Sunday, September 27, 2020

 Installing the radiator in the XJ6.

This the old one that I just removed.
Hard to believe that they want over 700 dollars for a new one.

Trying to keep the driveway clean.
Those darn ramps gave me plenty of working room.


I thought that now would also be a good time to replace the old radiator bushings. I had ordered a new set a year or so back. I had stuck some pieces of radiator hose and pipe insulation the openings as a temporary fix. My little bodge did keep the thing from rattling back and forth. But there was a lot more damage that I couldn't see right away.

Things were much worse under the radiator.

I jacked the car up and rested the wheels on the ramps, this would give me plenty of space to work under the car. I knew that I was going to have to first drain the radiator of coolant, which I did by disconnecting the bottom hose. I also knew that the transmission and power steering cooler connections would spill some fluid so I was careful to place a large tray to catch any spillage under an old brass planter that I used hold the coolant. I hate to make a mess in the driveway!

The peg was there, but what happened to the bushing?

The rubber mounts for the a/c condenser needed replacing also. The ones on the top were hard but still intact. The lowers had gone AWOL some time ago. The lower mounting pin was bent back on one side and missing on the other. The condenser was sitting on the radiator cross member. Not conducive to long life.

Not only was the bushing gone so was the locating pin!

When I bought the radiator mounts I didn't think to buy the condenser mounts. However I thought that I could come up with something. That's because I never throw old rubber bushings away. I looked through a few that I had on hand, and found a suitable pair. But what to do about that missing pin? 

The two on the left looked like suitable replacements
for the bottom mounts.

I decided to run a small body bolt up from the bottom through the bushing into the bracket. It worked out quite well, as the bolt is not long enough to strike the condenser itself.

The trial fit. That's not a leak.
The bolt fell into the drained tranny fluid.

The only thing left of the original radiator bushings were a couple of large aluminum washers. All traces of foam had disappeared completely over the years. 

I remember reading a blog post on the Jaguar forums that related how difficult it was to mount the aftermarket rubber radiator mounts. The OEM bushings were originally made of a foam rubber material. The aftermarket replacements were made a rather unyielding rubber. Compounding the problem was that the radiator support cross member was the part of the under carriage that had often hit those concrete parking bumpers. My car sits pretty low in the front, I think that it looks good, but boy did that cross member take a beating. The passenger side was bent up a bit and the radiator mount wouldn't settle properly into the opening. 

Like most non OEM replacements
these are made of rubber. Much stiffer than Jaguar's choice of foam.

What I should have done was bash the cross member back into shape with a big hammer and done some trial fitting before I placed the radiator back into place. I hadn't realized how stiff those darn bushings were! The mount would not fit in the hole on the passenger side. I ended up using a big adjustable wrench to twist and pull the cross member down into a somewhat better alignment. I also was concerned that I might twist the radiator. I didn't want to bind up the radiator. So I left all the mounting bolts a bit loose. I 'm hoping that everything will "massage" itself into place  over a little time. Then I'll tighten them down a bit more.

You can see the three ball socket mounts. I added a drop of oil to the socket
before popping the assembly back into place.

I also decided to replace the defective headlamp assembly. The old one popped out easily and the replacement went in just as easy. The replacement's lens is much clearer looking than the road blasted unit it replaced. When I find another high beam unit I'll replace the other three. Unfortunately the car at the wreckers had one broken headlight, the right high beam.  I''ll just keep and eye out, they're easy enough to remove.

The backside view of the headlamp assembly.

I refilled all the fluids, straining the coolant through a piece of old T shirt. Hey, I'm a professional! Not only does that save money, it's the recommended procedure. The manual states that the coolant should be re-used if possible. I started up the car and let it run and heat up. I left the radiator cap off and turned the heater on to the high setting. Hopefully this will get all the air out of the system. Then I topped up the coolant tank.

The washer fluid tank hangs down a bit low also.

