1990 e250 conversion van (no RV stuff, probably weighs much less than the SMB) with the 7.5 460. The new van seems way down on power compared to the old van but I think that's expected as it's got a smaller engine and way more weight to get up to speed.

I'm trying to determine if I should be concerned about this or if I just have unrealistic expectations of what this old girl can do. On this trip we were headed for a stop in Lake Tahoe. Heading south from Truckee, CA we had to climb Brockway summit on highway 267. This is a relatively steep mountain pass that tops out somewhere around 7.2k feet. The van made it just shy of the summit before getting too hot to go anymore, I had to pull over and let her cool off. Once cooled off we made it the rest of the way and I didn't have any issues the rest of the trip.

The oil looks good, the coolant had been previously topped off, I wasn't towing anything or loaded up with what would seem to me like an unusually heavy amount of gear.

Should I be concerned or is this to be expected?

Here she is while stopped somewhere in Oregon for a lunch break

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Old 03-12-2015, 11:50 AM   #2
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

Have the catalytic converter checked for back pressure at a muffler shop. Should be free...
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Old 03-12-2015, 05:25 PM   #3
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

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Have the catalytic converter checked for back pressure at a muffler shop. Should be free...

Did that, cats totally hollow so it's not that.
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Old 03-12-2015, 05:29 PM   #4
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

Unless you know it's been done, I would replace the radiator, thermostat and hoses. Not trying to throw money at a problem, but I believe in this on any older van. They are heavy, and they get hot. I like to minimize it any way I can.
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Old 03-12-2015, 05:39 PM   #5
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

Tranny cooler also.
Check your fan clutch.
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Old 03-12-2015, 05:45 PM   #6
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

Check timing and advance.
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Old 03-12-2015, 06:43 PM   #7
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

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Originally Posted by dfinn
I've probably made smarter decisions in my life but I've learned a ton about these things in the past week.
Maybe, but you've (we've) made plenty worst.

It would have got new coolant after the rebuild, still nice and clean? I'm guessing the they would have done a proper flush, but... Ramsey's timing idea is a good,cheap start.
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Old 03-12-2015, 08:15 PM   #8
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

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Check timing and advance.
How do you check and/or advance timing on an EFI engine?
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Old 03-12-2015, 08:18 PM   #9
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

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Originally Posted by macdadmorgan
It would have got new coolant after the rebuild, still nice and clean? I'm guessing the they would have done a proper flush, but... Ramsey's timing idea is a good,cheap start.
Yup, still looks nice and clean. And topped off.

I'm thinking about maybe having the compression checked (probably something I should have done before handing over thousands of dollars) but it's about $150 so holding off on that until it's one of the last options.
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Old 03-12-2015, 08:30 PM   #10
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Re: 89 e250 SMB with 5.8 struggles to climb high altitude pa

My 89 E150 did the same thing in central Washington last summer. Was almost to the top and had to pull over to let her cool down. Did some checking when I got home and realized that there is no coolant resivoir to catch the expanded radiator coolant when it gets hot. Was probably running low on coolant. After it cooled down I added more coolant and had no issues going up and down hills in 95 degree weather for the rest of the trip. Am planning on adding the resivoir next month.
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