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Old 09-05-2021, 01:35 AM   #1
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Coolant Leak - may require exorcisam

2004 E350 5.4 engine that sits on a 4X4 SMB 4WD latform. Coolant leak has been on and off for the past 2 years. I have made several changes in the cooling system but after a week or month, the coolant starts to drip again.

Woke up this morning to see a 14" diameter wet spot on the ground. We are camped at about 7500', several miles from the MWTC off of the Sonora Pass Road. During the past 2 years, two mechanics I trust thought they stopped the leak. But I am now losing about a liter/quart of coolant a day. The leak of coolant onto the ground is accellerated when we travel pedal to the floor to get us up a grade.

About a week or four after I get the van back from the shop, the drip starts again. When I look under the hood I can see some of the coolant on top of the resivor, below the resivor, where it dripps on the inner surface of the wheel well/fender and where it finally runs down my front spring pack and onto the ground.

I have used a bottle of the NAPA florescent liquid and the pen light to look for a leak or some indication that the leak can be repaired. I have replaced the coolant and resavoir, put two clamps on the hose that runs from the resivior to the radiator and put on a new radiator cap. If you have solved this problem on a 5.4 SMB rig please let me know. Thanks.
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Old 09-05-2021, 06:19 AM   #2
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My 03 developed a leak from the coolant reservoir a couple of years ago. I couldnít tell exactly where on that plastic bottle it was leaking from, but it was definitely coming from that bottle. Pretty sure it was leaking along a seam, but wasnít positive. I replaced it and the weeping stopped. It did take a year or so for the leak to get bad enough for me to be able to id the exact source.

Now this summer... not sure what the weathers been doing where your at but we set records here for consecutive weeks in a row over a hundred degrees. Itís been marvelous. After a solid 2 months of temps over a hundred my radiator gave up the ghost and developed a crack in the upper tank. Iím also far from alone. Thereís been an econoline of some sort at the radiator shop that I pass everyday for work for months now. 3-4 4wd vans and at least 10 cutaway style rvís. The hot weather spell has been good to the radiator shop. Place has been busy as hell, lol. No pun intended

Also come to find out the radiator installed in my van was incorrect and likely from a gas van. According to my mechanic the one in my rig was only a 2 row setup where the diesel vans should be a 4 row core instead. Seems with the small engine bay that ford would need the best radiator in every model to keep temps down, but what do I know?

On top of that the fins were filled with mud and dirt. Was really surprised with how clogged up it was that I never had any issues with overheating. Will be interesting to see if the normal operating temps come down a bit. After telling this story to a friend he said that he was having issues with his dodge over heating and was told to check the frontside of his radiator for clogs. He said sure enough he went home looked inbetween the condenser and radiator and saw a truck a ton of dirt and mud. Mentioning this in case a search helps someone whose rig is suffering the same
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Old 09-05-2021, 08:02 AM   #3
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Sorry to hear about this situation---I had something remotely related a few years ago on my own 2003 E-250 with the same 5.4. I eventually changed the radiator, fan clutch and the degas bottle with a leak in one of its seams on top. (I wish I'd changed the water pump at the same time because it's begun leaking just enough I'm glad I don't drive it too often any longer, probably heading to the scrap yard by March of 2022. )

So my questions are have you owned this since new or it come to you as it exists now? What modifications have been performed to the factory cooling system?

I'll be interested learning what the florescent dye test reveals.
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Old 09-05-2021, 08:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shenrie View Post

Seems with the small engine bay that ford would need the best radiator in every model to keep temps down, but what do I know?
They do that to reduce cooling losses to increase thermal efficiency of the engine. That's also why pressurized radiator caps exist, to get above 212F coolant temp. The thermal efficiency of all heat engines increases when they run hotter or the surroundings are cooler.

Our old-tech gas vans are around 20% efficient at turning the energy in gasoline into work to move down the road. Over 60% of that energy goes out the radiator as heat, the rest in drivetrain friction and rolling resistance (also ends up as heat). Diesels are a bit better....25%-30%. Modern Atkinson cycle engines in hybrids are getting into the 30% range.

A long time ago a real smart guy named Carnot calculated the max theoretical thermal efficiency of any heat engine; for an internal combustion engine it's about 73%. This is not possible in real life for many reasons, and values any higher than this will violate the second law of thermodynamics.