Since I was using the ramps I thought that I'd be cute and just roll the car backwards off the ramps. Why jack up the car to get the ramps out? I let the car roll back and it seemed fine until I heard a cracking sound! After it was on terra firma I got out to see what had occurred. A stream of green liquid was dripping from the front of the car. Had the radiator cracked? Was a hose loose? It had been running for almost half an hour  and there hadn't been any leaks. 

You can see the crack in the bottom.

I looked under the car and realized that the windshield washer tank was positioned in front of the right front wheel. Low car, plus car ramps, equals a bad combination. The bottom of the tank had contacted the ramp on the way down. Luckily the tank only had a small crack on the bottom. What else could go wrong?

I took the car out on my 20 mile test loop. It seemed fine, staying under the normal mark, even with the A/C on. Just as I was almost home the needle went over the center as I was stopped at a red light. A couple of minutes after I drove off, the needle went back down. Why couldn't things ever be simple?

When I parked in the driveway I opened the hood checking for possible leaks. The noticed that the fans had not come on. That was unusual. Maybe the temperature sensor had gone bad? 

At the wreckers when I removed the radiator/ fan shroud assembly I had disconnected the wires from the junction point under the left bumper. I had started to disconnect them from that point again, but changed my mind and instead disconnected the wires at the individual fan motors. When I looked under the bumper I saw that I had loosened the connection enough that it had fallen off during the test drive! I plugged the connector in and the fans sprung into life. Mystery solved.

What to do about the cracked washer fluid reservoir? It would be easy enough to replace, That VdP at the wreckers still had one in place. I thought that I'd just try to fix it with silicon seal first.

This rather unattractive photo displays
 a quantity of sealer squeezed onto a piece of plastic.

I had once read an article in an old motorcycle magazine on making emergency repairs. It recommended squeezing a quantity of sealer onto a piece of plastic sheet and letting it set up for a time. Especially when trying to stop an active leak. Then you apply the sealer and can press the plastic to secure the sealer to the crack. It also keeps that stinky silicon off your fingers! After it cures you can peel the plastic off. In this case I had let the tank drain completely and wiped the area down with alcohol first.

There's the silicon patch applied to he bottom of the tank.

After the silicon cured for a couple of days I just peeled the plastic off. It left the patch behind. It sealed the leak and the patch isn't visible unless you get down on your hands and knees. Good enough for now.

Now that I eliminated the radiator as a problem I can move forward with the next priority, dealing with the OBD codes. Once I'm successful at passing the smog test I can plan for  the suspension rebuild.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

 Unfortunately, The radiator cap might not have been the problem with the Mustang over heating.

Image source:
It isn't that bad...yet.

Is anything ever that easy?

I topped up the radiator with coolant and sealed it with the new cap. Now all I had to do was try it out.

The current 100 degree heatwave gave me a great opportunity to get the motor quickly to operating temperature. Did it ever! The gauge read even higher than it had up at Lake Tahoe, it even spilled coolant out of the cap. What could be the problem? Was it overfilled?

Usually overheating results form leaks that lower the amount of coolant in the system. 

I haven't found any visible leaks. I'd better take a closer, more careful look.

The leaks can lower the pressure of the system which can result in the coolant overheating.

The first and easiest step was to replace the cap, which has an even more basic role in controlling pressure.

Sometimes the thermostat fails to open completely restricting flow. That will heat things up. Often times it will break and stick open. In that case the engine will run too cool and take a long time to heat up. This happened before to one of my minivans. 

Collapsed hoses, and clogged radiators can also restrict the flow.

Sometimes the impeller vanes in the water pump itself can erode over time, reducing coolant circulation.

The electric radiator fan can fail, allowing it overheat in heavy traffic.

Advanced ignition timing, or a vacuum leak can also raise the temperature.

Time for a little detective work.

Looking for leaks in all the wrong places.

