The Mystery of the Missing Coolant: come weigh in!

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Just pick up a coolant dye kit, put it in, run it for a few days, and then use the little flashlight to find the leak. If it is an external leak you'll find it.
Originally Posted By: turtlevette
If it was something simple like a cap, reservoir, or hose don't you think the mechanic would have found it?
No, I certainly don't. I friend bought a new Ford pickup about 4-5 years ago and it (under warranty) developed a hairline crack in the upper inlet where the radiator hose connects. He had to take it back several times before the "mechanics" at the dealership figured it out. It only leaked coolant when the engine was hot and run at highway speeds. If the "mechanics" would have actually grabbed the upper radiator hose and wiggled it they would have found the leak. Instead it took several return trips to the dealership because of the coolant smell; the owner finally found the leak simply by poking around himself and was able to point it out to the "mechanics" who couldn't find it.
Originally Posted By: KB2008X
Adding anything to a cooling system, like a "car-repair-in-a-bottle" is a really bad idea, especially at this point. It is way too early to add any crud to your cooling system. Adding that stuff should be a desperate, last chance, Hail Mary pass, kind of a deal. Diagnose the problem correctly first.
Agreed. Find the cause of the leak first, then decide how to fix it correctly.
 
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Originally Posted By: turtlevette
Originally Posted By: KB2008X
You've received some good advice so far, and some not so good.
OK then. Try all that stuff above. Do a UOA. Take it to a mechanic and spend 1000s diagnosing a $2500 car. Then pour in the Blue Devil.
Have you had success with Blue Devil? If so, I'd like to hear about it. Seems most just want to trash on such products, or not own up to actually using them.
 
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DON'T USE BLUE DEVIL! You will clog every single passage in your cooling system. You may as well take the $60 a bottle costs, shred it, and cram it into your radiator, water pump, and water jackets.
 
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I've seen Ford radiators leak at the side tank when cold. As the system warms up it expands and seals. Also seen their pressurized coolant tanks leak on the bottom.
 

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Ok. I think I see the leak, but I can't really see where it is coming from. I think I'll take it to the mechanic this week. Here is the first photo. You can't see the leak, but I put it in for reference. The leak is down deep when you look between the engine and the air cleaner housing. http://imgur.com/wFmUWbf Here is the leak itself. You can see coolant pooled up on something. http://imgur.com/UJ7D69U I still can't see where it is dripping from.
 
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Whilst pondering this old car malaise, Buy a gallon of anti freeze and a gallon of water, Mix up 2 gallons of coolant and stick them in the trunk. I had several jeeps that were always 1/2 gallon low. It was prolly a leaky freeze plug. My car and the Rat don't lose coolant, but Marina's does, maybe a quart a month. Big honking deal It has a low coolant level light. If you obey that light ,you can manage a leak of this size.
 
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Originally Posted By: mrdctaylor
Ok. I think I see the leak, but I can't really see where it is coming from. I think I'll take it to the mechanic this week. Here is the first photo. You can't see the leak, but I put it in for reference. The leak is down deep when you look between the engine and the air cleaner housing. http://imgur.com/wFmUWbf Here is the leak itself. You can see coolant pooled up on something. http://imgur.com/UJ7D69U I still can't see where it is dripping from.
Good job, I believe you are on to something there. It's hard to tell, but some of that coolant looks like it may be a little crusty, which means it's been dripping there for awhile and then drying up. That would explain why you haven't seen a puddle on the ground. It does call the mechanics competence into question. I hope you didn't pay him anything for missing what seems obvious to me. If the cooling system was properly pressure tested that bit of seepage would have been found. I suggest you find another shop. If you want to continue to investigate on your own you may need to pull that black plastic cover from the top of the engine to see exactly what is leaking. And perhaps the air filter housing, too, to gain a better line of sight. If you could remove the visual obstacles and get a better quality photo to post to the forum here, I bet the BITOG crowd could identify what's leaking and guide you through the repair.
 
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Maybe a heater hose or throttle body hose in that area? May just have a pin hole in one. Have the hoses ever been replaced?
 

mrdctaylor

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No, afa I know the hoses have never been replaced. I can sort of give the guy a pass on missing it. I took it in for an oil leak too. The valve cover gaskets were leaking pretty good. I know some of that oil could have been obscuring the coolant leak and he admitted as much. I still don't know why the pressure test checked out OK. I've actually used this shop for quite a while and trust the guy. He's done good work. I'll probably give them another shot at it and see how it goes. I live in a small town and there aren't that many options without going to another city. Fixing it myself isn't really an option. I change fluids myself, but I can't tear into my wife's car to fix something major. I don't have the expertise--and probably don't have the tools either. I appreciate the offer of help though.
 
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If it still has the OEM spring clamps on the hoses they will weaken over time and cause leaking.
 
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Originally Posted By: mrdctaylor
Fixing it myself isn't really an option.I don't have the expertise--and probably don't have the tools either.
I don't understand the point of this post if your not going to attempt to fix it yourself. My guess is it's leaking from around the thermostat housing. Remove the plastic engine cover so you can see.
 
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Originally Posted By: mrdctaylor
No, afa I know the hoses have never been replaced. I can sort of give the guy a pass on missing it. I took it in for an oil leak too. The valve cover gaskets were leaking pretty good. I know some of that oil could have been obscuring the coolant leak and he admitted as much. I still don't know why the pressure test checked out OK. I've actually used this shop for quite a while and trust the guy. He's done good work. I'll probably give them another shot at it and see how it goes. I live in a small town and there aren't that many options without going to another city. Fixing it myself isn't really an option. I change fluids myself, but I can't tear into my wife's car to fix something major. I don't have the expertise--and probably don't have the tools either. I appreciate the offer of help though.
If you don't have the tools or expertise to go any further then taking it somewhere makes good sense and if you're options are limited then giving that shop another shot is the right thing to do. At least you've removed the mystery of the issue. When you take it back you may want to consider not telling them what you've found and see what their diagnosis is. If they call you right away and confirm what you already found then you're set, if not, then....Either way, good luck.
 

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Originally Posted By: Warstud
I don't understand the point of this post if your not going to attempt to fix it yourself. My guess is it's leaking from around the thermostat housing. Remove the plastic engine cover so you can see.
1) I like to understand the problem even if I don't intend to fix it. 2) Even though I trust the mechanic, I like to go into situations with my eyes wide open. 3) If I can offer the mechanic some assistance by giving him addition details, I want to do it. It isn't like I'd go to the doctor and make him find all of the issues--I'd tell him as much about my symptoms as I could. 4) I'd like to have an idea about how serious the problem is so that I can make informed decisions and not be surprised. Thanks to everyone who has given me good info. I'll report back once I find out what the problem is.
 
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