Project OBSessed - Diesel World

F350 Cool Down and Stop It

We’ve rounded third and are headed for home on Project OBSessed. It’s been a year in the making but this 1996 F350 has been transformed into quite the nostalgic diesel hot rod. Stump pulling torque, all-new suspension and a host of chassis upgrades to keep it driving nicely. We turned your run of the mill 200,000 mile Ford Power Stroke into quite the head turner. We tried not to stray from the original 90’s OBS Ford F350 look but changed virtually everything you don’t see in order to hang with the newer diesel trucks normally seen passing an old rig like this. As the project comes to an end, we still have a couple things left to really dial in towing capabilities, both of which result in better cooling under load.

1996 Ford 4x4 F350 Powerstroke extended cab longbed

Mishimoto’s cooling package for the 7.3L Power Stroke will really help keep coolant temperatures in check under heavy towing situations. The all-aluminum radiator, new thermostat and stronger silicone hoses offer great longevity with a lifetime warranty as well.

DW-2102-OBS-01

The first step to any cooling system swap is draining the antifreeze from the system. Luckily, on the 1994-1997 7.3L applications, Ford engineered a drain into the factory radiator. While it’s placement isn’t great (drains right into a crossmember) connecting a short piece of standard 3/8” hose over the drain before opening it is a simple tech tip so you won’t make such a mess getting all that coolant into a bucket.

DW-2102-OBS-02

With the antifreeze drained and the upper and lower radiator hoses removed, you can start with removing the mounting brackets on the sides of the radiator. For automatic transmission applications, don’t forget the factory transmission cooler lines that run into the cooler inside the lower radiator tank.

Since this truck was built to tow in the summer, obviously keeping engine coolant temperatures under control is key. While the F350 factory radiators worked okay at stock power levels, at the new 400hp towing tune, there was some room for improvement. The Mishimoto all-aluminum radiator offers many advantages over the stock piece, the main ones being cooling efficiency and longevity. The Mishimoto unit is a direct fit piece for the 1994-1997 7.3L  applications and uses a 2.28” thick, two-row, aluminum brazed core to better dissipate heat and maintain optimum fluid temperature within your cooling system. The slightly larger core also increases fluid capacity which again helps keep temperatures more consistent under load. When paired with one of Mishimoto’s new thermostats and their silicone boot kits, it makes for a great upgrade over stock. The new core design with welded metal end-tanks offers better durability over the factory radiators plastic end tanks, as you’re much less likely for a sealed joint to fail and leak. It’s also worth noting that Mishimoto offers a lifetime warranty on all their products.

DW-2102-OBS-04

With what appears to be the original radiator from the Ford factory and some minor signs of seepage around the crimped end tanks it looks like upgrading was a great decision. The lower end tank houses a small transmission cooler inside for our auto transmission, so the factory barbed fittings will need to be removed and transferred to the Mishimoto unit.

DW-2102-OBS-05

Seems a shame to hide that beautiful aluminum radiator behind the grille, but the thicker core and flow through design will work really well at maintaining a more consistent fluid temperature. The core design will also work better at moving air through it since we’ve added that big Banks intercooler in front of it.

DW-2102-OBS-06

Remember that barbed hose fitting we mentioned for the transmission cooler lines? The Mishimoto unit being a true direct bolt in unit came equipped with the internal transmission fluid cooler and welded bungs to accept the factory fittings. Make sure to use some Teflon tape on the threads and not to over torque it.

On this older F350 Power Stroke, swapping out radiators is pretty straight forward and won’t take much time at all. Obviously, the cooling system needs to be drained, which is made easy with a factory drain spout in the stock radiator. Once drained, there are just a few bolts and the radiator hoses that need removed. This is also the perfect time to replace the thermostat with new, and possibly even the water pump if you know it’s been a while. However, swapping the water pump does at some labor to the job as the fan clutch would need removed to access the water pump, whereas with just a radiator swap the fan can stay on the engine. Mishimoto offers a couple thermostat options depending on your application, their low temp pieces will open sooner, helping keep coolant temps down in hots climates, while cold weather climates may opt for their high temp units. Their high-temp unit can help with cabin heat, as it would allow you to run closer to 203-degrees before opening.

DW-2102-OBS-07

With the cooling system drained, now is the perfect time to replace the thermostat on the engine while swapping that radiator. The thermostat is housed directly behind the serpentine belt above the water pump. Be sure to clean off the sealing surface so you get a leak free seal from the new O-ring when it goes back together.