I haven't noticed any leaks from the various hoses, water pump, or the radiator itself.  I had replaced the thermostat shortly after buying the car. I checked the electric fan and it was working once the motor got hot. Could it be a sensor that is delaying it turning on at too high a temperature? Maybe.

Could the radiator be clogged up? That's possible. It is almost 25 years old and during my 10 years of ownership I only changed the coolant... once.  I also drained and refilled both of the times I changed the intake manifold.

Could it be the water pump? I've seen posts on the Jaguar forum and in the Riviera owners mag that detailed this problem. In the Jag cases the impellers are made of plastic and they erode over time. I've certainly seen plastic erode, look at my XJ6 radiator spigot! In the cases with the Riviera, the problem surfaced when the leaking water pump was replaced by a rebuilt unit. The rebuilder replaces the seals and bearings but reuses the eroded impeller. It can't circulate enough water during high stress conditions. The remedy is to replace the pump with a brand new unit.

In my situation I had noted the increase in temperature last year during my trip to Tahoe. I attributed it to my addition of a fuel system cleaner before the trip. I thought that it might have burned hotter than "normal" gasoline and caused the increased temps. There wasn't any noticeable increase in day to day use or even on my trip to Pismo Beach this July, well maybe a little. So this has been a gradual progression, not a sudden failure.

Replacing the cap was the easiest response.

I'm going to look for a loose or damaged vacuum line. Timing settings don't deteriorate over time like with old fashioned points systems.

Replacing the thermostat is cheap, and easier than flushing out the radiator, the next step after that. 

I might have to pull the water pump after that. Just to check the impeller. I might do a bit of internet sleuthing before doing that.

I will definitely find the problem, I intend to keep the Mustang in good running shape.


Now, on the Jaguar side of the drive...

I've posted a pic of the upper radiator hose spigot, it looks pretty bad. Could it be fixed?

I dove into the internet, looking for repair info, and found info on repairing cracks in the tank, or at the base of the spigot. I started thinking about crafty fixes like replacing the spigot with a metal or PVC pipe that I would epoxy in place. It might work, for a while. 

Of course I priced replacements, starting on the web is easiest. I found a replacement at PartsGeek for 400.00. Rock Auto didn't offer the part, and a general internet search returned prices of four to five hundred dollars.

Another route is to see what my local parts store could come up with. My local guys came up with a quote of 750.00, They did say that they could give me a little break on the price. I told them that they couldn't give me a big enough break!

How about using a used, er, recycled part?

I contacted a Jaguar specialty wrecking yard in Stockton to inquire about availability. They sent me a quote for 300.00. My local wrecking yards are primarily Pick and Pull locations. They can be hit or miss, but now they have a computer listing of their auto inventory. That helps a lot. I checked the remaining San Jose location and they informed me that there weren't any Jags in their yard, but there were some, including a '96 XJ6 in the Newark yard. They had a lot of Jags in there! It's always sad to see an XJR languishing in a wrecking yard. Luckily there was also an X300 Van de Plas in the yard. And it had a good radiator! Eureka!

There was also a bunch of other good parts. A set of ignition coils. The cam cover looked great. These cam covers are made of magnesium and are prone to oxidation and pitting. I was thinking that I should pick that up. I seen that a few posters on the forum are having troubles locating good usable, affordable, examples. The shroud and double fans were perfect, I could pick those up to. While it's nice to have some spare parts, it's money that doesn't need to be spent, yet.

I left with the radiator and that set of coils.  I figure that I could go back tomorrow and get a few of the other things. I thought about it overnight and returned in the morning,

I had loosened the cam cover completely before I left the day before, and I just removed it from the top of the engine. I had to do a little more work to remove the seat belt and latch. Luckily the driver's seat was already almost completely free. Unfortunately the driver's latch didn't work, so I removed the latch from the passenger side seat. I took both thinking I might use the passengers side for repair parts. Another 20 bucks! On my car the right side high beam lens is loose and flops around. It's been doing that since I bought it. I decided to take the one on the VdP. The bumper cover had been removed so I had easy access to head lamp assemblies. I found a few nuts on the brackets but couldn't figure out how to remove the actual head lamp assemblies.  They were held on by three ball sockets. I gave the lamp a tug and two popped off. Another tug released the lower mount. One good thing about Pick and Pull, if you break something nobody is going to know!