...now back to our regularly scheduled programming.....
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Old 09-05-2021, 11:53 AM   #5
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My 2001 5.4 developed a leak that I was able to find by pressurizing the degas bottle with a radiator pressure tester. Looking for the leak on a cold engine may be difficult because the system isn’t pressurized like it is when hot. Between the dye you added and the pressure tester you should be able to find the leak. If it holds pressure when pumped up, it’s likely the leak only occurs when the engine is hot but I would certainly expect to see the dye somewhere. https://www.eastwood.com/eastwood-co...=google&wv=3.1
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Old 09-05-2021, 01:04 PM   #6
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Looks like Oreilly's has the tester and cap adapters in their tool loaner program as well.


https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/c...set/ren1/67086


https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/c...kit/ren1/67085
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Old 09-05-2021, 03:03 PM   #7
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Thank you all for the information. This problem is probably simple enough that I have overlooked something. Since the coolant was dripping from the resivior, I replaced it and the cap about 18 months ago but not the hose. A month later the drip returned. Coolant was againn dripping onto the top of the drivers side fender under the resivior. Used the dye and penlight to confirm that the coolant was coming from above the drivers side front fender and nowherre else.

Last year we were driving north out of Susanville, CA when steam began spewing out from under the hood and the engine came to an abrupt stop. It was 3pm on a Friday. I had just enough momentum to get off the road and onto the shouder. Opened the hood. Everything was wet. Whatever happened, all of the coolant was spewed onto every part of the engine and it soaked the air filter. Checked the radiator for any split cores or puncture. Only saw a few bent fins from when it was installed. No tears in the system or leaks from the hoses.

Bless the 5.4. I took out the soggy air filter and the 5.4 started up. I turned the van around and headed to the Ford dealer on the south side of town. This is the second time I have had to drive my van with no coolant. Pulled into the Ford dealer service area. Manager said that I need a new radiator but it would not get to him until Monday. I told him about the drip. He said he would look at it.

Monday: Got a call from Ford garge at about 3pm. I was told the radiator got there and I could pick up the van on Tues morning. Charged $400 for the "new" radiator and $400 for labor. I asked to see the old radiator but, despite State law, I was told it had already been shiped to the dump.

We continued to drive toward Eugene. When we stopped to camp outside of Shasta I looked at the "new"radiator. The supposedly "new" radiator looked a lot like the old one and it had the same number of bent fins on each side. Since we were behind time and the van was running, I just let it go.

Over the winter we had no problems with coolant leaking from anywhere. This spring I had new motor mounts installed. While they were deep into the compartment they also replaced the A/C system. Everything was just duckey until June. The drip returned but at odd intervals. It would leak small amounts of coolant when the engine was hot. Counterintuitivly, it also dripped coolant at night when the temperatures were cool (<50F). Looks like it is coming from the resivoir again.

Put more water in yesterday and drove up to Levitt Lake. Slow crawl for about 2 miles. No leak on the way up but when I stopped to disengage the front hubs I looked at the resivior. It was down about 1.5 quarts. Got back to camp and parked. The coolant in the resivior looked to be about 1/2 pint. I let it sit for the night.

This morning there was a 6" wet spot on the ground. Since the resivoir is empty I will take it off and look for any cracks in it and the hose. I hear the day time temps will be in the 70s tomorrow. If I cannot find any cracks in the hose or container I will dig a bit deeper. Anyone know if the JB "epoxy for plastic" will stick to whatever the resivior is made of? If not can I use a 12V lead and "weld" a crack together (if I can figure out how to ground it)? If not I can try to screw a plate over some really good sealant I carry
with us so that we can get back to Carson City.
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Old 09-05-2021, 03:59 PM   #8
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Don't park on the wet spot...
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Old 09-06-2021, 12:46 AM   #9
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Thanks eddyturn...I won't. Arctictraveler mentioned that he found cracks in his degas bottle. Took the bottle off and held it up to the sunlight and found two 2" cracks making their way down from the fill line. I bought this machine because I did not want to get stranded between Dawson and Chicken or in some remote slot in Death Valley. I replaced the degas bottle not long ago. I think that I paid around $130 or so for an after market part. I thought that the price was too high until I looked at the Ford listing. I used some good construction adhesive and then made an aluminum compression strap that will hopefully keep the cracks from opening up when it is hot or cold. Put everything back together and drove the van several miles. When I got back I put a piece of paper under the bottle to see if it will leak again tonight. I suspect that the repair will hold until I get to Cedar Mesa, Saline Valley or Beartooth Pass.
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Old 09-09-2021, 11:40 AM   #10
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SMB Coolant Leak

I had a coolant leak on driver side. One of the hoses was routed in contact with the steering column and eventually rubbed through. Local Ford deal did the repair, total PITA due to tough access, but got it routed with a little clearance and no problems since.
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