Engine Cooling problem
1997 Toyota Carina 4 cyl Two Wheel Drive Manual 114000 miles
This is a long question but hopefully the answer is not too complicated. Hope someone can help. Cheers.
A couple of months back I noticed the level of coolant in the expansion tank of my Carina was dropping quickly, whereas before it had always remained at a constant level. In addition the heater/blower would in the main only blow cold air with the odd intermittent blast of hot/warm air. As a result I was in the habit of topping up the radiator with coolant on a regular basis until it was convenient to get car to a garage. When the system was full, I got a little more hot air but even this was not always constant.
At some point I had forgotten to add coolant and on my way to work the temperature gauge shot up and the car literally ground to a halt. After letting it cool I added water and was able to drive the last mile to work, although the car did cut out a couple of times. After work I took car to a local garage where the mechanic listened to the story and suggested the head gasket (HG) could have blown. After checking oil filler cap, running engine with radiator cap off and feeling radiator hose (all not indicative of blown HG) he said may not be HG but couldn’t tell until they had proper look. So I left the car and was contacted next day to be told radiator was cracked, so a new one was fitted and the system was replenished. It seemed ok for couple of days but then blower went cold and system was still losing coolant (approx 500ml every 3-4 days). I went back to garage and was asked to see if I could identify where leak was coming from in and then bring it back in. After seeing liquid drip from underneath the engine I returned to garage and explained approximate location. They then took car in overnight and supposedly put car on ramp with cardboard underneath to determine dripping area. The following day I was told the water pump was the problem and they were confident this would solve the problem. So the pump was replaced and again the result was exactly the same, ie loss of coolant and cold air. I again went back to garage and explained situation to be told “oh well, it must be the head gasket then’’! I was incensed that having spent £250 to cure a specific problem the problem still existed exactly as before.
I feel that the first course of action should have been to check if the worst-case scenario ie blown HG was cause of problem. Is it not possible to check this by pressure testing or is that too labour intensive and costly? When I first went to garage I was quoted approx £700 to replace HG and I made it quite clear I would not spend that on a 1997 plate car. I feel the garage has ensured they made some money out of me by replacing two components which they speculated at best would work or at worst knew or suspected all along the HG was the problem. Is it possible when the car overheated that all these components ie radiator, water pump and HG were damaged? I’ve been told not likely, only the HG. If so it still beggars the question as to why the worst-case scenario was not ruled out prior to exploring other avenues, which did not work and cost me a lot of money! I could have accepted being told it was not HG, then trying to replace other components until a result was achieved (within reason!) But not the other way round.
Basically have the garage approached this problem correctly and am I being unreasonable or are they taking the piss!
I have also tried Insta-seal a US made equivalent to Radseal which fills holes in head gaskets, radiators etc, but to no avail. Further to this in the last two days I have now noticed that the floor carpet on the drivers side is saturated. I am in process of drying it out and filling system with coolant to see if it soaks again, (sure it will) so maybe nothing do with HG after all! It has taken some time for this leak to saturate floor, so must have been building up.
Would anyone have any answers to the questions posed above and maybe any other solutions or thoughts.