I decided to take the other two good lamps as spares, but I was careful to remove the bulb and socket. P&P loves to nickel and dime you on every single little part. The day before I had carried the coils by their wires like a string of tomatoes on the vine. I didn't think that they would charge me for the loom.  The cashier asked me if I wanted the wires. I told her for a dollar yes, for twenty, no. She said that the plug and wire was 4.00 each, that would have added an additional 24 bucks to the bill! I should have known better. If you buy a complete engine, if anything is missing like the carb, starter, distributor, or alternator, even plug wires,  you'd be smart to find those and attach those to your motor before seeing the cashier. The price for a complete motor includes the accessories as a special deal, come back the next day to pick up those items and you'll be paying for something that would have been free had you taken it the day before.

In any case I was very happy to find the radiator. So I picked up those other items. Luckily the heatwave has passed. But due to the fires, the air quality is still very poor. I wore my mask while I was outside pulling parts in the yard. I felt pretty good afterwards, though, as this positive wrecking yard experience seems to have given me my old car mojo back!

Now to replace the radiator. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Thinking about historical vehicle registration. Part One.

Why not, my XJS isn't pulled by any horse!

I posted earlier about my '96 Mustang being considered a vintage vehicle. Is it just an old car, or is it a historical vehicle? It' s obviously old enough to bring back memories of many onlooker's youth.

That got me to thinking, maybe my XJS could benefit from being registered that way. Not as a horseless carriage. It' s old, but that would be stretching things quite a bit!

But as a historical vehicle. The term, "Historical vehicle" is not just an opinion, in this case, it is a legal status defined by the California vehicle code.

Why would I want to do this?

The biggest gain would that the car would no longer be subject to a biannual smog check.

Every old Jag owner, the car, not the human, lives in fear of that failure.

photo source"
It's only a problem if it doesn't go out.

It's not that we want to flaunt the law and pollute the earth's atmosphere. It's that our cars are quite finicky and temperamental, and they are getting to be pretty old.

There is a new bill that just passed, AB2225 which amends the law specifying which vehicles are exempt from the smog check requirement.

I was watching a video  posted by Mike Frankovich of "Californians for Classic Car exemptions."  It was released  in February of this year, describing the bill which was brought to the California Assembly by Assembly Member Grayson.

The bill was passed into law and exempts vehicles registered as California Historical Vehicles from the need of the biannual smog check.

If you can remember that years ago the exemption for old cars was moved back from pre 1976 vehicles to a rolling exemption that applied to cars that were twenty five years old or older. This was great for enthusiasts because it meant that newer and newer cars would be eligible. We would now be up to 1995!

The designated age of a historical vehicle was only twenty five years of age, but the need to conform to the smog check was still in effect, even for historical vehicles that were not used for everyday transportation.

That meant that your 1990 car couldn't be driven if it failed the smog test, or worse, even if it would pass the sniff test, but had other issues with sensors that would trip codes. These would light the CEL, resulting in a fail. Issues with sensors, tripped codes that can't be cleared, difficult to diagnose problems with drive cycles, wiring and hard to source parts. Sounds like most 80's and 90's Jaguars to me.

Historical vehicle registration has several requirements.

First, is the age of the vehicle. Built prior to 1922 or at least 25 years old. 1922 was almost one hundred years ago! That's quite a a range in model years. My XJS is a relative youngster at 31 years of age.

