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Thread: 1987 Ram 2.6 overheating

  1. #1

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    1987 Ram 2.6 overheating

    hello folks, my mom just got herself a 1987 Dodge Ram 50 2.6 liter non-turbo rear wheel drive truck. 2 weeks ago it started overheating, bubble noises where coming out of the radiator reservoir, and when i opened up the radiator I found this weird creamy stuff all over the inside of it. I suspected a blown head gasket, so i checked the compression but they are all around 120. Anybody ever experience this? what did you do? how did you fix it? Any help would be greatly appreciated thanks.

  2. #2



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    Yes I have experienced a few times with a 2.0L and many others have had this dilemma. Your also very correct on the head gasket as well. Early Mitsubishi engines are known for over heat and blowing gaskets or cracking the head, usually between 2 valves or between the MCA jet valves and the closest valve to one. The creamy stuff is water and oil mixing and the engine should not be ran until fixed. You need to remove the head and have it checked for cracks and have the machine shop check for warping and grind it flat if it is. While the head is out and if it is not destroyed, this would also be a good time to grind the valves and replace the valve guides. Depending on how the truck was treated, it usually can get by with a grind on valves which the normal home mechanic can do in a day with the tools. If the head is cracked between valves, have it taken to a cast aluminum welder and have them fix it. This can save you money and the head will be just fine if done right. Flush out the radiator thoroughly, heater core, as well as the entire block and water ports and stuff. Get every bit of that milkshake goo out or it will linger in the water system for a long time. Change oil and filter also. You should also see if the timing belts or chains need replacing. If these break, they can cause interference with pistons to valves if the engine is an interference engine. The older 2.0L is a non-interference engine and a belt break will not bend valves. Your compression is on the lower side, though it is not terribly low. This is why I recommended a valve grind to seal valves better and valve guides will help seal oil from passing through valve stems into combustion chamber.
    Find out why it overheated, this is pretty important. Check thermostat and replace. CHeck water pump, etc. You do not want to over heat this early truck engines because like I mentioned above they can blow gaskets and seems to always crack head between valves.

    Comfort your mom also. this is not the end of the world and if she does the steps to repair it correctly and maintains the truck, it will last a very long time for her. Though, this will hit the purse on cash if it is sent out to repair. If the head is ok, a regrind and head gasket, oil, antifreeze, flush, etc etc will be around $200-$300 on the low side. If the truck is sent out to be repaired by a shop, look towards about $500+ and the shop will probably hit ya up for a few more dollars as well. It is not terribly hard to pull the head and fix the parts. If the work can't be done at home, At least pull the head and send the head to a shop instead of the truck. Take some snap shots as you work and stop in here for all your help. We also have Repair manuals you can download and do the project yourself.

    Stay in touch with us if you need help.

  3. #3

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    Thank you for the information you passed on to me Brad, So today I finally finished removing the heads hoping to see a blown head gasket, but to my surprise nothing, I then started searching for cracks on the head but nothing again lastly I looked at the cylinder walls and sadly, nothing I uploaded some pictures and I'm hoping someone here can help me identify something that I may have missed, I'm open to suggestions/advice, please help me get this car back on the road. Thanks






  4. #4

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    Anyone? Help Please, dont want to scrap it its only has 120K and it looks great.

  5. #5

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    Take note that #1 combustion chamber is partially decarboned - usually a sign of water entering the combustion chamber. The front coolant gallery looks like it's blocked up (but this be due to the 'milkshake' in the block). As BradMph suggested, send the head off for an inspection. It might be cracked in the cam bed and not the combustion side of the head. A cracked head is a major pain as all the coolant passages, radiator and heater core all need to be cleaned out before it can be brought back into service. You'll also need to diagnose what caused it to overheat in the first place otherwise you'll be doing this again sooner than you'd hope for. Check the basics first - thermostat, radiator, water pump, hoses etc. Hope you get it back on the road soon

  6. #6

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    Hi NVF~
    Any time an engine overheats, regardless the reason, you can be sure the thermostat is ruined. Always replace the thermostat after an overheat. In a pinch people will take them out completely, intending it to be temporary. The thermostat serves a very important function, so be sure to replace it.

    I'm seeing a coolant breach on #2 cylinder. The advice already given is the best approach. I'm unfamiliar with the 2.6 engine, so I'm not qualified to give any other advice...except donuts often help in situations like this. Particularly chocolate-coated donuts, which DO qualify as 'health food', since the chocolate coating keeps germs out.

  7. #7


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    Looking at your pic's it looks like the 2 cyl on the left were getting water in them. from the gasket you can see some discoloration between the chamber and the water passages. 2 things could have gone wrong. 1- Overheated causing the head to warp and allowing compression/Exhaust gases to be pushed into the water jacket. Or 2- someone did a headgasket using a cheap brand and then not torquing the bolts to the right spec. Best thing to do is take the head in and get it checked for cracks and flatness.

  8. #8

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    Yes get the head checked by a competent machine shop. Cracks and warpage are not always seen with the naked eye.

    In my experience a blown head gasket or cracked head will make milky oil....not milky coolant. If your truck is an automatic it could be just that the transmission cooler inside the radiator is leaking. Or it might just be sum nasty old coolant. Does the coolant look like is has lots of shiny particles in it? If so its stop leak, which can clog leaks and unfortunately clog the radiator/heater core /etc.

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