Mechanics

COOLANT LEAK

2000 Isuzu Amigo

Engine Cooling problem
2000 Isuzu Amigo 6 cyl Two Wheel Drive Automatic 90,000 miles

my car was leaking coolant in October last year so I took it to pep boys, they did a cooling system evaluation, and told me it was a cracked radiator, which cost $400. After a few days, the leak started up again and hasn't stopped since. I took it back in January this year, but they couldn't find the source of the leak. Now it's March and I took it back again, and they still couldn't find the source of the leak. So they pressure tested it, found nothing. Then they put dye in it, and told me to bring it back next week.

If the same leak is still happening today, doesn't that mean the radiator was not the source of the leak? Did they lie about the cracked radiator?

Could it be the intake gasket or head gasket?
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Jac26
March 19, 2010.



Doesn't automatically mean they lied. If they did intentionally, what did they expect to happen when it didn't solve the leak?

A crack / leak in the radiator is pretty easy to see. The fact that it doesn't appear to be leaking again suggests there COULD have been a second leak. How did you know you had the original leak? Was it leaving a puddle, or was the coolant level going down? If it left a puddle, is it doing that again now?

Caradiodoc

Caradiodoc
Mar 19, 2010.
Yes it has been leaving puddles since before I got the new radiator in October. In the beginning they were inconsistent, maybe every couple days, but in the past month they've been very consistent, one every day. I had put a piece of cardboard under the car and saw that the fluid was green. I took it in this week because I checked the coolant level and it was almost empty, plus there were still leak spots on the ground every day. When I was there yesterday he showed me some green spots in a place that was hard to see. He was saying that they couldn't find the source of the leak and if it's the hose or gasket, they'd have to do a $300 service which includes lifting the top part of the engine up as well as many little pieces, to get to those parts. But they're not even sure that's where the leak is. So they decided to try the pressure test and the dye test first. I'm supposed to drive it around for a few days before I take it back. If they can't find the leak, it's not overheating, I don't smell anything different, and I don't notice anything out of the ordinary, what could it possibly be?

Tiny
Jac26
Mar 19, 2010.
I would suggest going back tomorrow if possible. By waiting a few days, coolant will have a chance to leak out and spread all over, so the dye will be spread around too. That will make it nearly impossible to tell where it is coming from.

Some of these leaks can be really hard to find. It is possible for a leak to be forced into sealing up by doing a pressure test. That would correspond to your system not leaking while driving, but it would leak when the engine cools down. Those types of leaks can be especially hard to find. This might be a good time to consider visiting the dealer because they will be familiar with common problems.

A $300.00 estimate suggests they want to remove the cylinder head to check the head gasket for signs of leakage. Leaking head gaskets are fairly common, but I would like to be sure before going through that much work. One more clue to look for is a white, crusty-looking residue. That is sure sign of leaking coolant and usually only develops at the source of the leak and where the coolant runs down. The residue will not appear higher than the leaking spot.

Caradiodoc

Caradiodoc
Mar 19, 2010.
The guy specifically told me on Thursday to " drive it around for a few days" and " bring it back one day next week.&Quot; Am I getting bad service from these guys?

I called the dealer and he said the same thing about the dye. He told me that they'd do a $45 pressure test and that will absolutely lead to the source of the leak. If pep boys didn't find anything from their pressure test, and you're saying that it's possible for the leak to seal up when pressure tested, then how does the dealer know that their pressure test will definitely lead to the leak? I must be missing something cause things aren't adding up.

I know that the leak could be one of many things so I'm taking your advice and going to the dealer. Seems they'd be my best bet. Thanks for the advice and info.

Tiny
Jac26
Mar 20, 2010.
Sorry for the confusion. Sometimes too much information is not a good thing.

The first guys probably determined the leak is very small / slow and it will take a few days for enough dye to show up so they can find it. My comment about not waiting too long is more appropriate for a larger leak. Given too much time, the leaked-out dye will spread all over making it impossible to trace it back to the source.

Imagine if you had water in your basement. If it was a real tiny leak that only happened after a heavy rain, you might not see the leaking water unless it rained for a few days. That would be the same as driving your car for a few days. My recommendation referred more to a larger leak. If you found a foot of water in your basement after every rainstorm, you wouldn't wait until the next day to look for the leak; you would head down there as soon as the rain started.

I hope that part makes sense. I would go with the mechanic's recommendation because they can actually see how big the leak is. They probably know it will take a while for the dye to show up.

As for the dealer, things always get lost in translation between the mechanics, service advisors, and you. Mechanics talk in technical terms the service advisors often don't understand. Service advisors try to interpret that into something both of you understand. They are good at translating your complaint or request to the mechanic, but they are terrible at diagnostics. That's why they sometimes will say they never heard of your problem before when really, it's one the mechanics see over and over. No deliberate disception was intended, but that's the impression customers are often left with. Just remember that mechanics have good car skills and poor people skills. Service advisors have good people skills and very little car skills.

As for the pressure test, the service advisor you spoke with has confidence in his mechanics that they can find the leak. In some cases there are places where they repeatedly find leaks on almost every car so they know right where to look. That's one of the advantages of going to the dealer. Because they are so familiar with your model, they often find the problem faster than the independent mechanics who have to be experts on many more brands and models. Had you spoken directly with the mechanic, he would likely have expressed a little less confidence in his ability to find the leak quickly. There's always the chance it will allude him.

