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Leaky Radiator Sections

ccstelmo Member Posts: 12
Honest, I try to get to the point but, ya know, there's so much context that the reader really needs to know to really zero in on the problem.

First, I'm on a steep curve when it comes to steam. But I'm teachable.

Second, I've got a job in Meeker Colorado, one pipe steam, new (relatively) Lenox natural gas fired boiler, and I'm slowly falling in love with steam. The simplicity is what's got my heart.

Third, I've already asked you guys about how to shorten a radiator and have gotten your replies but have one more question before showtime: Is there a way to encourage the push nipples to seperate from a single section together as the section comes away? (I'm thinking that if one nipple stays with one section and the other with the seperated section, and the nipples are difficult to get out without damaging them, it might open a can of worms for me.)

Fourth, New Problem. A couple of the radiators in the house (they do have draw rods) leak from the joints between the bottom sections. Not much, but enough to have significantly damaged the Douglas Fir flooring over eight-two years. I had a similar issue with an eight-foot-long hot water radiator a few years ago and was able to fix it entirely with an automotive "radiator stop-leak" product. It's held up now for seven years. (I'll be glad to share my experience if anyone's interested.) But this is different, it seems to me, because in a one pipe steam system I'm not going to be able to circulate the heated water-bareing "stop-leak" through the radiator for twenty four hours as I did with the hot water radiator. My thinking is that in order for this product to work it has to stay "emulsified" and that the motion imparted by circulation promotes this.

I searched for this topic in the Strictly Steam discussion forum with no results but would be amazed if no-one else has been confronted with the problem.

Thanks in advance,



  • Pumpguy
    Pumpguy Member Posts: 541
    Try Loctite wicking grade #290 threadlocker. Loctite recommends using this product for sealing porous weldments and porous castings. Do your research first. Loctite has a lot to say about how to use this product for porosity sealing.

    If you do, and are successful, please let us all know. I am sure this would be good information for others.
    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
    Website: www.nashjenningspumps.com

    The first step in solving any problem is TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,909
    On the push nipples. You should be able to arrange the jaws and reaction bars of a good versatile gear or bearing puller so get the jaws behind the push nipple in the section and the reaction bar reacting against the section itself and draw it straight out. Without actually looking at it... I can't give you detailed instructions. But that's what I'd do. And probably go down to NAPA and get a puller or two which looked like they'd work... and some odd bits of metal... (which is why my shop has so many odd tools in it?).

    If the leak in question is where the sections join -- go ahead and try the Loctite. I've also managed to repair a couple with JB Weld. The real key to both of those is clean clean clean. Wire brush. Acetone. Patience. The little wire brushes for Dremel type tools can work wonders. Perhaps a little flap wheel.

    If that doesn't work and you can get the sections apart, I've had very good success with making my own gaskets -- outside the nipple or what's left of it -- with red RTV. One of the beuaties of steam is the pressures are very low; you're not leakproofing a diesel cylinder head here.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 872
    Removing old push nipples from radiators is a chore.
    I have done this years ago and was successful with this method.
    Do this in the none heating months only.
    Once the radiator sections are removed and you have stuck push nipples spray Blaster penetrating oil or WD 40
    on the nipple and let it soak its way between the nipple and cast iron section. do this several times over aa couple of days.
    Using a light hammer and and piece of wood gently tap the push nipple on all sides.
    This may take several times before the push nipple comes loose.
    each time you do this and are not successful spray more of the rust buster on the nipple and cast iron section.\
    Some times you may lose a section but if the radiators were installed in an old house and are original one or two sections is not going to affect the heat in the room.
    I did this to 13 radiators and only lost one radiator, so I bought only one radiator, fortunately the radiator I replaced was in the bathroom so it did not look bad because it was installed in an upgrade modern bathroom.
    When you reassemble the radiators use a little Leak Tite on the push nipples.
    If the radiator does not have draw rods use the hammer and a block of wood to force home the radiator sections, if you have draw rods remember to back off the draw rods a little bit because when the radiator gets hot the metal will expand and can crack a section or two, leave some room for expansion.

  • ccstelmo
    ccstelmo Member Posts: 12
    I've gotten myself in a tight here and I'm rapidly losing my mojo.

