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OIL IN MY RADIATOR - what does it mean?

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Old 10-08-2011, 12:28 PM   #1
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OIL IN MY RADIATOR - what does it mean?

Specifically. I realize it means "not good".

Wife was driving my 1st gen 4Runner when a hose busted last week. I let it cool down and drove it a mile home never going over 2K RPMs (it was a cool night). I fixed the hose but noticed a light oil smell in the fluid. Drove it a little this week and now I see oil floating in the reservoir and leaking from the radiator cap, which appears to be under more pressure than usual.

Head gasket? Water pump? It's the 1988 3VZE with 261K miles on it. Had the head gasket done once (don't know when but likely many years ago by the previous owner when recalled)

I don't see the usual water/antifreeze/oil froth yet in the oil cap that would indicate a head gasket, but I didn't drive it that much either before I noticed it. Oil appears to be just oil, for now. But like the radiator having only a little oil in it my engine may have only a little water in it.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-08-2011, 02:17 PM   #2
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I'd guess head gasket.
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Old 10-08-2011, 02:54 PM   #3
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HG, most likely, based on the oil and additional pressure in radiator. Potentially, cracked head or block is it overheated significantly.

At 261K miles, I'd be looking for a good lower mileage engine to drop in if it turns out to be HG or worse.

Have you done a compression and a leak down test?
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Old 10-08-2011, 07:20 PM   #4
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I did a compression test a year ago and all valves were 120+ PSI and within 20 psi of each other, but not since the oil in the radiator issue. Have not done a leak down test. That is probably the next step. But I just discovered this Friday so I'll have to take it to he mechanic Monday.

If testing does show a head gaske/head issue I was going to try one of the chemical gasket sealers that work internally like Thermgasket. I've heard those can work if the issue is minor (not a warped/cracked head).

Any experience with those type sealers or recommendations on a good one?

If that doesnt work I may do the work myself and work on the head gasket if the head isn't warped or cracked. If the head is damaged and will need replacement I may replace the engine with a 5vz-fe. I've heard they match up pretty well with the 3vze as far as mounts and repurposing other parts.

Here's an old thread that gives the broad strokes of the swap.

How's the power from the 3.4L engine in your Tacoma? Anything would be an improvement over the v-slow 3vze.
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Old 10-09-2011, 08:32 PM   #5
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Sounds as if the other posts hit the nail on the head bro. Sounds like a HG to me as well. I am not suggesting that you should try it, but I have used leak fix (I believe bar brand) in another small truck that I had and it worked pretty good for me for a few thousand miles. It was called liquid glass! I dont recall where I got it or what it costs. I do know that I had to completely flush my cooling system of all antifreeze and fill with straight water. (will not work if there is any trace of antifreeze in your system) Add the liquid glass to the system and bring to temp for ??? minutes then let cool and flush once again. Fill with AF/water and all good! I am remembering this off the top of my head, so dont quote me. Do a google search for it and you will more than likely find what I am talking about.

Good luck bro hope this helps,
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Old 01-05-2013, 03:32 AM   #6
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Unfortunately, I had the same problem. Pulled the heads and found numerous cracks between valves so junked them for new heads, valves, buckets and everything. Previous owner had rebuilt no long before and cylinder walls were great along with bearings on the bottom end.
Used steel HG. Got it all together, compression at 150 or better so I was happy. One month later... oil levels had been dropping and there was a small leak, so I didn't worry until it started running hotter. Again, oil in the antifreeze.
I have read where the blocks have developed cracks in the oil galleys that will leak into the water jacket.
what now? New block? How difficult is the 3.4 swap? I live in a county in Texas where the EPA Nazi's require emissions testing. I don't know if I need to swap engine/granny/computer all at the same time or not. Since the 3.0 is such a dog, I am leaning toward getting the 3.4 and rebuilding, then selling my new heads to try to recoup my past expenses.

Any ideas welcome.
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Old 01-05-2013, 08:58 AM   #7
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You should definitely swap the granny. The 3.0 granny is very codgity and frumpy. The 3.4 granny still has her drivers license and real teeth.

Just kidding. There are a lot of swaps on here and other threads.


and google says:


Good luck with that. If you want to keep the engine for a long time I would do it right and skip the stop leak stuff.

If you want to buy yourself some time to save up for the swap the stop leak is probably the best way to go. You never know if it will leave you stranded though. My buddy got lucky and his let out and the engine seized, but he was only two blocks away from home. Really lucky considering he had an hour and a half commute.

Good luck with whatever you both do and post up the results!
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:02 PM   #8
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I would also say Head gasket. Being that is something that separates the two.
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:02 PM
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