At the helm

by Dave Helms



Spring Inspection Time Is Upon Us




Yesterday, while sitting at the computer I looked at the coming weeks weather forecast and saw snow predicated for the better part of the week.  Couple this with Phil the Groundhog terrified by his shadow, one would think that they have all the time in the world before spring maintaince start up time is upon us.  Both methods of predicating the true arrival of spring have their merits, BUT…  I have found that if I watch for Kris’s phone call to Murdock’s Ranch Supply requesting the arrival time for this year’s batch of laying hen chicks, one had better take notice, spring is near!


Ferrari cooling systems are known for their efficiency but it takes some effort to keep them there.  Storage time is the hardest on the cooling system components and the hoses.  This spring, set aside a few hours and take the time to inspect and familiarize yourself with all of the components.  Each model has its own areas that require a close attention, so I will try to give a quick checklist of what I look at each spring.


308-328 Series:


Check the condition of the heater hose where it attaches to the back of the 1-4 (rear most) head.  Often simply cutting 1” from this hose and refitting it is all that is needed.


Inspect the weep hole in the bottom of the water pump for fresh seepage. 


Remove the drive belt for the water pump and feel the condition of the bearings, looking for rough or sloppy feel while turning the pump pulley.


Inspect the hoses in the valley of the engine; these are subjected to the greatest amount of heat and require replacement long before the rest.


Remove the front trunk panel and inspect the connections at the heater core boxes.  Not often a problem, but many cars have never had these touched.


Top the coolant reservoir and run the car for 5 minutes and carefully crack open the bleeder on top of the thermostat housing to remove any air that has entered the system. At the same time after the stat housing has been addressed, do the same with the bleeder on top of the radiator.


Lastly, lie in front of the car, gently reach through the grill, and give a spin to both fan blades looking for one that might be stiffer than the other.  If one is found to have more resistance than the other, repair it now!


348 Series:


As the water pump is used as an idler pulley for the timing belt it can not be inspected without disassembly of the front of the engine (hence, why we look very closely at this when an engine is out and a major service is being done!)

Hoses have been quite reliable on these cars but inspecting for any seepage on the hoses on the firewall is a good habit to get into.  Bleeder screws can be found on the aluminum coolant tubes running across the firewall.  Remember that the cooling system has to have pressure in it before these are opened so air is not drawn into the system.




As with the 348’s, the pump is not serviceable with the engine in place. On the TR, it is built inside the engine, and as with the 348, requires a very close inspection when the engine is out.  Again, following the 348 trends, bleeder screws can be found on the firewall coolant tubes.  These should only be opened after the system has built up pressure.



355 Series:


Ferrari finally got into the groove here and designed the cooling system to be self-bleeding.  This has also proved to be the pinnacle of design with the water pumps as they have been very reliable.  Hoses attaching the transaxle cooler in the engine valley have been the only reoccurring issue.  Checking the clamps is worth the effort.  Watch for a small puddle under the front of the car, which could indicate a leaking heater pump.



456-550 Series:


If there is any one point of concern on these cars it is with the 2 hoses under the intake manifold.  There is one small diameter hose and one large, both are prone to leakage.  A larger problem than the leakage of coolant is the entering of air into the closed system when the engine is cooling down.  If air is present in the cooling system on these cars it will be evident with the temp. gauge showing over 190-195 degrees.  Bleeding these cars is a challenge and usually takes a 2-day process that involves a strange dance around the car as part of the ritual.  Some time spent with a dental mirror and a flashlight is worth the effort here.


360 Series:


To date, these cars have been perfectly reliable with no one item proving to be problematic.  One area that is starting to show cause for concern is debris collection in the radiator fins up front.  Spend a little time looking in the front grills straitening out the fins and cleaning out debris from this area.  Inspection of the back of the radiator is also a good idea.  Turn the steering wheel to full lock and look through the louvers in the wheel well at the back of the radiator.  Some damage in this area has been found from the tires throwing up stones.  A little effort truing the fins will assure efficient operation.


Keeping the coolant in and the air out will assure you will not be the one sitting on the shoulder of I-25 being heckled by the kid in a Supra with a 14” diameter tailpipe.



Dave and Niki Helms

Scuderia Rampante Inc.

Boulder CO