88 Mustang V8 Swap, Rebuild, Or Give Up?

Discussion in 'Fox Engine Swaparoo' started by Jim Wit, May 10, 2012.


  1. Jim Wit

    Jim Wit New Member

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    Hi. I am new to this forum so I hope that I am not asking a question that was answered elsewhere. I have an 88 LX with a seemingly stock 302. I am happy with the performance but the car is overheating. I suspect a head gasket because there are no obvious problems with the coolant system. I will perform a pressure test to confirm.

    Assuming that the engine needs a new head gasket, I have 3 options to get the stang running again.

    Option 1: I found someone who would put a different 302 (he claims that it was rebuilt to stock specs) in the car and keep my engine for $600. The different 302 is from an '84 stang, so I would probably lose some power... but keeping the headers and intake off of the '88 will seemingly help.

    Option 2: for a bit cheaper (assuming minimal machine work), I can pay someone to replace the head gasket in the original engine. Note that this is not a full rebuild. I will only get a new head gasket.

    Option 3: I can try to replace the head gasket myself. I am slightly mechanically skilled but I have never tried anything like this before. Money is a bit tight but I could afford to buy an Edelbrock intake manifold to put on the car if I went with option 3.

    What would you do? I can afford all three options. Obviously, the viability of option 3 depends on my skills, which you would have a hard time assessing. I might try option 3 first and, in the event of failure, revert to options 1 or 2. But I can't decide between options 1 and 2.
  2. txstang84

    txstang84 Active Member

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    This is more of a tech thread question than engine swaperoo, but:

    Apart from overheating is there anything else wrong with the car?? Give us some more info...have you noticed anything in the coolant that would indicate leakage? (bubbles) How long has the coolant been in there? What t-stat are you running? How long has it been overheating? What kind of radiator are you running? Can you seen corrosion in the radiator? Does it overheat quickly, or creep up? Have you noticed any steam coming from your tailpipes, or can you smell coolant?

    I'd be willing to bet there's nothing really wrong with your engine and even if the head gasket is blown, it's probably within your level of expertise with good hand tools, patience, the help of a good friend, and all the right parts...and maybe a trip to Taco Bell and/or the beer store. Engine work isn't difficult as long as you can read and comprehend directions, so go buy a haynes manual and study up.

    You can also run a search on here, or just peruse around for an hour or two-odds are you'll find something in the first few pages that will assist you...plenty of threads exist in tech section to guide you in that way. If you figure a full felpro gasket set for a stock 5.0 is about $80 from the local parts store (last time I checked anyway, and that's been a while), plus a torque wrench or two, some RTV, and I'd bet some new bolts here and there and you'd be doing alright. Depending on how long it's been since certain parts have been changed, you may be in for a new water pump, t-stat, or possibly even a radiator. This is why it's important to accurately diagnose your issues before tearing into stuff.

    Well, welcome to StangNet-look for jrichker, hissin50, tmoss, stang&2birds, michaelyount and the like...those guys have tons of useful info for everyone.
  3. txstang84

    txstang84 Active Member

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    Oh-and you don't give up on Mustangs...
    werner and 95Vert383AOD like this.
  4. Jim Wit

    Jim Wit New Member

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    Thanks for the advice. I think I want to try doing the work myself. It would be a skill that could be useful in the future. Unfortunately, many of the bolts are corroded and might tend to snap off (see my experience below with the t-stat).

    The t-stat is a 190. I snapped one of the bolts off of the intake in trying to replace it... I need to drill it out. There aren't any external leaks in the coolant system and I don't see coolant in the oil (or oil/bubbles in the coolant). I don't see white smoke. The overheating creeps up (maybe about 10-15 min into the drive). Thus, it is still possible that the head gasket is fine. My project for today is to do the pressure test and remove the bolt from the intake manifold.

    The Mustang also needs some automatic transmission work (a project for next year). It does not shift into 4th gear. It just jumps out of 3rd. I have been running it without OD (but haven't been cruising at engine speeds that would justify the overheating).
  5. 95Vert383AOD

    95Vert383AOD Active Member

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    I would see if there was crud blocking coolant in the radiator. Make sure the fan and clutch are in good working order. (no oil coming from fan clutch) Make sure the fan shroud is there. (Plastic that directs air from radiator to fan) I know it sounds crazy but verify the thermostat is installed the right way. Are you losing coolant?
  6. Jim Wit

    Jim Wit New Member

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    Currently, the thermostat is absent from the vehicle. The original seemed to be installed correctly but I was puzzled because I submerged both the old thermostat and the new thermostat in boiling water and neither unit seemed to open much. How much should these things open when they are hot?

    Radiators are cheap and mine appears to be very old and someone added some stop leak crap to it. I will probably swap the radiator.
  7. Jim Wit

    Jim Wit New Member

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    Txstang, I saw your profile and noticed that you are military. Thank you for your service. You guys are heroes.
  8. txstang84

    txstang84 Active Member

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    Proud to serve-thank you

    95vert is correct-a missing/damaged fan shroud will make a difference in cooling-especially if you're in slow traffic-same for the clutch fan if you're still using one. T-stats don't open up all the way, but they should open a noticeable amount to allow fluid flow. But, I noticed you said there was no t-stat installed...believe it or not, this can actually hurt you too. If coolant never stops or slows enough while moving through the radiator, it won't have time to give off it's heat...assuming the radiator isn't blocked.

    192* is stock, and IMO kinda high-especially if you're rockin' the stock two core brass radiator anywhere warmer than about 80*. If you'd like to tackle this one, first either flush your coolant (since you think someone may've used stop leak) or take it out and get it inspected for blockage (radiator recore is about $100 in my neck of the woods). Several years back, my car was getting a little warmer than normal, but it was a three core and never overheated, so I just rode it out until an engine swap. I brought it down to the local radiator shop because I saw corrosion inside the tanks, and they asked if it was overheating at all...I said, it was a little warmer than normal-they stated there was a 60% core blockage...after they fixed it and sealed up a couple core leaks, the car never broke 190-even sitting in a DQ drive thru during the Texas summer.

    If your rad is blocked, or you just feel like getting a new one and can swing it, either a three core brass, or full size two core aluminum will certainly help you out, that is if there are no other issues. Having a good radiator is only part of the equation...it won't help you much if you have deposits blocking coolant passages somewhere in the block.
  9. ratio411

    ratio411 Founding Member

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    I agree with others that your radiator may be failing due to age/corrosion blockage.

    I will point out that not having a thermostat installed can also cause overheating.
    If the water moves too quickly through the system, it does not stay in one place long enough to soak up heat in the engine, or lose heat in the radiator.

    Also like to point out that your trading partner probably wants your roller motor since his 84 is not a roller.

    Another thing that can drive you up a wall trying to diagnose is a lower radiator hose that sucks shut.
    Make sure your lower hose has a spring inside to keep it from crimping shut, OR that the hose is not soft enough to crimp closed from suction.

    The radiator cap failing can be an issue as well.

    Don't go pulling the heads on a whim is the point.
    Good luck
    Dave

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