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1997 Pontiac Firebird WS6, 5.7L V8, LT1 348
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys,

So tomorrow was the day that the car was officially suppose to come off stands, everything was and still is put back together. I decided to let the car run awhile and noticed what I am pretty sure is the low coolant light on. I read that is normal until it cycles a few times. So the only thing I notice is the car keeps getting up to the three quarter mark on the dash. However, it never exceeds it. It represents about 230 degrees.

So anyway I closed the hood and came inside for something and as soon as I got outside I noticed smoke rolling out from under the hood. Long story short it was leaking coolant near the top of the water pump. It drenched everything in boiling coolant and seemed like it was almost targeting the Opti. It was already dark so I will have to look at it tomorrow. The first culprit I will be looking into is the thermostat housing and water neck I believe it is called. I have ran the car several other times with coolant in it and let it get up to operating temperature with no such problem.

Any advice would be appreciated. Like should I just wipe off as much of the coolant as I can with a rag or should I try to spray stuff off tomorrow with the garden hose or what? The car seemed like it was running okay when I shut it off so maybe by some miracle it will not effect the Opti. Having that said, it was literally pouring coolant on top of it.
 

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Never, never, never sppray a LT1 engine. Opti is probably already wet inside it. Your course of action is to remove opti, take cap & rotor out. Then inspect for coolant. If none found, you can put engine back together.

If coolant found in opti, you need to remove shield and carefully wipe down the optical section. When I say carefully, I mean very carefully. You don't want to bend the thin wheel that controls spark timing.

While opti is off, you can use a spray bottle of detergent to clean the coolant. Just put something in opti hole in timing cover to keep it dry inside timing cover.

Be sure to check that coolant wasn't coming from wp weep hole. If yes get a new wp. Even if you use old wp again get a plastic 90 degree fitting and drive it into weep hole. Silicon or epoxy around tube where it gioes into wp.

Then attach tubing to fitting. That way when wp seal gives out coolant won't give opti a bath.
 

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1997 Pontiac Firebird WS6, 5.7L V8, LT1 348
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Never, never, never sppray a LT1 engine. Opti is probably already wet inside it. Your course of action is to remove opti, take cap & rotor out. Then inspect for coolant. If none found, you can put engine back together.

If coolant found in opti, you need to remove shield and carefully wipe down the optical section. When I say carefully, I mean rear carefully. You don't want to bend the thin wheel that controls spark timing.

While opti is off, you can use a spray bottle of detergent to clean the coolant. Just put something in opti hole in timing cover to keep it dry inside timing cover.

Be sure to check that coolant wasn't coming from wp weep hole. If yes get a new wp. Even if you use old wp again get a plastic 90 degree fitting and drive it into weep hole. Silicon or epoxy around tube where it gioes into wp.

Then attach tubing to fitting. That way when wp seal gives out coolant won't give opti a bath.
Thanks for the response. I literally just finished putting all this stuff back together. I also followed a guide I found on another site for laying a bead of Permatex to help protect the Opti against stuff like this. I still have the car jacked up, does anyone know if it is possible to pull off my vent hoses and see if coolant runs out? I could do that without removing the water pump and Opti.

I also forgot to mention that I noticed that I have not seen the radiator fans cut on once while running the car.
 

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1994 Firebird Formula 381ci LT1 / TH400+GV O/D
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With both the pump and the Opti brand new, and with the attempt to improve the sealing of the Opti, DO NOT PANIC.

The primary point of entry for water/coolant is the harness connector seal. But that is brand new.

As noted above, do not wash anything down. Wipe the residual coolant off all reachable surfaces. Focus on the body of the Opti. Are the plug and coil wires new, with the boots securely on the Opti? If so, should be no water intrusion at those points. If the boots are old or not secured, pull each wire, insure the wire and Opti terminal are dry.I doubt coolant would drain out of the vent line nipples - too viscous. If you have a hand vacuum pump, use that to see if it pulls anything out.

I'd be more concerned about the source of the coolant leak. Did you tighten all the hoses you replaced? Is the thermostat installed - that provides the seal on the t’stat housing. Are the bolts that clamp the pump inlet and outlet gaskets torqued correctly?
 
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1997 Pontiac Firebird WS6, 5.7L V8, LT1 348
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
With both the pump and the Opti brand new, and with the attempt to improve the sealing of the Opti, DO NOT PANIC.

The primary point of entry for water/coolant is the harness connector seal. But that is brand new.

As noted above, do not wash anything down. Wipe the residual coolant off all reachable surfaces. Focus on the body of the Opti. Are the plug and coil wires new, with the boots securely on the Opti? If so, should be no water intrusion at those points. If the boots are old or not secured, pull each wire, insure the wire and Opti terminal are dry.I doubt coolant would drain out of the vent line nipples - too viscous. If you have a hand vacuum pump, use that to see if it pulls anything out.

