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Leaking Coolant from freeze plug heater 3vze

Old 03-11-2019, 08:20 AM
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Leaking Coolant from freeze plug heater 3vze

My 1994 pickup 3vze is leaking coolant from what appears to be a freeze plug heater on the drivers side towards the front of the engine, just above and to the right of the oil filter. I have never changed freeze plugs or freeze plug heaters before. Any advice on how to go about this repair? Also I live in Hawaii where (thankfully) we don't have to ever worry about freezing temperatures, so do I need to replace the freeze plug heater or could I just pop in another freeze plug instead? Thank you for any help.
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Old 03-11-2019, 09:16 AM
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Here's a drawing, if that helps: https://parts.lakelandtoyota.com/sho...rimLevel=18380 Note that there are two call-outs for the freeze plug, with a note that one of them is 35mm. The first thing I'd do is measure the diameter of the plugs NEXT to the one you're concerned about.

A block heater isn't to protect the block from freezing (that's why you have antifreeze), but to make the engine easier to turn over when it's really cold. So you don't need it in Hawaii. You DO still need anti-freeze; it also protects from boil-over.

I've never worked on a block heater, so I have little to add. When I have installed freeze plugs, I needed a large socket to tap them in. And the engine was out at the time. Doing this without removing the engine will be a challenge.
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Old 03-11-2019, 10:47 AM
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it's usually much easier to replace a block heater than it is to put a freeze plug in.
just don't put rtv on it or over tighten the hold-down screw.
after removing the old one (loosen the screw a lot and carefully pry it out) clean the bore with some emery cloth or scotch brite pads, lube it up with coolant and pop in a new block heater.
the instructions that come with the heater will tell you where to point the element to avoid contact with the cylinder castings.
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Old 03-11-2019, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by akwheeler View Post
... and pop in a new block heater. ...
Now he just has to find a parts store with block heaters ... in Hawaii!

No, no. He'll order online like anyone else. This one claims to be 35mm https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/b...n/versa?pos=11 MEASURE FIRST.

And I will absolutely defer to akwheeler on the maintenance of block heaters.

EDIT: Phillips & Temro (which makes the zerostart) says 310098 is the correct one of theirs. http://www.showmetheparts.com/philli...oapplications/ Also 35mm, also available at OReilly.

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Old 03-11-2019, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by scope103 View Post
Now he just has to find a parts store with block heaters ... in Hawaii!

No, no. He'll order online like anyone else. This one claims to be 35mm https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/b...n/versa?pos=11 MEASURE FIRST.

And I will absolutely defer to akwheeler on the maintenance of block heaters.

EDIT: Phillips & Temro (which makes the zerostart) says 310098 is the correct one of theirs. http://www.showmetheparts.com/philli...oapplications/ Also 35mm, also available at OReilly.
Thanks for the vote of confidence Scope! I've only installed or replaced a hundred or so (not all in Toyotas though). I don't envy you (kalihi) trying to get one in Hawaii, and getting the RIGHT one!
The majority of the installation problems I have had were from having the wrong one or one that was mis-boxed.
If you get the correct size for the hole and the element isn't too long your only issue should be to avoid pinching the o-ring when you force it in the hole.
the screw in the center just keeps it from backing out after you install it, so don't use it to pull the heater into the block.
It's also a one shot deal so if you screw it up get another one, the o-ring around the center screw will likely be shot if you try to pull it back out to try again.
read the instructions carefully and see where they suggest that it be installed, make sure that is where the old one is, because if it isn't you may not be able to point the heating element where they specify or it may not go in at all.
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Old 03-11-2019, 07:38 PM
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I think the advise above is good.

You may be one of only a few in Hawaii with a block heater!

As a side note, what most people refer to "freeze plugs" are really core plugs. Core plugs plug the holes left over from the sand core casting process when the engine block is being made.

Core plugs really cannot save an engine block from cracking if the liquid inside the block freezes (unless you are really lucky!) as water expands in all directions when it freezes. It is unlikely the freezing water will only push out the plugs but leave the block undamaged.

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Old 03-11-2019, 10:08 PM
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So I'm thinking that I should replace the core/block plug heater with a core/block plug since I don't need a heater where I live...Is it really much harder to install a block plug compared to a block plug heater (with the engine in the truck of course...)?

