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Old 08-21-2013, 01:31 AM   #1
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well, I did it.... invasive radiator cleansing

We've been on the road for weeks and recently began climbing around the mountains of Utah and Idaho. That's when it started.... the temp gauge was well into the 200* zone too many times. The 05' Journey (C-7 350), which never had an overheating concern previously, was now warming up quickly while towing the CR-V up the various 6% to 8% loooong grades. Twice I hit as high as 222* on long and steep grades. I now know that the dash lights up at 200* Had to pull over twice to cool down. I tried to keep the RPM at around 2,000+ to keep the fan speed up for cooling but it was not always successful since, as it turned out, the radiator and CAC were really layered with a thick grime/oil film.

I researched the topic on the iRV2 site and found that quite a few others C-7 owners have had the same problem and have developed a specific "fix" for the condition. What made my situation a bit dicey is that I wasn't at home to do the nasty cleaning procedure. But I had no choice other than to try to find a shop that could help. That didn't really appeal on a couple levels. So, I made a list and hit a Home Depot for tools and supplies and I performed the procedure "on the road" at an RV Park.... because I really had no choice if I wanted to stay in the mountain states.

I really appreciated the narratives and photos that contained detailed info on for cleaning the crud (oil mist, dust, etc.) from both the CAC and the engine radiator. Now, it should be stated that this was a nasty chore! (i.e. - drop clothes for the closet and the bedroom along with lots of rags, etc.) Without getting into the entire process for creating access and the cleaning procedure, and I'm pretty handy with tools...it took me a good 4 hours to complete along with more than a few bucks for solvents, hardware, tools. It was a messy job but the results were thankfully favorable.

Today I drove over 6 hrs. in the Montana mountains today in 90* weather with the engine temp steadily at 194* all day with a few exceptions on long 6% hills where 4th gear was required where the temp reached 203*.

Again, without getting into specifics because others have documented the process with photo and great detail (try this link - http://www.irv2.com/forums/f26/xc-fa...ng-137151.html), I will say that I followed tried and true suggestions and used a gallon of Simple Green, a large bottle of DAWN dish detergent, garden sprayer and hot water. I got an adapter at Home Depot to connect a hose to my bathroom faucet. So, a really big thanks to the previous posters for laying the ground work for success. So for all those that pioneered this solution.... I sincerely appreciate it!

PS - I would have taken pics of the task if I wasn't covered to my shoulders in grimy grease!!!

cheers,
Joopy
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:23 AM   #2
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I would have thought a car wash bay would be a better choice than a campground, but I assume they had a washing bay. Yes, it isn't a difficult job even on a rear radiator that hasn't been cleaned for ten years, and provided you then do it once a year, isn't a long job either. Re-routing the breather tubes well away from the shroud inlet will also help prevent a repeat/
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Old 08-21-2013, 12:34 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Tony Lee View Post
I would have thought a car wash bay would be a better choice than a campground, but I assume they had a washing bay. Yes, it isn't a difficult job even on a rear radiator that hasn't been cleaned for ten years, and provided you then do it once a year, isn't a long job either. Re-routing the breather tubes well away from the shroud inlet will also help prevent a repeat/
Tony Lee,
You say "It isn't a difficult job, even on a rear radiator that hasn't been cleaned for 10 years" ?? Well Sir, not sure just what rig you have or, what kind of access to your CAC and Radiator you have but, for me, and every poster who's taken on the chore of cleaning that system out, it's serious pain in the a$$. It's a fairly well "sealed" system so the fan directs approximately 99% of its air to them. So, access with any cleaning instruments is very difficult at best.

If yours is easy, I definitely envy you. Mine too was clogged about, 35% of the total surface area of both the CAC and the radiator. Now, I had a leak in my radiator too so, seeing that it was almost impossible to do an accurate, intense job of cleaning both, I opted for removing both of them in order to do a more accurate job. It took me quite a while to clean just the radiator and, that was with it laying on saw horses and using a "pressure washer". No, I didn't damage any fins. I used industrial ZEP cleaner, STAIGHT, NOT DILUTED, and it still took several applications of it and in between shots with the pressure washer.

IN the end, we tossed the radiator due to it being irrepairable anyway. A new one was had for right at $1,275.00, total. Freightliner wanted $1,842.00 and that did not include shipping and tax.

But, I cleaned the CAC (also took multiple applications) and re-installed it all. I do not look forward to that process again. But, trying to clean that system, and do a thorough, clean and accurate job, is tougher than you know what. And, not to mention, you need a place to do it. Either trying to handle a hose and, all the cleaning equipment from inside, in a nice bedroom or, laying on the ground, with all that stuff running all over the place is not my idea of fun. But, removing them, both the radiator and the CAC isn't either.

In any case, it's not easy. I've since re-routed my slobber tube to completely OUTSIDE the skirting of the coach. Hopefully this will "extend" the time frames between cleanings.
Scott
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Old 08-21-2013, 01:46 PM   #4
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Everytime we get home from a trip we give the radiator a wash job. Take 30 minutes and no more problems. Doesn't have a chance to build up.
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:29 PM   #5
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Yes Tony, a car wash would have been my first choice except that I needed as much hose pressure as possible from my hot water heater. I couldn't do it with my 12v.pump pressure very well. Nonetheless, I spoke with the park manager about the process and he allowed me to use a gravel area. Actually, with the large volume of water used for flushing it really diluted and didn't leave much noticeable residue behind. Again, not my first choice of locations but the options were limited.

