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might be steam coming out tail pipe. If steam you may have a blown head gasket which could put water into the cylinder that gets turned into steam and put out tail pipe.
If compression is getting into cooling system via blown head gasket then pressure builds in cooling system. A radiator repair place may be able to pressure test via the radiator cap to see if this is occurring while the engine is running.
If you have an alloy head you may also have cracked the head
A warped head is another possible problem .
This is expensive to fix as the engine head has to be sent to a head repair place to be fixed.
A compression test on your cylinders may give a diagnosis on if there is a head gasket problem .
The warps or cracked head can only be found out when the mechanic checks the head after pulling the top of the engine apart.
If the cooling system gets a lot of pressure in it,(if you can feel the top radiator hose get hard as soon as you start the engine) Thats bad news ,like a head gasket.If the cooling system seems to be ok,no overheating or boilovers,it is probably just an intake manifold gasket.Still a bit of a project on that van but worth it. Also ,I assume it is using water,if not it may be nothing. Water is a by-product of combustion , all cars steam in the cold. A vehicle that doesn't get driven on anything but short runs wil make even more steam because moisture builds up in the muffler and exhaust system.
OK, let's see, first, is it coolant or water? Coolant boils at 265 in a closed system, water boils at 220. Can you see any oil floating on top of water in radiator? Do you notice steam coming out the tail pipe at all? Is the radiator full of white rock looking stuff? Check the oil. And check all the above. If none of those symptoms show up, I would suspect just a clogged up radiator. A radiator shop can recore it or replace it. Hope this helps.
white smoke from the exhaust and overheating would almost certainly mean a blown head gasket. the head gasket has gone between a cylinder and a cooling channel so exhaust gasses can get in to the cooling system resulting in the boiling and water from the cooling system is getting into the cylinder resulting in the white smoke (actually steam) from the exhaust. the exhaust manifold is a separate issue that can be replaced when the head gasket is repaired.
This issue may be due to a restricted radiator. The engine heats up but can not flow through the radiator fast enough and pushes the coolant into the overflow until it runs over. Then the engine draws coolant back in showing a low condition.
My suggestion is to check the radiator with an electronic tool for checking temperature. If the temperature is 180 - 200 on the upper hose and 75 - 95 on the lower hose then the radiator needs to be replaced.
A faulty thermostat (stuck open) would not heat up.
A faulty thermostat (stuck closed) would not cool down, but would push coolant out of the overflow tank.
If the vehicle has white smoke (actually steam) coming from the tail pipe, then you most likely have a blown head gasket.
start the enginemake sure the radiator is full with the cap oon tightly and open the hood and let the car idle in the driveway untl it starts to team, this way you can locate where the steam is actually coming from.
when it is overheating is there white smoke coming out of the tail pipe?
if there is this is a good sign thatyou have a blown ead gasket.
the other thing that couldbe causing this over heating is a plugged catalytic converte.
to rule out whether it is the themostat sticking or not. remove the thermostat from the car put it in a pot of boiling water on the kitchen stove and see if it opens or not. the boiling water will make the thermostat open if it is working properley. Be sure to pay attention as to which way the thermostat is pointing when you remove it so when you put it or a new one back in that it is facing the correct direction. if it is not facing the rite direction it will not open and cause the car to over heat.