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1989 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer 5.0L, Automatic Trans, Manual Transfer Case, Manual locking hubs, 3" li
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29 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, while this didn't happen in my Bronco, it may very well be relevant for those of you modifying yours with electric fans and aluminum radiators and higher voltage alternators.

Put an aluminum radiator and a larger aluminum intercooler w/dual fans in my 08 Shelby. Wired everything as directed for the new fans, topped everything off and hit the roads. All was well for about 8 months. Then I developed a leak. A very small leak. It took a month of daily driving to drain the reservoir. I hoped it was a hose and put off the project because the lower hose on a shelby is a PITA. WELL, aroubd month 9-10, it started draining in a week, and then it would drain overnight. I realized I wasn't suffering a hose leak but rather a radiator leak. Parked her, pulled the front bumper and grill and yoinked out the radiator. As I pulled the bumper I noted that the crimp on one of my grounding wires had come undone. I thought nothing of it, told myself I'd fix it when I got the radiator back from the shop.

Went to a very highly recommended radiator shop in the area. They had a few days and when they called, they apologized and said it was unrepairable. Im thinking oh great, there goes $850 for a new one. He proceeded to tell me that due to the location of the leaks and the number of them (where the tubes meet the tank) and the residue he found in the radiator when they flushed it, I had suffered an electrical casualty ... on my radiator. Highly suspect would be a bad groubd. Essentially something was allowing voltage into either the coolant or the radiator itself, causing an electrolytic reaction to take place that eats away at aluminum. It did so at the weakest location on the radiator. Thus my leaks.

He told me an easy test is a multimeter with negative clamped to the battery, positive clamped to a short piece of copper pipe dropped in the top of the radiator reservoir. If you see anything over 0.3V, bad juju. If you see over 0.3V, much like a short, you can start pulling fuses until you see the voltage drop off and identify where its coming from. Another failsafe is to go on ahead and run a grounding wire from your radiator to chassis and/or battery negative.

I've got a new radiator installed and am running my grounding wires before getting her filled and off the jack stands.

Hopefully this $850 lesson will help yall not run into a similar issue on your Broncos.
 

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78 Custom 460 NP435 NP205 Sniper EFI HyperSpark Ignition 4.56 Gears Front/Rear Grizzly Lockers
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3,450 Posts
Electrolysis.

If you add grounds out the wazoo and still want to lean on the safe side, you can add a radiator cap that has a sacrificial anode on it that will take the damage instead of your radiator.
 

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1986 Eddie Bauer 5.0EFI AOD Full length headers Y pipe into single 3" Magnaflow 3" factory exit
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986 Posts
Wow, I've never heard of, or thought about this on a car, but being a boater my whole life, & having worked at my uncles family owned marina every summer growing up & all thru college, I have seen a ton of galvanic corrosion/electrolysis damage on boats. Those sacrificial annodes are quite an important part of a boat & people really don't think about them until it has eaten away the aluminum casing of a drive, bell housin, or intermediate assembly that costs thousands for a part, & even more in labor to repair. Thanks for the heads up!
 

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1989 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer 5.0L, Automatic Trans, Manual Transfer Case, Manual locking hubs, 3" li
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29 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wow, I've never heard of, or thought about this on a car, but being a boater my whole life, & having worked at my uncles family owned marina every summer growing up & all thru college, I have seen a ton of galvanic corrosion/electrolysis damage on boats. Those sacrificial annodes are quite an important part of a boat & people really don't think about them until it has eaten away the aluminum casing of a drive, bell housin, or intermediate assembly that costs thousands for a part, & even more in labor to repair. Thanks for the heads up!
I'm right there with ya man. Worked nuclear reactors for a bit back in the day and topics of this nature were taught. The minute the guy told me his suspicion it was just like, oh ... oh crap, duhhh. Funny how that works out.

Yeah, so they also have recommended, as doosenberry pointed out, zinc anode radiator caps because beyond just an errant voltage in your coolant, two dissimilar metals in contact can experience corrosion, so aluminum heads/waterproof housing on iron block, etc.
 

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78 Custom 460 NP435 NP205 Sniper EFI HyperSpark Ignition 4.56 Gears Front/Rear Grizzly Lockers
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3,450 Posts
I've seen several complaints on the FTE forum with guys using aluminum radiators in their 70's Ford trucks and I think a lot of it has to do with improper install and this particular electrolysis issue. They'll have a radiator in for a few months and develop leaks and then blame the manufacturer of the radiator. Not saying people don't make crap radiators, but I don't think people ever consider themselves as the issue rather than the part.
 

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Charlie don't surf..
'92 Ford Bronco XLT
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16,146 Posts
Great info..makes you wonder how many premature radiator failures could be attributed to this.
 
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