Journey broke down with all my kids

Tiny
JPSULLIV
  • MEMBER
  • 2010 DODGE JOURNEY
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 86,000 MILES
Hello,

thank you for your time reading, first of all. Me and my kids just pulled out of the driveway, when the "check engine light PLUS electronic throttle control light" came on. I drove about 4 miles, then it started to sputter at first (it hasn't had a tune up yet.I've been meaning to do this, but it hasn't gotten so bad). So, as I continued to drive, it sputtered even worse. Got to a red traffic light, and it sputtered to the point it was going to stall out. We got to another traffic light, and by this time the whole car was engulfed in smoke. I popped the hood, and noticed all the antifreeze was gone. Any advice on what it could be?
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Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 AT 1:42 PM

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Tiny
JPSULLIV
  • MEMBER
I forgot to mention. When the check engine light and electronic throttle control light came on I also noticed that the coolant gage wasn't moving AT ALLLL. Even after driving a few miles.
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Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 AT 1:46 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
And you kept forcing it to go?

I have no idea how far apart those stop lights were so it's possible you stopped before the engine was seriously overheated and damaged. Hot coolant has to hit the temperature sensor so the gauge on the dash reads right. Once enough coolant is lost, the gauge will stay on "cold" even though the engine may be overheating. The smoke you saw might have just been the coolant burning off.

The first thing to do is determine why the coolant leaked out. It could be nothing more than a ruptured hose. Once that is repaired and the engine is washed off, you'll be able to tell how it runs and if other damage occurred.
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Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 AT 7:37 PM
Tiny
JPSULLIV
  • MEMBER
Thank you for replying. Let me clarify - I didn't force to keep driving. Once I started the car, the check engine light and the throttle control light came on within 10 seconds. I began driving the car, and I was checking the coolant guage the whole time, but the whole time I drove the needle on the guage "stayed at cold.0, " so I couldn't tell the car was overheating.

The car was spuddering a little as I drove it down about two miles, then I came to the first stop light where it did NOT smoke. It nearly stalled out, but no smoke, then I came to the 2nd light and by this time it was smoking pretty good and this is when I pulled into a parking lot and turned the ignition off.

Once the tow truck came and got me to my house, the tow man asked me to start it up, which it did (and this time, for some odd reason, the temperature guage was working normally), and I also pulled the car into the car port where it seemed to run Ok.

Anyway, I just don't know if a fuse could cause the thermostat to disengage, or if thermostats are common to go out and/or the water pump on these types of 2010 Dodge Journeys after reaching 86,000 KM? Or, in your expertise, what else perhaps you think it may be without looking at it.
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Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 AT 8:07 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
You must think I'm psychic. I have SOME people fooled into thinking I'm good, but I'm not that good. I should say, "hold your computer closer to the car so I can see what's wrong". (That won't work either).

Seriously, if I were peeking under the hood, I'd start by checking the coolant level in the reservoir, then in the radiator. If the reservoir is full, that suggests the engine overheated and the coolant expanded into the reservoir, and that overflowed onto the engine. Coolant hitting the hot exhaust parts would make a huge cloud of steam and there would be a mess all over the engine. Some of that coolant will be drawn back into the engine from the reservoir when it cools down and contracts, so there might be enough to reach the temperature sensor and make the gauge work. A good suspect for all of this is an electric radiator fan that didn't turn on when the engine got up to the right temperature. The clue for that is the radiator fan is never needed at highway speed because natural airflow is more than sufficient, but once you come down to city speeds, and especially when stopped at a red light, the fan will turn on typically within a minute or two.

A hose could be leaking too, but when the coolant cools down and contracts, there will be no vacuum to suck coolant back in from the reservoir. The reservoir will remain at whatever level it is at and never change, but the radiator will be low or empty. To identify that, your mechanic will fill the radiator with water, wash the entire area, then watch for where that water is leaking out. He can easily pressurize the system if he has to. Once that is repaired, the concentration of water will be too high and the threat of freezing in cold weather exists. If it's time for a maintenance flush and fill, now is the time to do that. If that is not on the schedule, he will drain some of the coolant and discard it, then add straight antifreeze. The goal is to get the concentration back to approximately 50 percent antifreeze and 50 percent water. It's okay to go with more water, by percentage, if you live in a southern state, but if it's possible to get down to minus 35 degrees, you must have 50 percent antifreeze, no less.

Antifreeze doesn't carry as much heat to the radiator as water does, but besides lowering the freeze point, it has additives in it that wear out in about two years. That's why we never run with straight water.

The least desirable cause for this is a leaking cylinder head gasket. Most commonly that will cause coolant to be lost and go out the tail pipe as white smoke, or combustion gases will get forced into the cooling system and will push the coolant into the reservoir where it will likely overflow onto the engine. That gas can pool under the thermostat which will cause it to not open. Thermostats have to be hit with hot liquid to open. Hot air won't do it. A thermostat that stays closed will prevent hot coolant from flowing to the radiator to give up its heat. On some car models the hot coolant doesn't circulate at all, so it doesn't flow through the heater core in the dash. You'll get cold air from the heater even though the engine is real hot. On some car models when the thermostat is remaining closed, the radiator will feel cold but the coolant will still flow through the heater core and you'll get real hot air from the heater.

A dead radiator fan is probably the most likely suspect right now since you didn't run the engine long enough to get hot after the tow. Most leaking head gaskets start out with more subtle symptoms, namely white smoke from the tail pipe, or an unexplained partial loss of coolant and the need to fill the reservoir once per week or month. That can go on for many months before a definite diagnosis is possible.

Your mechanic can perform a chemical test at the radiator to check for a leaking head gasket. That involves drawing air from the radiator, while the engine is running, through a glass cylinder with two chambers partially-filled with a special dark blue liquid. If combustion gases are present, that liquid will turn bright yellow. If this problem only occurs at random times, the test may not be conclusive, but typically the leakage is always there, then the test takes just a minute or two to confirm the bad news.

Be aware too that while a leaking head gasket usually causes overheating, (due to the thermostat remaining closed), an overheated engine, due to some other cause, can cause a cylinder head to warp and therefore leak past the gasket. That wasn't really much of a problem 30 years ago, but today almost all engines are made from cast iron and have heads made of aluminum. Those parts expand at different rates leading to eventual leaking head gaskets. Every manufacturer has some problems related to that and some engines are more tolerant of being overheated than others.
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Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 AT 9:11 PM

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