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It took me a while to figure out where the coolant was going. Now what to do?

2003 Chrysler T&C w/175k. My wife noticed that the heater wasn't blowing hot very well and I found the radiator and overflow both low. Refilled both. Same issue. Did a flush and fill. Coolant low again.

I filled both again and used some Stop Leak according to directions. It isn't a leak.

After driving to a store I came out and saw the van dropped about a cup of coolant from the area on the right of the radiator near the overflow, but it was dark. Came home and went out to look 30 minutes later and the same thing happened in my driveway.

So what is causing the vehicle to dump out coolant after it is stopped?

Thanks!
 

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It took me a while to figure out where the coolant was going. Now what to do?

2003 Chrysler T&C w/175k. My wife noticed that the heater wasn't blowing hot very well and I found the radiator and overflow both low. Refilled both. Same issue. Did a flush and fill. Coolant low again.

I filled both again and used some Stop Leak according to directions. It isn't a leak.

After driving to a store I came out and saw the van dropped about a cup of coolant from the area on the right of the radiator near the overflow, but it was dark. Came home and went out to look 30 minutes later and the same thing happened in my driveway.

So what is causing the vehicle to dump out coolant after it is stopped?

Thanks!
Hello!

More likely than not, you have a radiator leak on the top row of your radiator, it leaks all the time while your engine is running, but you only notice after a stop. Since your leak is on the top row, it will not leak if the engine is not running, seen that exact leak on three of my radiators on two of my vans.

I believe it is time to replace your radiator.
 

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Possible head gasket, as exhaust gases get into coolant and push coolant out. A mechanic can do a sniff test on the coolant.

Check your oil for water contamination. You can also have a pressure test done on the cooling system
 

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I would second the tests, especially the pressure test. Head gasket is worst possible scenario, but I'd wait for the results of a pressure test to see if a "sniff" test (hydrocarbons in the coolant) would be helpful. The radiator cap should be responding if it's an over-pressure situation though. Have you taken a look at the radiator cap and specifically, its pressure relief valve?
 

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Possible head gasket, as exhaust gases get into coolant and push coolant out. A mechanic can do a sniff test on the coolant.

Check your oil for water contamination. You can also have a pressure test done on the cooling system
Head gasket is a posibility but, why spent money on the worst case scenario when you can visually check your radiator first for free?

Pressure test is not going to help, you already know it's going to fail!
 

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I would put my money on a radiator leak as Levy said, but not necessarily one on the upper part of the rad. If this is the case, you should be able to easily see the drip down if you immediately drive the van up on ramps when you park at home. Protect yourself with some clear plastic and slide underneath, where you will hopefully see the drip coming directly from the rad. Might be more difficult to find it if's from the condenser side of the rad, but maybe sliding some newspaper between them can verify it. Or you could of course take it to a shop, where this stuff is always easier to diagnose under a lifted vehicle.
 

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I'm thinking a head gasket is pretty unlikely.
 

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Pressure test is not going to help, you already know it's going to fail!
Yes, most likely, but it will help isolate the point of failure. You're working from the anecdotal position of "this is where mine failed, so yours must be the same thing". It may end up being the case, but doing a pressure test first to isolate the leak point is more prudent than throwing a radiator in it and then finding the leak was somewhere else.
Test, isolate, repair.
 

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Yes, most likely, but it will help isolate the point of failure. You're working from the anecdotal position of "this is where mine failed, so yours must be the same thing". It may end up being the case, but doing a pressure test first to isolate the leak point is more prudent than throwing a radiator in it and then finding the leak was somewhere else.
Test, isolate, repair.
Bingo! What you said.
 

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No one here is suggesting just hanging on a new radiator without any diagnosis.
I just went through this last November. Drove the van up on ramps, went under and saw the rad clearly leaking from somewhere above the drain. Could not have been easier to diagnose. Now, sure if the visual doesn't turn up anything, then next would be the pressure test.
 

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Ditto. Some years ago we were in the middle of moving. Noticed a puddle and a little steam when stopped at a gas station. Coolant low so added. Got it home and same thing. Could see it was from the radiator but had no tools available and too busy to change it. A shop changed it and found a 6 inch crack in a side tank. I was amazed it didn't leak more than it did.
 

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O.P. Probably already forgot he posted here but here it goes anyways:

Yes, most likely, but it will help isolate the point of failure. You're working from the anecdotal position of "this is where mine failed, so yours must be the same thing". It may end up being the case, but doing a pressure test first to isolate the leak point is more prudent than throwing a radiator in it and then finding the leak was somewhere else.
Test, isolate, repair.
How a pressure test will help you isolate the point of failure? Unless you have sophisticated testing equipment your test will only tell you what you already know, you have a leak somewhere!

OK, now, according to your thinking, your pressure test proved you have a leak, now, take the heads off to see if you have a faulty head gasket, if you have a head gasket problem, you need to send the heads to the shop to make sure those heads are flat, not warped at all. Put them back on and still have a leak. Now what? replace the overflow bottle because the leak was on that area? well, go buy a new one. Still the leak, now what? I'm lost! :)

You probably didn't took your time to read my post, here it is:

Head gasket is a possibility but, why spent money on the worst case scenario when you can visually check your radiator first for free?

Pressure test is not going to help, you already know it's going to fail!
You can buy a new radiator for $80.00 and up, why spend $200.00 + doing all kind of tests just to find out all you need is a new radiator?

As stated before, a "visual Check" is not going to cost you a dime but it can save you some money.