DW-2102-OBS-08

Out with the old and in with the new. Mishimoto offers a couple different temperature thermostats depending on your specific truck needs. The low temp unit will open sooner, keeping coolant temps lower in hot climates. While the high temp unit will open later, so coolant runs hotter if you’re in a cold winter climate.

DW-2102-OBS-09

With the system drained and flushed, including the engine block, we opted to use the Liquid Chill antifreeze Mishimoto offers for their cooling system upgrades. Their specially formulated synthetic coolant has been proven to prevent boil over up to 265-degrees and freezing down to -26. It will also help reduce wear, overall operating temperature and resist corrosion compared to standard antifreeze.

With cooling under acceleration and load taken care of, we need to turn attention to cooling under load on deceleration. Brakes. It’s one thing to have enough power to get a load over the hill, it’s a whole other thing to have enough brakes to stop it. To say that braking technology has advanced in the last twenty five years since this truck was produced is a bit of an understatement, so upgrading that factory setup with newer brakes is a no brainer. The rear axle on this F350 truck still uses the old drum brakes, but they’d already been recently serviced with all new parts, including a recent adjustment, and while there are rear disc brake conversions on the market, these seem to be working quite well for now. The front brakes however needed some major help for sure. The stock rotors had a little shimmy to them when you’d get aggressive with the pedal and you could see minor cracks developing all the way around. It’s common knowledge that you shouldn’t install new rotors and use old pads, so this was the perfect time to replace it all with something better.

DW-2102-OBS-10

Fully installed, with the all new silicone upper radiator hose and thermostat that polished radiator looks right at home in Project Obsessed. The upgraded unit required no modifications to the truck and really took just about an hour to swap out.

DW-2102-OBS-11

While our rear drum brakes were still in good working order, the front rotors were showing some signs of age and abuse. Under heavy decel while towing, you could feel some shimmy from the front end, which turned out to be a slightly warped front brake rotor, so of course an upgrade was in order.

DW-2102-OBS-12

Along with the minor shake when braking hard, the rotors were starting to show some signs of minor cracking that is destined to only get worse as time goes on. While these aren’t necessarily cracks to be scared of at this point, it’s definitely the right time to trade them out for new.

EBC Brakes has been a leader in braking technology for years and their light duty truck kits have worked incredibly well on some of our previous project builds. For this 1996 F350, their daily driver and towing package offered drilled and slotted rotors along with their Yellow stuff pads for great pedal feel and stopping power under heavy load situations. The dimpled and slotted rotors help dissipate braking heat, so the rotor won’t warp and fail under the abuse of heavy towing and paired with their pads, you should expect thousands of trouble free miles and consistent braking performance. The Yellow Stuff pads also offer their best technology for quite and dust free performance, so you won’t have to worry about constantly cleaning wheels off from brake pad dust. On this older one-on truck, the rotor and pad swap isn’t as easy as the new trucks are, as it requires removal of the entire hub assembly to remove the rotor from the axle. This obviously also makes for a great time to replace your wheel bearings and repack everything with new grease to make sure that front axle stays happy for a lot of miles to come.

DW-2102-OBS-13

After using the EBC dimpled and slotted rotors in a previous build, when it came to upgrade the braking on this F350, they were a no brainer again. The rotors work extremely well at dissipating heat while towing heavy loads and will resist warping and cracking from heavy abuse. Paired with their Yellow Stuff pads you’ll get a consistent firm pedal without the dust.

DW-2102-OBS-14

The Yellow Stuff Truck pads from EBC offer a high friction formula that can increase braking effect by 30%. Best of all, they’ll resist fade while towing heavier loads, exactly what this truck needs. The red break-in coating EBC uses also offers instant safe braking performance immediately after install.

Unfortunately, at this point of the build, while there are still a few things that could use some love on the old truck, we’re coming to the end of the build for Diesel World Magazine and it’ll soon be time to start on a new project. This one will need some attention paid to the transmission and the factory driveline could use a new carrier and u-joints just for safe measure. The F350 Project OBSessed has been a major success and receives looks and comments just about everywhere we take it. When we started out with this truck, the idea was to build something readers can relate to and the OBS Ford is exactly that. Anyone that has been around diesel trucks in their life have some kind of memory of this Ford truck. You’re dad had one, you’re neighbor, maybe you once had one for yourself, regardless of how the connection is made, it’s hard to find anyone that uses a truck for a truck that can’t say something good about the OBS Ford F350.

SOURCES

Mishimoto
www.mishimoto.com

EBC Brakes
www.ebcbrakes.com/usa