I'd be more concerned about the source of the coolant leak. Did you tighten all the hoses you replaced? Is the thermostat installed - that provides the seal on the t’stat housing. Are the bolts that clamp the pump inlet and outlet gaskets torqued correctly?
Hey Fred,

Thanks for stopping by. To be honest, I lost some sleep over it last night. So I haven't diagnosed many leaks on water pumps. Although, I think it almost has to be near the thermostat housing. The way it was pooling there I think has to be a giveaway. I guess since it was under pressure if could have been squirted out and getting on top of the water pump but I personally doubt it. I started the car for a second today and it still runs great so far. I understand if coolant penetrated the Opti it is only a matter of time before it fouls the sensor though.

I do have a little hand vacuum pump. Might try that to see if it pulls anything from those vent lines.

1.) Yes, I torqued all five of the bolts and the stud down to their recommended specifications.

2.) I broke a bolt in the thermostat housing trying to torque them down. The FSM says 21 ft lbs and I now know that is an error by the way, I find a thread where Shoe Box pointed it out. I ended up using a 1/4" ratchet to get them pretty tight and felt pretty good about it.

3.) I believe I installed the thermostat correctly. There really is not a wrong way if you use your brain? The spring faces down into the water pump and the gasket has a slot that the thermostat fits into?

This Tesa tape does not look like much but it is at least semi-waterproof. If you did not see my other picture this is what it looked like.

Automotive fuel system Motor vehicle Automotive tire Light Automotive design
 

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1997 Pontiac Firebird WS6, 5.7L V8, LT1 348
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So I have been looking around and there is no obvious place visible. I think my only course of action here is to stuff some rags down in this area and let the car run again then keep a close eye out for where it is coming from.

I thought about getting one of those pressure tester things for the radiator neck but I think the car was under a lot more pressure. I cannot see it being enough pressure to make it leak again where it did around the top of water pump.
 

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Hei a pressure tester is great if you have a leak it will show up. If you think you had a lot more pressure then you can get with a tester. I would say you radiator cap is bad. My pressure tester is forty years old and with mine I can also check the cap.
 

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1994 Firebird Formula 381ci LT1 / TH400+GV O/D
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The factory cap for the LT1 is 18 PSI (verify in your Owner's Manual). A radiator pressure tester can develop that much pressure. It builds pressure faster if the system is full to the top. .
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hei a pressure tester is great if you have a leak it will show up. If you think you had a lot more pressure then you can get with a tester. I would say you radiator cap is bad. My pressure tester is forty years old and with mine I can also check the cap.
The factory cap for the LT1 is 18 PSI (verify in your Owner's Manual). A radiator pressure tester can develop that much pressure. It builds pressure faster if the system is full to the top. .
Skien,

Thank you so much for mentioning this. I realize to you guys it is probably just me being an idiot because I thought about the pressure tester first and thought it would never build the pressure needed to reproduce my issue. In my head I thought they were only to test the radiator and not really the entire cooling system.

I read your response when I was in town so I stopped by the auto parts store before coming home. So here are my findings.

1.) The leak near the top was actually between the rubber hose and the thermostat housing. My first guess was between the thermostat housing and the actual water pump. I resolved this by basically tightening the worm gear clamp a full turn.

2.) I knew I had a small leak at the restrictor valve but now I know what side it is on. I tightened it up a little and it still seems to be leaking a little bit so I am going to revisit tomorrow. By the way the arrow if facing away from the water pump, in case I somehow got that wrong too.

3.) Another leak that I didn't know I had was 'the large hose on the passengers side that goes down low to the radiator' which I guess has to be the radiator return. This may be a pain because it looks like I may need to take at least the radiator fans back out. I could very well be mistaking where it is coming from too. I will revisit this again tomorrow as well.

Fred,

I appreciate your help over all these months, I wouldn't even be this far without you. I just verified the pressure on page 6B-11 for anyone that may care. It states "Build pressure up to no more than 138 KPA (20 PSI)." So I decided the furthest I would go is 15 PSI today before I knew this. The hose at the thermostat housing began leaking before I even got to 10 PSI I believe. So that was almost definitely my big issue.

So something else that is very concerning to me right now is I have noticed my exhaust seems to constantly produce white smoke. I looked under the engine oil cap today and found a milkshake like substance. The oil on the dipstick looks fine though. I am hoping this was just a fluke and moisture was able to penetrate the cap. I am not going to feel good if after all this work there is something catastrophically wrong with this car. I knew the risk when I began working on it. If nothing else I have increased my knowledge a lot this Summer.
 

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1994 Firebird Formula 381ci LT1 / TH400+GV O/D
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Check the PCV valve. That's what pulls combustion gasses (which are partially water) out of the crankcase. Wouldn’t address the white exhaust, but can cause the oil cap milk shake. Also keep in mind it may be getting colder where you live (???? - it was 32° this morning in NJ) and that makes the normal water content in the exhaust more visible, particularly on cold starts. Frequent cold starts, when not letting the engine warm up fully can also lead to water buildup in the crankcase.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Check the PCV valve. That's what pulls combustion gasses (which are partially water) out of the crankcase. Wouldn’t address the white exhaust, but can cause the oil cap milk shake. Also keep in mind it may be getting colder where you live (???? - it was 32° this morning in NJ) and that makes the normal water content in the exhaust more visible, particularly on cold starts. Frequent cold starts, when not letting the engine warm up fully can also lead to water buildup in the crankcase.
I would say we are pretty close to you in temperature. I live on the Panhandle of West Virginia. So you are actually about three hours from me. I have been starting and shutting off the car a lot lately. I am researching the PCV valve now.
 

