On my way to work tonight, my temperature gauge started rising gradually and then white smoke (smelled kinda like chlorine, not too strong a smell) billowed out of my hood. Pulled into work about 1 minute later and turned the car off. Opened the hood and looks like the smoke was coming from around the radiator cap, near where the hose from the coolant connects to it. I have no money to have the car looked at, at least for like 2 weeks. I can't leave the car at work-so I have to drive it home (7 miles). Coolant tank is filled normally (about half), no fluids under car. I had the radiator and thermostat replaced 5 months ago due to overheating/smoking/bad radiator-since then, the temperature has normally been all the way at the bottom of the gauge, cool, near the blue line, until about 2 weeks ago. Started gradually rising in temperature in those 2 weeks, til it got to about the halfway temperature line every day after driving for a few minutes. It gets hotter when I stop at lights, etc. I had noticed for the past few days that after turning off the engine and stepping out of my car, a hissing noise could be heard coming from the front right bumper area, around the coolant tank. Noise dissipates after a few minutes. I drive for only about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, don't drive fast or accelerate recklessly (not that I can, because the pickup is really clunky on this car). Help! There's an autozone right next to my work that I could pick up parts from if need be.
-when I bought the car 6 months ago, the owner told me it leaks oil, and you have to have a 5-quart of oil in the trunk for if it decides to get low
-when shifting gears (it's automatic) the engine stutters, car shakes, sounds like it will conk out-never does. I just shift slowly to try to be easy on it
-when changing my oil 7 days ago, the guy who did it said my lower radiator hose was sucking in air, he couldn't figure out why. This is after the heat started rising 2 weeks ago
I'm a young girl who lives on my own and I know nothing about cars that I haven't read online. Any help is appreciated.
February, 26, 2011 AT 9:24 AM
The best place to start is with a "sniffer" test to check for a leaking head gasket. That involves drawing air from the radiator through a glass cylinder partially filled with two chambers of dark blue liquid. If combustion gases are leaking into the cooling system, the liquid will turn bright yellow. That test should be done after you have the engine warmed up since that's when the problem occurs.
Also be sure the radiator fan is turning on. If you hear it turn on, that circuit is working. If you do not hear or see it turn on, unplug the coolant temperature sensor while the engine is running. You can do this while the engine is still cold. Follow the upper radiator hose to where it connects to the thermostat housing on the engine. Right in that area will be two small sensors screwed into the engine. One will have just one wire; that's for the dash gauge. Look for the sensor with two wires. Pull on the plastic clip on the side then pull the connector up to unplug it. Within a second or two the radiator fan should start to run. If it does, you just verified the circuit is working and the engine will not overheat due to fan trouble. (The fan is not needed at highway speed because there is good air flow then). When you do this the Check Engine light will turn on. It will turn off after you reconnect the sensor and restart the engine.
February, 26, 2011 AT 9:55 AM
Would I test to see if the radiator fan is functioning while the engine's running? Also, is there anything I can do temporarily just to get home and to a potential repairman in the future, to not totally blow my engine? Thanks
February, 26, 2011 AT 10:26 AM
The radiator fan test works with the engine running or off but the ignition switch must be on. If the engine is just running hotter than normal but not severely overheating you might try driving with the coolant sensor unplugged so the fan runs whenever you're driving. This will help if you have to do a lot of low speed driving.