Is not only "this is where mine failed, so yours must be the same thing", it is also common sense! An small radiator leak, if at the very top rows, is not easy to find, if you fill up your radiator with a cold engine, is not going to leak much, and even with an engine running it would take you some time to notice. Now, if your radiator leak is anywhere else in your radiator, you will loose coolant faster.

My recommendation stands, visually inspect the radiator first before you spend money on mechanics, leak check kits etc.
 

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It will drip coolant during a pressure test if the rad is leaking.

If no visible leak it may be the head gasket. If so there should be visible steam in the exhaust upon starting.

If none of the above it may be a leak in the plastic overflow reservoir or the hose from the rad to the res.
 

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Could be a leak where the plastic wells attach to the radiator. Might need to be warm for the leak to really show when everything is expanded from the heat. Same if it is a crack in the wells. Since you see the fluid puddle, I would not jump to head gasket issue.
Might want to get an ac system black light or borrow one and check the radiator out. Even with out adding any uv dye to the coolant, it will show up as a glow. I think they are like $15 at the parts store of one. It has help me track several leaks back to the source.
 

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Flame on? Really wanna go there with me?? :Wow1: Okay.

Disclaimer: There will be some personal jibing, ribbing and a dose of heavy sarcasm in the following message. It is intended neither as an attack on or rebuke of the intended recipient, and is done with just a touch of fun in mind. However, I reserve the right to employ tactical nukes at my discretion.

{LowTorchMode=TRUE}
How a pressure test will help you isolate the point of failure? Unless you have sophisticated testing equipment your test will only tell you what you already know, you have a leak somewhere!
Hmm, I dunno.. Maybe fill and pressurize the system and check for leak points while waiting to see if there is a pressure drop?? Not sure that's gonna work.. Nah, no way.

LEVY said:
OK, now, according to your thinking, your pressure test proved you have a leak, now, take the heads off to see if you have a faulty head gasket, if you have a head gasket problem, you need to send the heads to the shop to make sure those heads are flat, not warped at all. Put them back on and still have a leak. Now what? replace the overflow bottle because the leak was on that area? well, go buy a new one. Still the leak, now what? I'm lost! :)
Well, now it seems that you're infintely better at mind-reading than I am, because for sure the first thing I would do with a failed pressure test is pull the freakin' heads. Just 'cause I'm an idiot and think that every coolant loss is due to that blown head gasket.. But you already knew that with your precognitive abilities, right?

Or, was it you displacing onto my statement someone else mentioning head gasket failure in your effort to prove yourself, your experience and your opinion as being the only right one? That, my friend, is the Money Question - the one that gets you the real prize - at play here.

LEVY said:
You probably didn't took your time to read my post, here it is:
Nerp, didn't took my time at all to read it. Nor the OP. Just prattling and blathering blindly, but apparently that's not my exclusive domain in this thread.

LEVY said:
You can buy a new radiator for $80.00 and up, why spend $200.00 + doing all kind of tests just to find out all you need is a new radiator? As stated before, a "visual Check" is not going to cost you a dime but it can save you some money.
Because I can get a "loan-a-tool" pressure tester for free before I drop said dime on any parts?? But why do that when I can drop $80 on a radiator that I don't need, because it may only be $0.89 worth of hose that's the problem?

LEVY said:
Is not only "this is where mine failed, so yours must be the same thing", it is also common sense! An small radiator leak, if at the very top rows, is not easy to find, if you fill up your radiator with a cold engine, is not going to leak much, and even with an engine running it would take you some time to notice. Now, if your radiator leak is anywhere else in your radiator, you will loose coolant faster.

My recommendation stands, visually inspect the radiator first before you spend money on mechanics, leak check kits etc.
And here we have you admitting that "Is not only "this is where mine failed, so yours must be the same thing""
Oh, wait - I don't read anything before I respond, so nevermind - it must have been my imagination that read me that.

{/LowTorchMode}

Now, in all fairness, doing a visual inspection is certainly prudent and advisable. There's a better than average chance that you'll locate the source of the leak that way. But it's not 100% reliable. Pin-hole leaks and cracks can direct the leaking coolant away from the source point. It's not impossible or even improbable that you end up looking in the wrong area for a leak point that is inches or even feet away from the true source.

Doing a pressure test in conjunction with the visual check is going to be way more definitive if the leak is not coming from a catastrophic failure in the system, or only appears when the system becomes pressurized when the engine is running - a point that you yourself raised in your first response. And it's a lot easier to do this with a system that isn't hot from running when trying to find a leak point that only happens when the system is pressurized.

Test. Use any and all practical methods at your disposal to find the problem.
Isolate. Confirm and verify the true source location of the problem found in testing.
Repair. Remedy the problem with the proper repair procedure, including replacement of faulty components.
 

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We do have some who always seem to go to the most drastic, serious probable problem first. Blown trans, blown engine, head gasket and etc.

I tend to go the other way, easy and simple things first.

To each his own:)

It also is just as easy to say "this happened to me like this " as it is to say "this is your problem because it happened to me".
 

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the van dropped about a cup of coolant from the area on the right of the radiator near the overflow

Often, the pressure caps will spew coolant when they fail. They are cheap enough just to replace, as a diagnostic.


BUT

Nobody has mentioned possibility of perforation of the coolant pipe that runs under the passenger side of the engine. That's worth a visual check. It's a common occurrence.


Nevermind that, if the is coolant leaking higher up....
 
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