How long was she driving when it started to overheat? When the mixture is low on antifreeze, it will not freeze into a solid block of ice. It will be slush and may not circulate. The clue would be a really hot engine but the radiator would be cold. That overheating is going to occur within a few minutes of starting the engine. If she was driving 20 - 30 minutes or more before the overheating started, the coolant would not be frozen. Then the problem would be due to something else, like the leaking head gasket.
If all that's wrong is not enough antifreeze in the coolant, park the car in a garage where you can drape a blanket over the hood, then run the engine for two or three minutes about every 20 minutes. Don't let it overheat, but doing that should melt whatever is in the radiator. Once the coolant is flowing freely, drive straight to the repair shop, or at that point you can drain the coolant out and put new stuff in.
You'll never get all of the old coolant out when you drain the system so when you put the new stuff in, go a little heavy on the antifreeze. I like to drive the car to mix the coolant, then I test the freeze point, then add water or antifreeze as necessary to the reservoir. GM even made doing that unnecessarily difficult by forgetting to put a radiator cap on most of their products. The best you can do is leave as much room as possible in the reservoir so you can add what's needed later. If you don't have a freeze tester, any repair shop will have them, and most mechanics have their own. You will likely be able to have a mechanic take a minute of his lunch break to run out and check the freeze point for you. It only takes half a minute.
Also be aware that GM has been using red Dex-Cool antifreeze. We call that "Dex-Mud" because of all the problems it causes. If the cooling system is completely flushed, the more common antifreeze can be used, but the two types can't be mixed. You have to get all of the old stuff out if you switch to a different kind.
When there's no radiator cap, you have to open something on the engine to let the air bleed out so the coolant will run in. Follow the upper radiator hose to where it attaches on the engine. There will be a bleeder screw or there will be a sensor nearby that can be unscrewed.
Monday, February 10th, 2014 AT 8:33 PM