1999 Mazda Protege Why didn't radiator fluid spray out duri

Tiny
ASTROSTUART
  • MEMBER
  • 1999 MAZDA PROTEGE
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 57,750 MILES
The day after getting my condenser replaced, my fiancee and I had driven 85 miles when I noticed the check engine light on. It wasn't safe to stop right there so we stopped at the next exit, but when we did, the car had overheated and radiator fluid was steaming out. When we opened the hood, we found the radiator cap was off, sitting upside down placed next to where it should have been. I had not opened the hood at all from the time I picked it up from the shop until it overheated. Unfortunately, the car had blown a gasket and well over $1000 of damage has been done. The auto shop that replaced our condenser claimed they could not have left the cap off for us to have driven 85 miles. Most every other mechanic I talked to said that on that cool morning with calm continuous travel plus one stop the fluid could have come out slowly, and that the cap very well could have been left off. Now their claim is that all the fluid would have come out during our earlier stop if the radiator cap was off. I admit his new point puzzles me, because I can see that the fluid should have come out at the earlier stop, but we saw nothing. I have a hard time conceding that the cap was blown off between that stop and when it overheated, because there is no damage to the cap or radiator. We heard no bang. There was not very much fluid left in the radiator so the fluid must have been slowly expelled such that we didn't notice it.
Any explanation for why it wouldn't have sent out fluid at the first stop? Could it be that they had never put enough fluid in the car in the first place?
The mechanic wants $800 to fix it now (down from $1200) so I need an explanation one way or the other.
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Thursday, June 4th, 2009 AT 11:12 PM

3 Replies

Tiny
MHPAUTOS
  • EXPERT
Hi there,

My thoughts are that the cap was left off when the repair was done, I can't imagine a cap blowing off and just landing where you say it did, and I am sure if the cap did blow off you would have heard it, and there would be some damage to the neck of the radiator, with the cap off the temp would rise slowly to the point where it would start to boil, the cap holds pressure in the system and this raises the boiling point of the coolant, as the coolant evaporated away the engine got hotter and hotter until the warning cam on, now keep in mind that a coolant temp sender wont work if there is now water covering the sensor, this may be why your temp gauge did not show high, I feel it is the responsibility of the repairer, but you will have to take this up with him.

Mark (mhpautos)
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Friday, June 5th, 2009 AT 12:28 AM
Tiny
ASTROSTUART
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Thank you Mark

But why didn't the radiator fluid come out when we stopped earlier? A state regulator thinks the mechanic may have a good point here. Something isn't adding up because as you say the cap isn't going to lie neatly upside down next to the neck, which is why I wonder if perhaps besides leaving the cap off that perhaps the mechanic had also neglected to refill the radiator.
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Friday, June 5th, 2009 AT 2:43 PM
Tiny
MHPAUTOS
  • EXPERT
Hi there,

Just because the cap has been left off wont mean that the coolant will come gushing out straight away, the level may have well been a little low to start with, if there was no coolant in the radiator you would not have got as far as you did, my best guess is low coolant and cap left off.

Mark (mhpautos)
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Friday, June 5th, 2009 AT 4:51 PM

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