Second, is that it is owned by a collector. I was quite pleased to discover that I was, by law, considered an auto collector, instead of just a weird old guy with too many cars taking up all the curbside parking. You just need to own one collector car to qualify.

Third, that it is a vehicle of historical significance. Just the fact that the vehicle has survived up to this point is a factor in it's favor. Although Jaguar made quite a few XJS models, there aren't that many survivors. Plus, it's got twelve cylinders, just like a Pierce Arrow or Packard.

photo source:
This is a Pierce Arrow.
Twelve cylinders are automotive royalty.

And finally, the vehicle will be used "primarily" for club events, shows, tours  etc. The actual statute is worded in a more hobbyist friendly manner. The word "primarily" is the sticking point and subject to interpretation. Note that it does not say "exclusively."

One contributor on the Antique Automobile Club of America, ( A.A.C.A.) board said that he considered the term "primarily" to mean 51% historical use, and 49% personal use. I wish that the language was so clear cut!

Clearly, the intent is that the vehicle will not be used for everyday transportation. Commuting to work, etc.

There has been several bills passed over the years that have dealt with collector cars. Some have been good and helpful. Like the one that exempts collector cars that have been in long term disuse from having to pay back registration fees. This is helpful because the accumulated fees were often excessive, and resulted in the car being scrapped instead of restored.

AB2225 appears to be another helpful bill.

This new bill does not require that the car be covered by collector car insurance. These policies usually have mileage restrictions. I suppose that this requirement was to keep annual mileage on the vehicles down.

Of course baked into the statute is language that will definitely limit mileage driven.

I don't have a problem with limited mileage, I've got several other cars that I drive. The car has mostly sat for the three years that I've owned it so far, anyway.

There are certain conditions in my life that eliminate the idea that I will ever be driving or commuting to work.

First of all, I'm retired and I no longer have a job to drive to!

Second, I have several other cars registered to me. A couple are late models. Therefore it cannot be assumed that my collector car is my only car, and would be used for regular transportation.

I suppose that I could join a car club to verify the "hobby status'"  of my activities. I will probably join the Antique Automobile Club of America and perhaps a local chapter of a marque club.

There are many actual car shows that take place all over the state and country.

I'm participated in the Pacific Coast Dream Machines show, Friendship Day, The Riviera Owners Association annual get together, Good Guys shows, and the Central Valley British car show,

These were legit, big time shows.

But consider how many casual "Cars and Coffee" events and "Cruise Nights" take place locally.

These are legitimate shows also.

So anytime that I drive to a show or event is it a legitimate  use of the car?  So if I drive up to Reno for Hot August Nights that's okay? Even if I spend the nights in Lake Tahoe?

The car can also be driven on "tours".  A club tour would probably be a multi car event, Could a solo car also comprise a tour?

What makes a trip a tour? A trip made primarily for pleasure? A trip made without any commercial gain? Not for the paid transport of passengers or cargo? These two things would definitely remove it from the "tour" category.

Is it a "tour," if I call it a tour?

The car can be driven to repair facilities and then it would need to be test driven, and undergo "shake down" driving evaluation episodes. As we know, cars also need regular exercise to remain in good running condition.

photo source;
Not what you want to see in your rear view mirror.

The biggest hang up are the words "primarily used." However, I noted that it does not say "exclusively." These words are subject to interpretation, call in the lawyers! If a cop sees me driving around in my Jag, he could stop me and reasonably and legally ask me where I'm going and for what reasons. Interpretation of the law always comes down to the officer on the street. If he believes there is a violation then he can cite me and I'd have to prove my case in court. Hopefully he would not feel compelled to call a tow truck!

All this sounds pretty extreme to deal with someone just driving their  own old car!

The question would be if I am operating the vehicle outside of the legal restrictions.

It's beginning to look like the benefits are going to be overwhelmed by the hassles.

Am I trying to game the system?

Not really, I just want to be able to ensure that I can maintain the use of one of my cars.

