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Discussion Starter #1
Just dropped the RDA on my '99 Esprit. I figured it is time to inspect the radiator and clean out whatever debris is caught inside. Also have to find and fix an A/C leak. The car was not overheating but there is no good way to inspect the radiator without actually dropping the whole thing. Took a while. To make it easier I also removed the oil coolers and the fog lights (the manual says you don't have to but it gives you some more room). What I found surprised me. There was enough leaves, wood chips, bugs, sand, dirt, and general debris to block about 25% of the radiator fins. The condenser coils were only slightly blocked so that means most of the junk gets through the condenser but gets caught in the radiator. This is a wake-up call to everyone that part of a "C" service should be a complete inspection of the radiator. It may add to the cost of a service but consider what it would cost to overheat the motor. The foam seals were also deteriorated allowing a lot of air to bypass the radiator so part of this is going to be replacing the foam. After 20 years the foam starts to crumble. A partially blocked radiator significanlty reduces it's ability to transfer the heat from the motor to the atmosphere. It also reduces the airflow through the condenser coil so the A/C has to work harder. The fans will run more often and longer adding a larger load on the electrical system. Not an ideal situation but fixable by dropping the RDA and disassembling and cleaning it.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Did you take any pictures of the dirty radiator?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I didn't think of it till after I cleaned it. Anyway, even after I cleaned it with a brush and a vacuum you can still see a lot of small stuff inside the fins. Monday it is supposed to warm up so I will blast the dirt out with a hose. In the meantime the frame needs some repair and painting. Got some foam today at a place in Paramus that sells foam and fabric. They even cut it to size for me for the princely sum of $3.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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5,850 Posts
Here's our radiator after 45,000 miles. I got the top & bottom square foam from Home Depot.
1256390
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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5,850 Posts
PS: Maybe the foam was only $3, but the labor to remove & install is KILLER! LOL :rolleyes:
 

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I can't find the photo, but I was thinking of putting fine screen (easily removeable) after the following observations since I owned an Esprit (87 and late 88) since 2011.
1. 2011 - late 88 had 30K miles and when OEM radiator pulled, it looked like Atwell's photo above across all 3 sections.
2.2016 - 87 had 70K miles - radiator removed, boiled/rodded, silicon hoses installed, also looked like Atwell's picture (estimated 50K miles since last removal)
3. 2017 - 87 has Service C done; coincidentally has leaking radiator - pulled and had ~10-15% debris coverage - in less than 1500 (fifteen hundred) miles.

I have a picture somewhere here, but suffice to say that radiator debris collection is really bad on the Esprit - none of my other non-Esprit car do anything like it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
My rad wasn't quite as bad. I estimate yours at 50% but that doesn't include anything blocking the condenser coils. I had some blockage there too. My main point is, there is no good way to inspect except to take the whole thing down and disassemble it. If it hasn't been done you can expect to find enough blockage that it is necessary to have it done. Instead of thinking it may be a stuck thermostat or something, it is probably just debris blocking proper heat transfer. I also thought a screen may be useful but it causes it's own problems. Where to put it, what size it should be, it's presence alone will cause some restriction to airflow, etc. Probably the best location is over the condenser coil and you could actually access it by reaching in after removing all of the ductwork and shrouding and not dropping the RDA. I will think about this further and may actually create something during this cleaning. It would have to be a fine mesh but not so fine as to restrict airflow.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Is it possible to reach in with a shop vac and get some of the debris with the radiator installed?
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Nope. Don't think we haven't thought of that...

I use a leaf blower yearly to 'back-flush' the rad fins, then I use a vacuum to suck the resulting debris from the front side. I'll let you know in another 20K miles if I am wasting my time. ;)
 

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Dreaded Prior Owner
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Atwell, why use a leaf blower when you can run the big SPAL fans backwards after every drive?
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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run the big SPAL fans backwards
:ROFLMAO: :ROFLMAO: :ROFLMAO:

Because @Jenna'sEspritTurbo has the spal fans.

I have a parking lift in my garage so everything is easy (and, at face level).? Plus, with the proper attachment on the 'blower I can concentrate the airstream between the fins of the OEM Ford fans.

This method also lets me tell if any of the OEM are starting to tighten (turn slowly), which only requires a drop of oil on the shaft to fix.:p
 

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My car sneezes
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Hitting it with compressed air doesn't do much unfortunately. Most of the time, debris gets caked on between the condensor & radiator.

My take is though, if you are going through all this effort to remove, clean and reinstall the radiator, why reinstall a marginal radiator? For one, you'd never be able to completely remove all the debris between the fins. Second, a good re-cored radiator is about $500-800 and will fit just like OEM. Might as well do the job right.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The manual says to blow air "backwards" like Carbuff says but all that will do is push it onto the rear of rear of the condenser coils, it won't get it out from between the radiator and the condenser. I just finished cleaning the condenser coils. They were filled with fine grains of sand. I estimate less than 10% blockage. Sticking a screen in front of the condenser coils won't work. It would have to be so fine that it will be interfering wiith the airflow. Figure to keep it clean you just have to drop the whole thing once every 20 years or so. If you think about it, radiators aren't supposed to last more than 20 years anyway.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Figure to keep it clean you just have to drop the whole thing once every 20 years or so.
I'd say about every 10 years at my present mileage rate.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
An update on this job. The A/C system was leaky so I figured while I have the A/C drained I would inspect the whole system. The compressor was drenched in oil so it was pulled out. Quite the job! To get it out the left front motor mount, oil filter housing, and turbo oil drain had to be removed. The front oil seal was blown out on the compressor. It's a Delphi 5153 and was also used on 94-98 Buick Skylarks so a new OEM one was very reasonable at $229, no core required. At that price it isn't worth repairing the old one or getting a rebuilt one. In the meantime I have a lot of parts to clean up and flush out the A/C system. The "O" rings and seals are pretty standard stuff at Advance Auto Parts. This is exactly the kind of thing that takes a big job and makes it even bigger!
David Teitelbaum
 

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Found my Lotus Esprit (Facebook Group) posting of clogged radiator - the 1,500 miles shot is pretty sobering if you ask me.

1256871
 

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Found my high resolution picture - the dirty picture was only 1500 miles after full boil/rodding out of deposits (the side tank ruptured - possibly due to stiffer silicone hose install, but another story, another day). The 2nd picture is after tank repair and re-cleaned. 1500 miles of debris (about 1 year of driving) looks very ominous.
1257048
1257049
 

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Discussion Starter #18
All of that junk passed through the condenser coils. No way to inspect without removing the condenser coils and to do that you have to drop the whole thing and disassemble. If you look closely at the condenser coils I am sure you will find some debris in them too. The radiator and condenser coils were sized for the 4 cyl, When Lotus went to the V-8 they used the same parts even though the motor generates more heat. In spite of that you still have enough cooling capacity even with the partial blockage! Don't forget, when you reduce the airflow through the rad you are also reducing the airflow through the condenser coils. That raises the head pressures in the A/C system and reduces it's cooling capacity. If you live in an area where it is very hot you are probably marginal (or less) on a hot day in traffic with the A/C going. Before the motor overheats the fans will be running overtime and the head pressures will be sky high. What this tells us is that at some interval the radiator should be removed, inspected, and cleaned. It may be possible to drop the bottom intake duct, and reach in and remove just the A/C condenser coils or just move them up enough to get to the face of the radiator. That may get just enough room to clean out the junk.
David Teitelbaum
 
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