Keepin' Your Cool

Avoid overheating that tired Third-Gen Camaro

Mike Harrington Jan 26, 2005 0 Comment(s)

At first glance, an article on keeping your engine cool may seemingly come at an inopportune time of year. After all it is winter and in many states around the country keeping warm seems to be more of a challenge during these months. Regardless of your geographic area, constricted water and airflow can present a problem no matter what time of the year it is.

Our test subject here is an '88 IROC Camaro. This all-stock Third-generation F-body had the tendency to run on the high end of the temperature gauge. And in the stop-and-go (mostly stop) traffic of Southern California, watching the temp gauge rise can also raise your panic level to new heights. First things first, we had to have the cooling system evaluated to see the what, why's and where's of our apparent cooling problem. We took the Camaro to Mattson's Radiator to have it diagnosed. Mattson's then suggested rather than just simply flushing the system, replacing the old two-core radiator with a new three core, which would drastically help the cooling.

After installing the new radiator, we contacted the experts at Hypertech for help with our next problem. Hypertech recomended that to further solve our cooling woes, the stock fan-cooling switch be replaced with an updated lower temp switch. Hypertech also suggested along with the new temp switch, a slightly lower temp thermostat and a performance-tuning chip would also help keep our Camaro cooler. Simply put, the old switch would turn the fan on when the temperature hit a whopping 220 degrees! The new Hypertech temperature switch turns the fan on at a much-improved 195 degrees and the tuning chip would help the engine to run more efficiently.

But does this make a difference? Yes! Not once since the improved changes has the engine run hot. So now while stuck in traffic, my car can keep its cool while I lose mine.

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Our first step is to remove the radiator, by opening up the petcock. Be sure to check with your state and local laws concerning the proper disposal of used coolant. Once the radiator and block have been drained, remove all hoses and cooling lines. Be careful not to bend out of shape your transmission cooler hard lines.

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Once all hoses have been detached and the radiator has been dismounted, it will easily slide out.

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After the thermostat housing has been removed, a thorough cleaning of any remaining gaskets and sealer should be done now.

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Apply a liberal amount of silicone sealer to the new seal, but not so much that you have a mess on your hands.

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Make sure that you have also thoroughly cleaned the thermostat housing, too! After all, we would not want a bad seal and end up with coolant all over a hot engine block.

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While the radiator is out, blow the A/C compressor clean. Dirt leaves and other debris can build up and be a source of constricted airflow.

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It wouldn't hurt to pull the overflow tank and give it a good cleaning, too. In this case our overflow tank was dirty and needed to be flushed.

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And here it is, our brand new three-core radiator!

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Once everything was back in its place, all hoses were connected and the radiator was filled it was time to test it. After running the engine at idle for several minutes we used an infrared thermometer to check how well the engine was cooling. Once the engine hit approximately 217-220 degrees our fan turned on and cooled of the engine till 211, then the fan shut off again. That is still too warm, but at least with this new three-core radiator, the engine cooled off much quicker than with the stock two-core.

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We ran the car for a few days before going ahead with the Hypertech install, just so we could see how the cooling system worked before and after the new radiator install. It was now time to install the fan temperature switch. This little switch is located in a hard-to-reach location on this Third-Generation Camaro. In other vehicles it may be easily accessible. The sensor is located on the passenger side of the engine, just below the heat shield connected to the block. Not the easiest spot in the world, but we still managed.

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You can see the arms of our tech man Jason grappling with the switch.

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Here is an important step you may want to note: Make sure you have drained the block of all coolant, because when you finally remove the sensor, you could end up getting baptized in warm radiator coolant! What a mess. Despite that little surprise, we still managed to successfully replace the switch.

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Lastly the onboard computer was removed for the placement of Hypertech's tuning chip. The computer on this Camaro was located in an easily accessible location and came out with no problems.

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Remove the access panel and there you'll find the tuning chip.

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Make sure all the pins on the chip line up and it's not put in wrong.

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And there we are! If you can change a light bulb, you can change chips in your car. It's that easy.

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With everything in place, put the computer back and start your engine. With our combination of new radiator, thermostat and computer chip, there's little chance that the temp needle will be rising too far into the hot zone.

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