Here's a couple pictures of my leaking block plug heater...

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Old 03-12-2019, 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Kalihi,HI View Post
So I'm thinking that I should replace the core/block plug heater with a core/block plug since I don't need a heater where I live...Is it really much harder to install a block plug compared to a block plug heater (with the engine in the truck of course...)?
yes, it can be VERY difficult to get a straight shot a the hole to pound in a new freeze plug (core plug) while the engine is in the truck.
They MUST go in straight and not be driven too far into the block.
either way you go there are potential problems with getting it sealed back up when you are done, so be sure the hole is clean and smooth.
Lubricating the hole with coolant or a compatible lubricant (I use a little silicone grease) may help with the blockheater, but I am of the opinion that when driving in a new plug it is easier to get it started straight with no lube.
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Old 03-12-2019, 08:28 AM
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What would you guys do in my position? Replace the block plug heater with a block plug heater or replace with a block plug since I don't' really need the heater in Hawaii? I definitely want to do this without removing the engine...Is it much easier to install a block heater again versus a plug? I'm thinking the plug will last longer than the heater is that true? It is a tight spot, but I do have access to this one through the driver's side wheel well with the tire off. Lastly, what's the difference between expansion plugs and freeze plugs? I'm looking at ordering a set of brass freeze plugs from Yotashop.com.
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Old 03-12-2019, 08:46 AM
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Have you measured yours? This set https://www.yotashop.com/toyota-20r-...979-95-fps900/ claims 40mm, one the possible part nos. offered by Toyota is 35mm. I don't know which is correct, but it's easy enough to measure first.

A "freeze plug" is just a metal cup, held by (a lot of) friction in a smoothly bored hole in the block. What I think of as an "expansion plug" is a rubber cylinder with a bolt through it. You tighten the bolt and the rubber gets larger in diameter, "sealing" the hole, even an uneven one.

I don't know anything about block heaters, but the pictures and instructions make them look more like expansion plugs (install by tightening with a wrench) than freeze plugs (tap in absolutely straight). That might be why akwheeler says it's easier to replace a block heater than install a freeze plug.

If it were me, I'd pull out the block heater (it's clearly failed) and put in the freeze plug as designed. If nothing else, I would be sure that I had a large socket or seal-driver that fit well into the new freeze plug to drive it. You don't want to be hammering on the edge of the "cup."

Last edited by scope103; 03-12-2019 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 03-12-2019, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by scope103 View Post
Have you measured yours? This set https://www.yotashop.com/toyota-20r-...979-95-fps900/ claims 40mm, one the possible part nos. offered by Toyota is 35mm. I don't know which is correct, but it's easy enough to measure first.

A "freeze plug" is just a metal cup, held by (a lot of) friction in a smoothly bored hole in the block. What I think of as an "expansion plug" is a rubber cylinder with a bolt through it. You tighten the bolt and the rubber gets larger in diameter, "sealing" the hole, even an uneven one.

I don't know anything about block heaters, but the pictures and instructions make them look more like expansion plugs (install by tightening with a wrench) than freeze plugs (tap in absolutely straight). That might be why akwheeler says it's easier to replace a block heater than install a freeze plug.

If it were me, I'd pull out the block heater (it's clearly failed) and put in the freeze plug as designed. If nothing else, I would be sure that I had a large socket or seal-driver that fit well into the new freeze plug to drive it. You don't want to be hammering on the edge of the "cup."
the key to installing the plug is to get a STRAIGHT shot at it. IF you can hit your socket/driver with a hammer STRAIGHT on. If you have to put an extension on it, so be it, but if it is at even a slight angle it won't work. Here is a picture of a block heater (typical) showing the t-bar and wings that hold it in, not an expansion plug
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Old 03-12-2019, 01:37 PM
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The photo of the block heater looks like an expansion plug to me. Meaning, it fits into the bore easily, and as you tighten the nut the two brass parts come together "expanding" the o-ring to an oil-tight fit.