    You guys are great and I greatly appreciate the time you've put in to educate me about radiators. But -----

    I tried to get the sections apart. The radiator was 15" long and I needed it to be 12", + or -, long so my plan was to remove two sections. Since I would need the end section to reassemble the radiator I started there. Having cut a handful of oak wedges 4" wide from an old pallet, I started in, one wedge on each side, top and bottom of the radiator and was immediately surprised at the resistence. I hit 'em fairly hard, alternating side to side and top to bottom. Nothing budged. Finally, the end section cracked and that was the end. Nevertheless, I decided to find out just what a "push nipple" looked like. In my mind's eye I imagined something like a large ferrul, made perhaps of babbit. Wrong! After I beat everything to bits and retrieved the "push nipple" it turned out to be an everyday threaded-both-ends, 1-1/4", close steel nipple. No, really, an ordinary nipple, from both top and bottom of the radiator. Really, I hadn't been drinking. I'm not drinking now. I haven't had a drink in 38 years. It was (is, for I was able to save one of 'em) a mind blower! No wonder I couldn't force the sections apart, they were held together with threads. I tore the iron apart instead. Go figure.

    And while you're at it, go figure this. How on earth was this radiator assembled? Answer me that one and your next stop is Jeopardy.

    As for me, I got in my truck and drove all the way down to Queen City Architectural Salvage in Brighton Colordo where I found a 12" wide radiator that'll do me just fine.

    But it bugged me, so I reached up on the dusty top shelf and pulled down Volume #3 of Audels Plumbing & Pipe Fitters Guide, 1949. They didn't talk about push nipples. So I looked again and found Robert M. Starbuck's "Questions and Answers on the Practice and Theory of Steam and Hot Water Heating" 1956 long un-remembered up there on the shelf. He didn't talk about push nipples either. So I got a ladder and climbed up to that top shelf and wedged my head between it and the ceiling and there, way in the back, covered with dust and guarded by a squad of spiders was "STEAM", an ancient tome written for the benefit of the geniuses of steam engineering that then peopled the earth, by The Babcock & Wilcox Co. Limited, New York and London, 1894, the thirteentth edition. It was filled with absolutely fabulous lithographs of boilers and boiler installations long past, but when it came to push nipples, it had nothing to say.

    Now, I'm new on this forum. But if I've learned anything at all from it and from the musings of its creator Dan Holhan (is that an Irish name?) in his weekly contribution, it is to revere and learn from THE DEAD MEN. But THE DEAD MEN let me down! So now it's up to you live ones.

    What's up?


  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 709
    The nipples are specially threaded with left and right threads. This UK video shows the assembly process. 

  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 564
    Thanks PC7060! Excellent video link. I've only ever encountered push nipples. Now I'm ready for (wary of?) my first threaded set of nipples! Hopefully this is only a UK and CO thing.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,909
    psb75 said:

    Thanks PC7060! Excellent video link. I've only ever encountered push nipples. Now I'm ready for (wary of?) my first threaded set of nipples! Hopefully this is only a UK and CO thing.

    Nope. You find them on certain makes of radiators everywhere. Pain in the neck they are. One clue is no tension rods, but that's not foolproof.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 872
    hi pump guy.

    I saw double thread nips with shoulders, The only place I encountered them was on HB Smith boilers.
    They were used to tie the mud drum to the boiler sections and the steam drum to the boiler sections.

    Oh I do not remember what year Smith came out with flexible nipples for the tie in but that was a blessing.

  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 606
    @dopey27177 I worked on and assembled thousands of H B Smith boilers with the threaded nipples for over 35 years but I don't remember seeing any type of "flexible nipples" unless you are referring to the ones with the double thread and gasket used to tie in to the system piping. Those came in sizes up to 6"IPS.
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 872
    Yes you got that right. The last one I worked on was a church in down town Manhattan. That was in 1989.
    The flex nips were stainless steel with a collar and gasket.
    These came from HB Smith.

    I was the consultant to the church and was given the opportunity to work with the HB Smith crew.
    What a bunch of highly professional workers they were, also spotless workers.