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Discussion Starter #1
Readers, I have an '03 1600 classic with 50,000 miles on her. I have been having coolant issues for about three years now, and have replaced (earliest-to-most-recent) the fan switch, the temp switch, lower main hose, thermostat (twice), O-ring, radiator cap, and fluid....several times.

My problem is that after a ride, when I park it in the garage, I can hear water boiling. So I took the cover off and found the water boiling/bubbling back into the overflow reservoir, or running out the overflow hose. I have used the bike for commuting about 65 miles, one way, and after a couple of days, the bike shows over-temp, or I'm out of coolant.

I have no idea where it's going, or what is causing it to over heat. I have not done a pressure test, neither have I had the cooling system flushed.

I really hope I don't have to buy a new engine.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Ivan
 

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Hi, Ivan. Three years is a long time to suffer with this -- sorry you've gone through that.

Couple of basic things ....with, to my mind, the most likely candidate at the end of the list.

1) You have confirmed the fan is running when, for instance, you are parking in the garage? It's obviously overheated at that point, so fan should be blasting away.

2) You've obviously grown more familiar with the coolant condition than you ever wanted -- any signs of oil in the coolant when you've drained it? (I realize it's vanishing at such an alarming rate it may not even have time to collect oil, even if the water pump oil seal or the head gasket are blown...)

3) Conversely, any sign of coolant in the oil? (The dreaded "mocha milkshake" look when you change oil.)

4) When you look at the front of the radiator, do you see a lot of bent fins or are most of them straight?

5) I don't see "rebuilt water pump" on your list. ???
 

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I agree with trainermb that the water pump is likely bad since you have done about everything else. After three years I would take it to a trusted mechanic and let him have at it!
 

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Water pumps leak or make noise when they fail, otherwise if the impeller is turning, it is pumping.
Run engine until it is hot and then squeeze a radiator hose (should be hard) to be sure it is building/holding pressure.
Also, any modifications...pipes, etc?

Post back with results.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
OK, Fan runs when the bike is hot, removed water pump housing to check fins, etc., pump is tight, no wiggles, all fins in place, turn when engine turns, new water pump housing seal, no noise or leaks, no oil in water, looking in oil sight glass I see no water in oil (foam, milk shake, etc.), no bent fins on radiator, did not rebuild water pump as it seemed ok, and I have checked hose firmness after running. Ran the bike in the garage until the fan came on one night, checked it the next evening, still tight and firm.
Only mods are straight pipes and baffles from Bub's that I put on it at around 20,000 miles, the first year I had her. (2004)
I do all the wrenching on her including tire changes, tranny bearing replace, clutch plates replace, brakes, rotors, fluid changes, bearing packing, minor service, etc. I can do an overhaul, but I'm ready to buy a new engine if it needs overhaul.
 

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On a car engine I'd suggest that exhaust is getting into the coolant and pushing it out the overflow tank.
Had it happen on two cars. The problem - head gasket.
Dont know if its a thing on bikes though.
 

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Blown head gaskets are a thing on bikes, but at the rate this thing is dropping coolant, a blown head gasket would most likely leave some pretty obvious contamination in the coolant and a trail of white smoke that would look like a stunt plane's. Or at the very least a giant white puff of smoke on startup. I mean, this thing's blowing through most of the coolant in the bike in 250 miles. Maybe it is going out the tailpipe, but from what he reports, it seems it is boiling over and ending up on the ground or in the overflow tank so I think it's fair to say we can at least hope for "not a blown head gasket." However, if it was boiling over like that while he was riding it, it seems he would have noticed some pretty powerful Eau de Coolant smell any time he stopped.

I got nothin'. Ivan's replaced or at least verified the function of just about everything in the cooling system, it seems. I don't quite get what he "checked the next evening" that was "tight and firm", but he said he has tested the hoses while the bike was hot and they were as they should be. Well, let's make a list for easy reference:

- Water pump verified working
- Radiator cap replaced
- Thermostat replaced
- Radiator fins inspected, ok
- Hoses probably ok (Little shaky on that one ....)
- Fan checked, ok
- Thermostat replaced
- Temp switch replaced
- No oil in coolant, no coolant in oil

Logically, all that seems to me to be left is; one or more of his tests was incorrect, one or more of the replacement parts isn't functioning properly, "something" (?) is impeding the coolant flow, the radiator itself is toast, or the cooling system is functioning just fine but the engine is somehow magically producing more heat than the system can dissipate without ANY other symptoms. Sadly, my "diagnosis", such as it is, is about as useful to Ivan as mudflaps on a turtle, as I'm sure he has chased this same logic around and around many times, and he spent more money doing it. I hope somebody can come up with something better.
 

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something" (?) is impeding the coolant flow

This is why I asked if the heads have ever been removed, to which I have not received an answer. If so, head gaskets may have been incorrectly installed, blocking flow ports.
 

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Usually on a coolant system the problems are.
A leak, an obstruction, water pump or thermostat.
With a blown head gasket you'll see coolant in the oil.
 

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Yep, as I stated I had bad head gaskets that didnt put oil in coolant, and didnt put coolant in oil, it pushed exhaust into coolant and pushed coolant out overflow tank. Also didnt leave a very strong odor either, since most was lost onto the street.
I'd find a low radiator level, and the overflow wouldnt be very high since I'd look at it when it was cool and it had sucked some back into the engine already.

This from the first post -
My problem is that after a ride, when I park it in the garage, I can hear water boiling. So I took the cover off and found the water boiling/bubbling back into the overflow reservoir, or running out the overflow hose. I have used the bike for commuting about 65 miles, one way, and after a couple of days, the bike shows over-temp, or I'm out of coolant.

Seems to me to match a head gasket leaking exhaust INTO coolant.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Riders,
I haven't opened the engine, nor removed the heads. I have noticed the coolant running (very fast drip, more like a trickle) out the overflow hose at stops along my commute route. As to the hose firmness after an over-night set, I squeezed them and they were full of fluid, not air.
If ( a very big IF) there is a gasket leak that is allowing exhaust gases to get into the cooling system and thereby pushing fluid out of the overflow reservoir and hose, I'm feeling like this will be an engine pull and a gasket replacement. That makes it sound like a winter-time project. Yay, me. :-(
 

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So are you loosing coolant and having to refill or just hearing it boil and going back in to the resivor?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
The coolant goes away. I hear it and see it boiling/bubbling back into the reservoir after a ride. I then will check the fluid level (remove the seats, gas tank, and radiator cap) and find that after a couple of days commuting about 130 miles round trip, each day, that the fluid level is low. I can put about 2 or 3 water bottles (24-36 ounces) of fluid back in to top it off.
Yes, I DO run it after each fill, (until the fan comes on and then shuts off) to check that it is full.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
So, fellow riders and gearheads, I took the engine out of the bike on July 4th, 2019 and removed the chrome covers off the heads. Now I'm going to take the heads off and see what I'm up against.

I bought an '03 HD Heritage Softtail back in October, so I have a ride while my true love is down. I'm not much of a self-starter nor a guy that likes to work by himself, so I have recruited a buddy to give me a hand with the disassembly of the top end. I can't believe it's been a year since I first started the tear down. Like I said, I'm not much of a self starter. LOL I will take pix of the inside of the cyls to share here.

Ivan
 

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I look forward to seeing what is going on with it.
 
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