Which would be easier to install than a freeze/core plug. As akwheeler says, if you get the freeze/core plug tilted, you'll probably damage it so that you have to start over. But people put them in all the time, so if you're careful, it should be pretty doable.
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Old 03-12-2019, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by scope103 View Post
The photo of the block heater looks like an expansion plug to me. Meaning, it fits into the bore easily, and as you tighten the nut the two brass parts come together "expanding" the o-ring to an oil-tight fit.

Which would be easier to install than a freeze/core plug. As akwheeler says, if you get the freeze/core plug tilted, you'll probably damage it so that you have to start over. But people put them in all the time, so if you're careful, it should be pretty doable.
Sorry scope, the o-ring never expands, the t-bar bends the "butterfly wings" out to catch on the inside lip of the bore just to hold it in. the o-ring is a force fit and that is the only sealing you get.
This is why you may need lube to install it and you don't need to tighten the center screw very tight.
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Old 03-12-2019, 09:53 PM
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So after checking out my leaking block heater further, it appears the head of the screw to tighten/remove it is rusted away Any suggestions for how to remove it safely? scope103 The size is 35mm for my 3vze, looking at purchasing this set of brass plugs: https://www.yotashop.com/brass-freez...set-35mm-x-11/. Unless of course I am unable to pound it in...then Im thinking I might as well just buy a new block heater if it means it will be easier to install since I don't need to pound it in...just push it in and tighten the screw...is that correct thinking?
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Old 03-13-2019, 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Kalihi,HI View Post
So after checking out my leaking block heater further, it appears the head of the screw to tighten/remove it is rusted away Any suggestions for how to remove it safely? ...just push it in and tighten the screw...is that correct thinking?
you could drill the head off of the screw, just make sure you pull the pieces out of the block when you are done, the t-bar, the rest of the screw and the "butterfly wings". And, yes, push it in (takes some force and maybe some lube) making sure you don't pinch the o-ring and then tighten the screw until you feel the resistance increase (when the wings touch the inside of the block) DO NOT over torque it!
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Old 03-13-2019, 08:43 AM
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Thank you akwheeler for your help. This might sound stupid, but if I do get pieces of the block heater I'm removing into the block, is it really hard to get those pieces out? Maybe a shop-vac with the right attachment...Seeing as how I will be working through the tire well, I won't be able to see inside the block. On another note, what do you guys think about those rubber expansion plugs, are they any good? If it's impossible for me to get the brass block plug in correctly, would it be dumb to try one of those instead of another block heater if it's easier to install?
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Old 03-13-2019, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Kalihi,HI View Post
Thank you akwheeler for your help. This might sound stupid, but if I do get pieces of the block heater I'm removing into the block, is it really hard to get those pieces out? Maybe a shop-vac with the right attachment...Seeing as how I will be working through the tire well, I won't be able to see inside the block. On another note, what do you guys think about those rubber expansion plugs, are they any good? If it's impossible for me to get the brass block plug in correctly, would it be dumb to try one of those instead of another block heater if it's easier to install?
You should be able to get a finger inside and fish out the leftovers, if that doesn't work try wrapping some tape around your finger sticky side out or a magnet (iron block though).
I have no experience with the rubber expansion plugs, but I would be worried about pressure build up in the cooling system blowing it out.
Can anyone else chime in on them?
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Old 03-13-2019, 01:25 PM
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I have heard that the rubber expansion plugs are a temporary fix, but I have never tried them.

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Old 03-17-2019, 09:47 PM
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So I'm just waiting for the brass freeze/block plug set to come in from Rockauto.com, was only $10.99 for a set of 11 from a company called Sealed Power, I hope they are good...Any more advice for getting the plug in? Should I apply anything to the outer edge of the plug such as gasket sealer or gasket shellac as I saw in this YouTube video:
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Old 03-18-2019, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Kalihi,HI View Post
So I'm just waiting for the brass freeze/block plug set to come in from Rockauto.com, was only $10.99 for a set of 11 from a company called Sealed Power, I hope they are good...Any more advice for getting the plug in? Should I apply anything to the outer edge of the plug such as gasket sealer or gasket shellac as I saw in this
I got nothing, I don't remember the last time I installed a freeze plug. when the engine is in the vehicle I always go for a block heater, even when I had a leaking plug.
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