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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
1995 Impala SS, approximately 39,000 miles. Car doesn't get driven much.

Went to check on warm air conditioning and found that the front of the motor is pretty greasy. Also found some pretty extensive sludging in the coolant overflow bottle, smells/feels petroleum based. There's also evidence on the front of the water pump of coolant. Last couple times I drove it I got a low-coolant light for just a moment, but the car had been sitting for a couple of months so I didn't think much of it. There has been a mild drip when the car is parked. I haven't particularly smelled oil while driving, including yesterday when I had windows down due to the AC not working.

I've read some of the older threads talking about the radiator oil cooler going bad and high oil pressures pushing oil into the coolant. I figure that's likely the cause of the contamination, but with the timing of the front of the motor being greasy and the evidence of possible coolant leaking at the water pump wanted to get opinions on if these are separate problems that are coinidentally happening at the same time, or if they're related. I haven't dug-in too far yet obviously.

Car doesn't feel like engine power is affected.
 

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You got a lo-miler there, a shame the 'dirty' part but that's treatable. If you haven't flushed the AF in a scheduled periodic manner it can set to corrosifying, hence the cruddy tank and hopefully not rotted oil pipe.

A coolant drip is bad for millions of reasons, but the worst 4 are dripping right on the opti, dripping on the belt, not building proper operating pressure, and it's uglier on an Impala SS than most other cars.

If the front is greasy, then the back of the motor and the valve covers may be leaking and the 'oil' smell is it's getting burned on the manifold. A car that's 25 years old and especially a lo-miler, likely has all kinds of cracking and shrinking gaskets and sealant.

In front there's the WP drive seal, and the crank seal. Intake leaks are common. It would help most just to clean the SYt! outta the engine and see where all the grease and coolant leaks are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'll probably give it a pressure-washing before I work on it, so that I can get the old crud off to see what new fluids come out.

Just to clarify the drip is not coolant. Probably oil, orignally I was thinking power steering fluid but the crud on the front of the engine has changed my mind.

Always something to work on isn't there?
 

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Tell me about it. Have you had yours since new? That's the case with my Impala SS, and I can usually come up with a couple $hundred every few months on maint. upkeep items just to keep me super confident in it. Loop back with what you find - or hopefully the fix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I bought it about eight or so years ago, with around 6000 miles on it.

Thinking about order of operations here.

Cooling system requires being flushed in order to get the gunk out. The effectiveness of this may be improved if I remove the water pump prior to flushing as I can force high pressure spray in through there.

If the water pump is off then I may as well consider replacing it at this time, and even if it itself is fine (which I'm not confident of) I should investigate the seal on the shaft that drives it.

With the lack of mechanical cooling fan there's a lot of room in the front of this engine bay, but is there enough room to pull the main crank pulley and its mount off of the crank without pulling the radiator or electric fans? If I have to pull the radiator anyway, maybe it makes sense to replace it instead of just bypassing the oil cooler.

So I guess, besides the water pump driver and the front main seal on the crank, is there anywhere else in front where I could have a leak that needs attention while I have it apart? If I'm going to be in this deep I may as well do everything. I assume I'll need to at least check the accessory mounting bolts (AC compressor was replaced within the last couple years, so for all I know a bolt has backed out to cause a leak) but are there any other penetrations or gaskets that are known problematic? How does the timing cover gasket seem to hold up?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Found a video that seems pretty good:

 

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do the flush before you tear it apart. can just use regular old water, this makes it easy to tell when majority of crap is gone because the water will run clear. you may want to use a chemical flush and reverse flush the heater core and GENTLY blow it out with shop air. once water pump is off, pull block drains to completely drain (i generally do this during the flush as it speeds up the process, your choice). once job is done fill with new coolant.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
nod

Will do.

So far based on that video series I think the following order makes sense:

  1. pressure wash to clean
  2. flush cooling system out
  3. pull front of motor apart, removing main pulley bolts before pulling the belt.
  4. clean up the timing cover and the rest of the front of the engine.
  5. change seals for water pump, distributor, and front main
  6. inspect optispark for problems and replace parts as necessary
  7. change any/all buried cooling hoses
  8. reinstall knock sensors/drain holes
  9. Inspect vacuum lines for oil damage and replace as necessary
  10. install distributor and install main pulley
  11. temporarily install intake tube and test-fire engine to make sure it runs for a moment
  12. install new thermostat on new water pump
  13. install new water pump on engine, without forgetting the drive shaft
  14. Install belt (belt was recently replaced, should be OK, otherwise replace if needed)
  15. pull and replace radiator
  16. change main cooling hoses
  17. change oil and filter
  18. check transmission fluid and top off as needed

Anything else I should do while in there? I'm tempted to delete the smog pump and get the sticker for the smog pump disable. Thing is we still do emissions inspection, the sticker doesn't say the pump can be deleted, just that it can be disabled. Not sure if I still need to leave it present or if I can get away with a full removal.
 

