Recognizing and Repairing Coolant Leaks in Vehicles

The overheating problems of a car are usually the result of a leaking coolant system. Finding out if that is the case is pretty simple, and knowing what to do can help in a tough situation.

Usually It is Obvious

Ninety percent of coolant leaks are easy to locate due to the fact that leaks usually leave evidence on the ground below the car. Often, when the hood is raised, leaked or sprayed coolant can also be seen from the problem area. The fluid color is green most of the time, but it could be orange or yellow depending on the brand of the car and the brand of antifreeze that was used in the system. Remember that when you open coolant caps on a really hot radiator, even if there is little coolant in the system, steam can spray out and cause serious burns. If the car has been overheated, it is best to let it cool or add water or antifreeze to the coolant tank that has a non-pressurized cap. If a pressurized cap is removed from the radiator or plastic tank, the coolant may spray.

Common Causes

The most common sources of coolant leakage are the water pump, the radiator or heating pipes, the core of the water heater, coolant caps, the adhesion joints, the head seals and the radiator hoses or housing. If the leak is not obvious, the system can be pressurized using a cooling system pressure tester. A test kit adapter can also be used to check the radiator cap, although a visual inspection of the rubber seal of the radiator cap may sometimes reveal wear.

More Serious Issues

A defective or blown head seal may be a little more difficult to diagnose. A carbon test may be carried out to check for the presence of exhaust fumes in the cooling system. In addition, a cylinder leak tester may be useful for finding very slow leaks in an individual cylinder or between two cylinders. Performing a compression test can help to find problems, especially if two side-by-side cylinders share the same LOW compression reading. This would indicate that there is a leak in the head between the two cylinders.

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