Let me start by saying I have spent a good portion of my life wrenching on cars and trucks. In High School I took 2 years of auto shop. I have worked on or rebuilt every part on a car from the bumper bolts to the engine to the electrical systems. Or at least I did in the past. In those days you could pop the hood of just about any car or truck on the road and easily see around the engine to the ground. No a/c, no smog stuff, no computers. But in the mid 1970’s manufacturers started computerizing everything and my mechanical aptitude was diminished substantially. But though it all I can say I still know the basics of how an internal combustion works. Sort of…
Back in October I bought a used Nissan Titan pickup truck. I won’t go into the reasons behind the decision to buy it except to say I definitely have the truck chromosome. I’ve been without a truck for nearly a decade and was starting to get twitchy. The Titan has everything I wanted in a truck. Lifted, big tires, shiny wheels, deluxe interior, cow catcher, and other things. It’s fast and loud and will pass anything on the road except a gas station. I love it.
Christmas week we took a trip to Arizona to visit our kids and just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico we had a startling situation. Going up a long hill the truck overheated. Judy was driving and she freaked out a little. She slowed down and after a couple minutes the heat gauge went down and everything was okay. We stopped for gas in Albuquerque and found a paper bag covering up part of the fan. “That’s the problem” I thought and we went on our way. Then on the climb out of Albuquerque it heated up again. Same scenario…slow down for a few minutes and the thing suddenly cooled down. It happened again on the way home and 3 times when I was taking Heather to Copper Mountain for snowboard practice. The characteristics were just like a sticky thermostat…heat up then suddenly cool down. The thermo is stuck shut causing the overheating then opens letting it cool down quick. Or so I thought.
This week I dropped the truck off at the dealership where I bought it for them to check out. I told them I thought it might be a thermostat but I wasn’t sure. The guys there didn’t think so since the problem only occurred when the truck was going uphill. After a couple of hours I got a phone call saying they couldn’t find anything obvious but mentioned the truck had an aftermarket radiator, not the original equipment and it might not be keeping up with the engine when under load. After discussion (more on that in a moment) we agreed to install an original manufacturer’s radiator and a new fan clutch.
Initially, I was a bit skeptical. I had been surfing the web for weeks trying to pin down a problem and everything I read said that the aftermarket aluminium radiators are far more efficient than original equipment. Now the dealer is telling me the opposite. What to do what to do. Well, I picked up the truck after the new radiator was installed and the service manager told me they also saw some “stop leak” when they drained the fluid so they flushed the block also. BTW, stop leak materials are bad bad bad for your vehicle.
Today, on the way to Copper Mountain and back, no problems. The truck didn’t heat up at all. I was pushing it pretty hard to test the work that was done and there were no problems. I know it’s premature to say so but I may have been misguided in my opinion that it was the thermostat. And it still may have issues but we’ll see. Cross your fingers.
So here’s a big shout out to Brian and the guys at TSG Auto. So far they know their stuff and I’m a lot more confident in them than I was a few days ago. And apparently I’m not as smart as I used to be.