Mechanics

IRREGULAR LOSS OF COOLANT

1995 Saturn SL2 • 200 miles

Coolant has been disappearing more &more over a long time in our commuter car a 95 Saturn SL2. Mechanic said it was a radiator & overflow container leak a year ago but we see neither. We rarely see liquid pooling underneath. They replaced the thermostat & something else we can't recall & said it's not head gasket. Occasionally we smelled the coolant & saw a little on the ground under the driver seat area which a family mechanic said was the wrong location. If the air conditioner is turned on within a couple minutes warning light comes on & overflow is almost empty. If we stop & go it needs refilled quicker sometimes within 5-10 min. There is no water in the oil & no oil in the coolant overflow where we fill it. We haven't found any other access to the radiator. If driving in cooler temps for long distance on highway sometimes it goes 1.5 hrs before refill lights come on & other times much sooner. The warning lights are correct. Recently the warning lights were flashing & upon checking, the overflow was very full. We continued on & stopped to check 5 minutes later & it was empty but no sign of where it went. Its very inconsistent. Occasionally we fill it, start it, & warning lights go on right away. We check & all the water we added is gone. The mechanic wants to pressure check it again but due to its age & because its our only car at the moment we’re worried about having that done. What could it be & should we worry about having the system pressurized? Are there other tests our limited money would be better spent on?
Avatar
DLSMDM
August 15, 2012.



If you don't see any fluid on the ground and the floor board is not wet on the passenger side, it may be a cracked head even though no oil mixing. Try going to AutoZone and getting their OEM/Block Tester Test Fluid - this should show you if you have a cracked head.

ImpalaSS
Aug 15, 2012.
No coolant inside. Had the heater core replaced a while back which fixed that. Thanks

Tiny
DLSMDM
Aug 15, 2012.
Okay - rules that out. So besides using the block tester, the only other things I have seen is the water pump slowly leaking while driving but you should see water under it and I have seen a small hole in a hose and it leaks out onto the hot engine and evaporates. So you might check the hoses really good too.

ImpalaSS
Aug 15, 2012.
Just to add to this one the most common place for those cars to leak coolant I have seen is the radiator. Right bellow the upper radiator hose where the top trasmission cooler line attaches. Also the water pumps leak but take a flash light and check that spot on the radiator. Also the coolant cap starts to go bad and in vents coolant as a vapor from the cap. Auto zone rents the coolant pressure tester and I belive the ford adapter they rent will fit your car. Dont be afraid of pressure testing it it wont harm your car. Please let us know what you find.

Saturntech9
Aug 15, 2012.
Took the car in and its even more complicated now. One place said it needs a new radiator and a new overflow resevoir as they are both leaking. Another place said it doesn't look like they're leaking. They used a Sniffer on the radiator overflow while I was there with the car running. It didn't change color much and then went back to the color it started as. He asked questions about how the car was running while he had the sniffer on. He said he could smell a little exhaust in the radiator overflow which is the only radiator access on this car. He said the color didn't change like he expected and it was 'really weird' but his guess is a head gasket starting to go bad. They said the only way to know is to take it apart. Another friend mechanic says it's probably the water pump but there's no way to know unless somebody takes it apart. The car heats up fast and the coolant seems to be dumping out of the overflow hose which carries it away from the engine. The overflow is small but now after only 15-20 minutes of driving and the overflow needs to be refilled. If there is still water in the resevoir it's boiling when we take the cap off to refill it. The car is burning a lot of oil and it runs rough sometimes. The RPM's have been occasionaly staying too high now and sometimes fluctuate a little. The car does need a tune up though. It's not overheating. I had forgotten with all the trips to auto shops that one place pressure tested it months ago and said the pressure test was fine back then but they were the 1st to say it needed a new radiator and overflow container. Neither of these seem to be leaking visibly to our eyes and many others agree. Auto zone did not have the test fluid suggested but I have purchased some UV fluid to add and have a look. I plan to drive it at night and check it inside the dark garage with a UV light.I'm just not sure what to look for or where to look for it. Before I spend 1200 bucks having the car torn apart to find out what the problem is, are there other cheaper tests or methods to find out if it's a head gasket starting to go bad? I was also told that every time a head gasket is replaced the head must be sent out and machined which is most of the cost. Should this always be done?

Tiny
DLSMDM
Sep 25, 2012.
I have taken many of those heads off and have done nothing more then used a straight edge on them. But it wasn't for a bad head gasket though for that they would pressure test the head for leaks. Also make sure its not warped sometimes resurface the head. As far as not knowing if its the head gasket or not without taking it apart is non sense. Also not knowing if you have a bad water without taking it is non sense also. So you addd leak dye to the coolant?Also you said something about it leaks coolant from somewhere when its hot?If so. Where can you post a pic?Did you check the radiator where I told you for a leak?

Saturntech9
Sep 25, 2012.