99 percent of the time pressurized coolant will push out through the leak and should be fairly easy to see. It doesn't matter if the system is pressurized with a hand pump / tester or if it's due to the coolant expanding as the engine warms up. There's always that one percent of the time where pressure on a rubber seal could cause it to be forced to expand and seal better, or warmed up engine parts could expand and temporarily block a leak. That's what I was referring to about pressure causing a leak to seal. It doesn't happen often, but often enough that most mechanics will test for a leak a second time when the engine cools down if they don't find it when the engine is hot.

Another example is in order. I have a tire on my sad van that will go flat if it is only pumped up half way. It leaks when it has low pressure. If it is pumped up all the way, it doesn't leak. The higher pressure makes the tire seal to the wheel better and there is no leak.

As far as " things not adding up", you're actually getting the same service, just approached in different ways by different mechanics, and explained in different ways by different people. From what you've shared so far, I don't think anyone is trying to mislead you. Too much information from too many sources is similar to getting different advice from different doctors for the same ailment. Both treatment plans might work but could involve different tests.

Caradiodoc

Caradiodoc
Mar 20, 2010.
Ah, yes, it all makes sense. Thanks for the clarification. I guess the only thing that concerns me that I can't do anything about anymore is the replacement radiator I bought. That should have fixed the leak so it is possible that that wasn't the problem and the only way I could have been sure is if I had asked for the old radiator so I could see the crack they were talking about. That's what the dealer told me I should do. Always ask for the old parts. Oh well, lesson learned.

So, having to assume that the radiator was actually cracked and that this is a second leak, the dealer is probably the best way to go right now, considering these leaks can be hard to find. I'm still going to go back to Pepboys tomorrow to see what they tell me after they check the dye. Then I'm going to the dealer on Tuesday to get the pressure test (do pressure tests normally cost $45 by the way? Pepboys didn't charge me I think because of the radiator warranty). So this way I have 2 opinions. Just hope it's not the water pump or head gasket, the most expensive to fix, right. Thanks so much for the info and advice!

Tiny
Jac26
Mar 21, 2010.
The test itself simply involves attaching a hand pump to the radiator neck and pumping the system up to around 15 psi, then watching the pressure gauge and watching for leaks. The 45 bucks is for their time to search for the leak and for the mechanic to work up an estimate for repairs. He will do that with the help of the guys in the parts department.

It sounds like they expect to spend around a half hour. 90 bucks per hour is on the lower end of what most dealerships have to charge to cover all their expenses.

Caradiodoc

Caradiodoc
Mar 21, 2010.
I decided not to go to the dealer for the pressure test because pep boys told me today that the leak is coming from the timing cover and that it is most likely because I need to replace my water pump and timing belt. They actually suggested a water pump package in October because of mileage, so I guess that makes sense. Even though there's a plastic cover blocking access to the pump, he made is sound like the it couldn't be anything else. I stopped by the dealer to get an estimate (which would be the same price pepboys would charge) except the dealer mentioned a tensioner that would be included in the price. Pepboys didn't mention the tensioner and they didn't put it on the rundown they gave me. Is the tensioner something that should normally be replaced if the water pump and timing belt are being replaced?

Tiny
Jac26
Mar 22, 2010.
Both of them are probably basing their recommendations on past experience. It sounds like they suspect the water pump of leaking and its pulley is one of them that the timing belt goes around. That's the way my Caravans are designed.

The timing belt cover is just a plastic shield that keeps fingers and dirt away from the belt. The water pump is a real common source of a leak. When the timing belt goes around it, it's real cheap insurance to replace the belt right away. The work of removing it and replacing it is already being done. To install the new one only involves perhaps an extra half hour labor and the cost of the belt. If it has to be replaced later, it can be a three to four hour job.

They're right about there not being much else in there that can cause a leak. I can think of some things, but 99 percent chance it's the water pump. As for the tensioner, there are a few different styles and they have to be inspected. Some have a real strong spring in a cylinder. The spring can break or get weak. They have to be removed and squeezed in a vise to retract them to install the belt. They will be able to tell if it's weak when they do that. If the problem was the timing belt, they would look for signs the tensioner wasn't holding enough tension on the belt. The dealer most likely wanted to replace it for insurance. It's less expensive in the long run to do a little extra than to go back and make remedial repairs later.

Some tensioners are just a pulley on a spring-loaded lever. The bearings in the pulley will have to be inspected, but if that style needs to be replaced, they are relatively inexpensive.

Caradiodoc
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Caradiodoc
Mar 22, 2010.
I found out that the tensioner was included in the estimate pepboys gave me (it was under " timing belt component kit" ), and they also have a " Thermostat, " " Coolant Exchange, " " Rad Flush, " in the $1080 itemized estimate. The dealer only included the water pump, timing belt, tensioner and fluid drain and fill in their $950 estimate. Are all those extra things pepboys includes part of the " insurance" or " remedial repairs" you were talking about? Should I have all that done to prevent any more problems in the future?

By the way, " Rad flush" means radiator flush, right?

Is a coolant exchange and a chemical flush the same thing? A drain and fill is a different service than a flush, right?

Pepboys also recommended a serpentine belt but I had that replaced at 52,000 miles and I've been told that a serpentine belt pretty much lasts forever. So I wouldn't need one right?

Sorry for all the questions but I want to make sure I'm not spending all this extra money for nothing. I'm on a very tight budget right now so this is a big deal for me and I want to make sure I know exactly what I'm getting. You've helped me out soo much so far. Thanks so much.

Tiny
Jac26
Mar 23, 2010.
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