I agree with Scott. You're a lucky guy if it "isn't a difficult job" on your coach. Now that I have a bolted access panel I'll be sure to inspect and clean on a periodic basis. Prior to the heat exchanger cleaning I also installed the peanut butter jar tip that others have used. I may extend the tube to the rear at some point, but if the jar is effective.....

cheers,
Joopy
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:40 PM   #6
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Ok, I'm new to diesels. I have a rear radiator Cummins. To help prevent me from following in the OPs footsteps, would it do any good to periodically use Simple Green and to try and clean it from the outside or is that just a waste of time?
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Old 08-21-2013, 05:04 PM   #7
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Paul,

I overheated in Utah last year in the mountains and used a bottle of Simple Green and hot water at a car wash for an hour and lots of brown cheese-like crap came out of the radiator. I washed it from the outside and was pleased by the results and no more overheating.

When I got home I cut the hole in the shroud and was surprised by the amount of crap still in the CAC and the radiator. I used Dawn and Simple Green mixed in a garden sprayer and soaked the insides of the CAC and the radiator. Still more gunk came out. I used a trouble light to make sure I had cleaned it through and through. I am not sure if it helped, but my MPG increased too after cleaning through the shroud access.

Rinse, rinse, and more rinse if you use plain Simple Green.

So having used both methods, I would suggest cutting the hole and cleaning from both inside and out. The slobber tube installation will help a bunch too.

From experience, if you are in a pinch, cleaning from the outside will definitely help in cooling, but there will still be crap left in there.
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Old 08-21-2013, 07:10 PM   #8
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Thank you all for the great information. I'm certain the previous owner of our coach had to be among you fine gents as he took very good care of our new to us 04 Journey. I'll be cutting the access port into our fan shroud and make certain there is ample drainage when we do our preventative cleaning. I extended the slobber tube when we installed the new surge tank. Should'a, would'a, could'a lubed the Pac-Brake but simply haven't read enough of this forum yet...

Would industrial strength degreaser be any better than Dawn detergent and Simple Green?
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Old 08-21-2013, 07:54 PM   #9
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Our Spartan Chassis is a side-radiator so it wasn't as dirty as I imagined. I used a foaming spray cleaner designed for air conditioner condenser coils, the can says it is a HD detergent, and it worked very well IMO.
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:59 PM   #10
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Thank you all for the great information. I'm certain the previous owner of our coach had to be among you fine gents as he took very good care of our new to us 04 Journey. I'll be cutting the access port into our fan shroud and make certain there is ample drainage when we do our preventative cleaning. I extended the slobber tube when we installed the new surge tank. Should'a, would'a, could'a lubed the Pac-Brake but simply haven't read enough of this forum yet...

Would industrial strength degreaser be any better than Dawn detergent and Simple Green?
Ron,
I don't know if you read my long post on the R&R of my radiator and CAC when I did mine but, I used "ZEP" Citrus based industrial cleaner. My radiator was out of the rig, laying flat on saw horses, and I put that ZEP into a 1 quart sprayer. I coated that radiator 'till my fingers fell off from pumping that trigger, used a whole quart in lower 1/3 of the fins. Guess what, IT DIDN'T EVEN DRIP THROUGH!

That's how strong the grease/oil/dirt build-up can be. I used the entire gallon, un-diluted, more on the CAC than the radiator but, some of it still didn't come clean. And, contrary to the thought process of most who've done this thankless job, I used a 2650 psi pressure washer in between each application of the ZEP.

And no, I didn't bend any of the fins. I even got fairly close, around 2" away from them and, they didn't give a bit. They're still straight as can be. But, the radiator was history due to a leak that had actually eaten away at the lower corner for quite some time. So, I had to break out the leather on that one, $1,275 out the door.

But, to answer your question, to me, stronger is always better. So, using industrial strength, whatever brand/type you choose will help. But, to me, the pressure washer was a must. As LPD218 stated, that stuff just keeps coming out. So, multiple applications, from as many angles etc. that you can do, will yield the best results. Some will note here that on most of the RV radiators, they're made of aluminum so, you will have to watch what chemical you do use on them. I wasn't too worried about it due to the fact that it was totally out of the coach and I was rinsing the thing off ever two seconds anyway.

But, trying to do this while in both the CAC and the Rad are in the coach, and, keep from being shot by the DW with our 9mm if I got ONE DROP of grease/back splash on the inside of that bedroom, would be tough. Knowing what I know now, I think I could have that radiator and CAC out of there for cleaning, in about 2-2.5 hours. It took me about 6 before but, I was dilly dallying around just 'cause I could.

I'm not looking forward to ever doing it again but, if I had to, I'd handle it and, do some more maintenance while in there.
Scott
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Old 08-22-2013, 12:20 AM   #11
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Hey Scott, your not exaggerating about how tough it is to get the goo off the fins... especially while in place. I even bought a long handle stiff bristle brush for the CAC face which allowed me to reach and scrub the bottom and sides. And, a long flexible bottle type brush for between the CAC and radiator. Not sure how much the bottle type brush did because I couldn't see the effects but I felt I had to get something in there to help loosen the goo.

As for the mess, I picked up two 9x12 drop clothes (and a bag of rags) at the Home Depot and used blue painters tape to cover the interior of the closet and half the bedroom floor and bed. Glad I did because it would have been ugly! That goo will stick darn near permanently to just about anything.

cheers,
Joopy
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Old 08-22-2013, 12:29 AM   #12
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Just because you got it to stop over heating while on your trip, When you get home I'd pull that Radiator and CAC for a REAL good cleaning. It's the only way to get them completely clean.
And since yours RV probably never had those removed for that reason just look at he number of years it took to get them dirty enough to not cool.
If you get REALLY clean they should cool for a number of years, especially if you get that slobber tube exit relocated.
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