With conventional registration, if my car fails the smog test I will be unable to renew my registration and legally drive it. Now you are caught in a real quandary, you can't move forward and complete the registration and you can't go back as if it never happened and place it on "non-op" status. You can't even drive the car to a repair shop without a one day trip permit. You might need to tow the vehicle on a trailer!

With the historical vehicle plate, the smog requirement is lifted and I can continue to work on my car and test drive and use it while I continue to improve it.

The car is currently 31 years old. Under present laws once it reaches 35 years of age it will automatically be under a different classification. Whether or not it is under historical vehicle registration or not.

So I can shield my car until it is 35 years old.

I have some real concerns about the ability of my car to pass smog testing. I could be caught holding the bag with several thousand dollars I've currently invested in fixing it up. There's thousands more that need to be spent. The convertible top, the suspension, the seats, and interior wood work. Not to mention the radio, a/c , power windows and all the little foibles that the car has. That all takes time, effort and money. I'd have no guarantee that my investment would be protected.

If my car was currently exempt from smog, I'd just maintain the current registration. The license fees are not excessive, I've kept it insured, and I'd still want to keep it running as well as possible. Annual mileage would still be pretty low. It's not the kind of car that I would be driving everyday anyway.  Plus I've got a lot of other cars that I can drive.

I'm not too happy with the vagueness of the usage description. There's a lot of room for interpretation that might not be in my favor. For certain, I won't ever again be commuting to work in it. I definitely will not be using it as my daily driver transportation. I will occasionally take it to shows and exhibitions. I will maintain and preserve it, which means keeping it regularly exercised.

I think that I can live with that.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Comparing the new to the old.

These things are nice, and get the job done.

Last week I drove 1,200 miles, to Oregon and back, in a rented 2020 Dodge Grand Caravan.

This week I'm driving around 500 miles round trip, up to Lake Tahoe in my '96 Mustang.

                                             I've been captivated by Lake Tahoe since watching
                                                                         this show as a kid.

Say what you will about new cars, their saving grace is that they are brand new. All the parts are still fresh from the factory. The Dodge came to me with 2,700 miles. My Mustang has well over 213,000 miles.

As I was driving up  Highway 50 I remarked to my Wife that it was an interesting, almost  back to back comparison.

She asked me to describe what the differences were.

First of all, everything on the new car is tight, with no wobbles or slop in the controls, and everything still functions at 100% efficiency. Not only the engine, and mechanical stuff but especially the electrical controls of the dash, door and windows. The a/c was fiercely cold, the power door and window controls were flawless. This is what you would expect.

What I didn't expect was the smooth and flawless power. I've had two older V6 Mopar minivans, a 1990 Dodge Caravan and a '96 Town and Country. This version was certainly faster. It did have a six speed transmission and it used it well. I found that it would run up to 80 mph. very easily, if I wasn't paying attention. My path to Oregon was quite hilly, passing Mt. Shasta is the highest point on I5 at 4,000 ft. elevation. I had four adults in the van and the cargo area behind the second row of seats was packed to the brim. The van never felt under powered, though it had to down shift quite a bit on the longest, steepest sections. Fuel economy as very good, exceeding 24 mpg. on the level sections. My previous experience was 20-22 mpg. on my last two vans.

All the modern conveniences.
I was impressed by the build quality.

Compared to my Mustang there is much more available and convenient up front storage space, cup holders, and cubby holes. Being a mini van it had three row seating, "stow and go" and rear a/c. Also there was better and more convenient lighting. Of course it had a Nav screen in the dash and information readouts in the speedo cluster.

You might be thinking that my poor old Mustang is looking pretty poor in comparison.

In some ways yes. Any old car fan will admit that their car is going to be lacking in modern amenities. There's no way to make a direct comparison.

Still my car has most of the features that you would expect. Primarily a/c and cruise control. The safety stuff like belts, air bags, abs and four wheel disc brakes are also there.