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1968 Convertible 400, 200 4R, 1971 Formula 400 M-22 Rock Crusher, 1984 Trans Am...........
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Never worry about asking questions here. That's why our website exists, for everyone to help each other.

Good luck figuring out your leak
 
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DELCO NERD
1993 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, LT1 5.7L V8
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If you are able to remove the PCV valve, shake it. If the valve body is in good condition (i.e., no cracks, etc.) and it rattles when you shake it, it is still functioning properly. You can also take this opportunity to clean the grommet that the valve seats into.
 
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Check the PCV valve. That's what pulls combustion gasses (which are partially water) out of the crankcase. Wouldn’t address the white exhaust, but can cause the oil cap milk shake. Also keep in mind it may be getting colder where you live (???? - it was 32° this morning in NJ) and that makes the normal water content in the exhaust more visible, particularly on cold starts. Frequent cold starts, when not letting the engine warm up fully can also lead to water buildup in the crankcase.
 

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Hei sorry did not get back sooner and I see other people posted. I went to look at my pump 18 pounds but you can go higher. Glad to see ya found the leaks. Like I said I have had my pressure pump for a least forty years. Got it back then working at a olds dearship.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for the support everyone. So using the pressure tester it seems I was able to fix all my leaks but ran into a problem. It would seem that my flow control/restrictor valve decided to explode. By explode I mean that one of the sides literally cracked into several pieces. I am not sure when this happened because I keep testing the system and going back and tightening it down in an attempt to stop the leak. As you can imagine coolant is literally everywhere right now. The good news is that it is kind of low on the engine so it isn't very close to the Opti.

I am going to pick up another one at the auto store tomorrow and hopefully that solves this problem. I have not been able to get the system above 15 PSI yet. So we will see what happens when I fix this and crank it up near 20 PSI. I may need to bleed the system again too.

Anyway going to try to check the PCV line tomorrow as well. Also have to check the vent lines on the Opti for coolant that may have penetrated. I am going to try to locate my little hand pump as Fred suggested.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Okay so I checked out the PCV today and it was definitely a little fouled as you will be able to see from the pictures. Having that said, it definitely has that "rattle" that I hear in other videos that seems to indicate it is okay. The hose is cracking a little but it seems like it is still in working order. I cleaned it up as best as I could and that includes the grommet it slips into as recommended by 1993TransAm. I am still working on getting another Flow Control/Restrictor Valve. The one I got today was too small. I am suppose to get an exact replacement in tomorrow from Napa.

I am hoping this new restrictor will work out. I had to 'modify' that intake line a little. It was very close to I guess it is the AC pulley. So I gently pulled it over and used a clamp to hold it down near the battery. It is not 'pulling' on the hose very much at all so I do not think it will cause me issues down the road.

I am most concerned with whether or not any coolant penetrated the Opti. I am going to try Fred's recommendations of using a hand pump with the vacuum lines off and see if any coolants comes out. I am hoping that there is no sign of coolant so I can feel more comfortable about just moving forward.

Hand Sleeve Automotive tire Gas Nail

This was right after removing it.
Hand Automotive tire Camera lens Finger Thumb

This is what the oil cap looks like before I cleaned it.
Hand Camera lens Finger Thumb Lens

PCV after trying to clean it.
Tire Automotive tire Finger Nail Thumb

PCV side view after cleaning.
Wood Auto part Wood stain Hardwood Gas

I also found this picture while going through them. This is the flow control valve that just broke on me. It seemed okay. Hate that this thing is plastic and only available to replace in plastic.
 

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1994 Firebird Formula 381ci LT1 / TH400+GV O/D
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If either of the rubber pieces between the PCV valve and the nipple on the front of the intake manifold are “cracking” you have a vacuum leak, and valve effectiveness is reduced.


I doubt you have standing coolant in the Opti.

If the original flow restrictor lasted 20+ years, I wouldn’t be concerned about a plastic replacement.
 
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DELCO NERD
1993 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, LT1 5.7L V8
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I'd see about replacing the PCV hose if it's cracking. Your PCV valve was pretty fouled, despite the fact that it is still rattling. I see what looks like an "AC-Rochester" stamp on the valve, which to me says it's a factory original part. In sum, the valve itself is still in working order, but perhaps a vacuum leak to the intake manifold due to the cracking rubber hose is reducing the valve's effectiveness. This has caused excessive fouling and from the looks of it, it's been going on for a while.

With the engine running, you can spray the PCV hose with a can of brake parts cleaner. You don't need a lot of spray. If the engine idle changes when you do this, you have a vacuum leak at the hose because the spray is entering the intake manifold through the hose.
 
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