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A slight hybrid to both of yours I find most effective, plus easy. Drain old crap as miuch as lower hose connection allows, water refill, run to temp, drain again. Pull pump blast the motor thru the WP block ports until clear. GENTLY hose out the heater, both directions, reinstall pump, water fill, run to temp. Empty heater and hoses to get more initial AF volume space, remove and clean the $UT! outta the reserv. with TSP or something, reconnect everything, try to get 2 1/2 gallons AF concentrate in, and fill up with distilled water. Run open up to temp (or until it rises out of the reserv., cap, let it build pressure, check for leaks, burp, and let sit to bone cold. Refill any drop in reservoir, repeat run up to temp. and burp and cool. Forget it for 4 years.

Our motors have no block drains. Some guys tear out the knock sensors (don't hear too many unscrewing intact after a qtr. century) and get extra settlement out that way. On a 39k-miler with history, just weigh whether worthwhile.

Plenty of room to remove the pulley. You din't mention it, but even with 39k no better time to do a cap n rotor on the opti. Search for several good threads on 'blueprinitng opti'. If you don't you'll get to redo everything again in a month. Buy only a cap with copper pins - I hear MSD?? has them now, also check AC Delco. All companies change manuf. around in cycles of good quality-cheapen-goes to $UT!-bad rep-improve-repeat.

No better time to do plugs/wires while everything's opened up. Plenty of excellent threads on that too.
 

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Warning Warning Crosspost Alert! LOL


A slight hybrid to both of yours I find most effective, plus easy. Drain old crap as miuch as lower hose connection allows, water refill, run to temp, drain again. Pull pump blast the motor thru the WP block ports until clear. GENTLY hose out the heater, both directions, reinstall pump, water fill, run to temp. Empty heater and hoses to get more initial AF volume space, remove and clean the $UT! outta the reserv. with TSP or something, reconnect everything, try to get 2 1/2 gallons AF concentrate in, and fill up with distilled water. Run open up to temp (or until it rises out of the reserv., cap, let it build pressure, check for leaks, burp, and let sit to bone cold. Refill any drop in reservoir, repeat run up to temp. and burp and cool. Forget it for 4 years.

Our motors have no block drains. Some guys tear out the knock sensors (don't hear too many unscrewing intact after a qtr. century) and get extra settlement out that way. On a 39k-miler with history, just weigh whether worthwhile.

Plenty of room to remove the pulley. You din't mention it, but even with 39k no better time to do a cap n rotor on the opti. Search for several good threads on 'blueprinitng opti'. If you don't you'll get to redo everything again in a month. Buy only a cap with copper pins - I hear MSD?? has them now, also check AC Delco. All companies change manuf. around in cycles of good quality-cheapen-goes to $UT!-bad rep-improve-repeat.

No better time to do plugs/wires while everything's opened up. Plenty of excellent threads on that too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I'm not too concerned about trying to pull the knock sensors. I have a two post shorty lift so I can get the car up high to get good access, and I've pulled various lower plugs on other vehicles I've done cooling system service on. When I did the cooling system on a '95 Hardbody I flushed so hard I got sand from the original engine block casting process out that had been in there for more than twenty years.

If the knock sensors don't seem to want to come out I won't force them out, but if I can get them out without destroying them I'll try that.

I'll look into distributor parts and plug wires. Once I have an idea of parts prices I'll know how much I want to do at this time.
 

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gently use a pipe wrench or chain wrench on them. once you start cranking on then by the centre they generally let go and will spin inside the housing. i've actually never reused them just found this was the best to remove them. i think they torqur to 14 ft-lbs or something, definetly dont over torque them.
 

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More on the sensors. Attempt 'tightening' them ever slightly to break rust before backing out. Do NOT use teflon tape or anything more than the sealant they come with.

At 39k, 15. on the list seems a bit much without evidence of visual or operating issues.
Alot of up front planning should turn out a good job. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Doesn't the sludge in the cooling system indicate the oil cooler circuit is broken inside of the radiator?
 

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Could be. But until and unless any additional symtoms and more detailed indicators than just 'sludge' Ima go with crap decayed oxidized coagulated coolant until proven otherwise. You might google 'really crap looking coolant' and see if anything looks similar to yours.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It did remind me a bit of when I'd had a head gasket failure on my old '97 Stratus. Granted in that car it was a leak between cylinders and the cooling system, pushing exhaust into the coolant, not oil.

We'll see. I've yet to put a parts order together.
 

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you could always take a sample of the coolant and get it tested at a lab. this is a cheap way (IMO) without having to pull anything. I also when working on older vehicles pull the rad and take it to rad shop to get flushed and pressure tested. they can test trans and oil coolers at the same time. just another cheap insurance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
This car is pre-dexcool, still running glycol, green dot on cap and everything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Whose water pump drive shaft, camshaft, and front main seals do you guys like? For the crank I see Timken, National, and a couple of Delco options at around $2 and around $10.

It looks like for the cam and water pump, I may be better off buying a timing cover gasket kit, which also includes the likely-unnecessary timing-cover to block gasket, but several options there an they're all pretty inexpensive.

Not that I've confirmed that I need one or not yet, but it looks like I can spend as much as I want on a radiator if I were to go with Becool or one of the other aftermarket performance radiators. I do live in the desert, but not sure it's strictly necessary.
 
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