My car is maintained in pretty good shape but there is a little play in the steering and I think a little freshening up in the suspension dept is due in the future.

Still, I felt safe and comfortable, and the car ran reliably. It got a bit hotter than the mid line mark on the temp gauge, climbing the 7,400 ft. mountain, but only  bit. The a/c was on constantly.

As I've stated before, even though the car is twenty five years old, it's still a modern car. The steering and brakes handled the twisty road easily. It has plenty of power to climb the slopes and really felt in it's comfort zone. I will admit that my aggression levels have decreased over the last forty years. I'm not rushing up on cars breathlessly waiting to reach the passing lane. This particular Mustang is happy to be driven at a comfortable pace. So am I.

There are things that I could do to improve the utility of the car.

The trunk is small, with a equally small opening. Small individual bags are better for packing than a couple of large suitcases.

That little spot on the right was promptly filled.

Luckily the back seat can hold a good amount of luggage, and a big ice chest.

Who needs passengers?

What would come in handy up front would be another cupholder. An eyeglass holder, trash bin, and another couple of interior lights. And maybe some kind of organizer thing that would hang behind the front seat. It would also be nice to have map pockets built into the seatbacks.

Maybe I should take a trip to Pep Boys!

I lent the Mustang to my Son so that he could take his fiance for her first ride around the Lake. The best way to experience the drive is in a convertible with the unobstructed views of the mountains, lakes and water falls. When he returned, he told me that the car had gotten kind of hot, the temp gauge swung quite a bit over center. He had seen some water on the pavement while he was filling up with gas before he returned. Though he thought that it might have been from another car that had been at the gas pump earlier.

The car had not spilled any water after my drive up, and it didn't spill any after the trip around the lake. I checked! On the morning before I left, I checked the coolant level. The coolant tank showed that it was low. I added three little bottles of drinking water to bring it up to full. I checked the top of the intake manifold where I was familiar with possible leaks. Luckily I didn't find any evidence of leaks. It appeared to me that it was probably a failing radiator cap that couldn't maintain the 16 pound pressure that was called for.

The drive home was easier, after the initial climb over the summit, then it's all down hill. The car ran fine but I was keeping a close eye on the temp gauge. It stayed in the middle, only moving slightly to the right of the upper mark. Then it would drop down on the long downhill stretches. If it had stayed too far to the right I would have had to stop and let it cool down. Then check the coolant level. That's the advantage of having a gauge instead of a warning light. You can take preventive action before it's too late!

Things seemed normal until I was past Placerville and driving down the long up and down stretch into Sacramento. It was over 90 degrees and I noticed that the coolant level indicator light lit up briefly, although the temp gauge was posting normal levels. I pulled off the freeway at El Dorado Hills to take a closer look. I found a gas station, parked, and lifted the hood to look for leaks. Again I was happy not to find any. I looked at the coolant tank and saw that the level was up to the cold level. I decided that I didn't need to let it cool off and check inside the tank. I would just continue on while keeping my eyes open. There were no more issues on the last leg.

After I arrived, The car didn't spill any coolant. There was some liquid underneath, I stuck my finger in the puddle and found that it was clear water from the a/c condensation.

I emptied three of these bottles before I left Tahoe.

The next day I opened the coolant tank to take a look. The level was as low as I had found it at the Lake. I bought a replacement radiator cap and refilled the tank. Now I'll just drive it for awhile and keep an eye on things.

The auto store replacement cap is not an exact duplicate.

I suppose that this is the real difference between driving a new car and an old one. With an old car you have to be  constantly aware, and monitor  the condition of the vehicle. You can't just take things for granted.  Vigilance is not only called for, it's rewarded. Of course, you shouldn't take everything for granted, even with a new car. I would scan the gauges in the Grand Caravan,  checking the indicators, just to be sure.

You've got to pay attention for a drama fee trip.