Coolant is an essential fluid that every vehicle needs to have to keep running at tip-top shape. Since engines go through a series of thousands of combustions per minute, the mini-explosions inside the block heat the engine to scalding temperatures. This heat is evident when you put your hand on the hood of the car after running it even for just a few miles.
When leaks happen, these can come in many different areas, making them hard to trace. The worst is when these aren’t caught on time, and you find yourself stranded due to an overheated engine, requiring you to schedule an appointment with a mechanic. Engine coolant leaks can occur in the worst places, and some might not be visible to the naked eye. One thing to note is that modern cars do not typically require a constant top-up of fluids, so if coolant is continuously decreasing, there is likely a problem. Here is a guide to check for leaks when you start to smell excessive coolant after a drive:
1. Check the Coolant Tank
The tank is the first place you should be looking at, as this is the usual suspect when coolant leaks occur. Depending on your car’s age, the tank’s plastic casing might develop cracks due to hitting bumps and potholes when driving over time. When cracking is the evident cause, replacing the tank is a must.
Sometimes, the coolant cap might be loose if you forgot to seal it properly after topping-up fluids. Additionally, the gasket seals on the cap and coolant tank can deteriorate, as time typically breaks down rubber. When this happens, a replacement cap is required.
Take note that opening up the coolant tank must always be done when the vehicle is in a cooled-down state, and not just after running the engine, as this will cause steam to burst out.
2. Check the Hoses
Checking the hoses that run from the tank to the engine is essential, as some of these can be wiggled loose after hitting any potholes or driving on bumpy roads. Additionally, there might be holes on the hoses, which is a possibility when a car gets older. Checking the hoses’ seals from the tank to those that reach the engine and other components can show you any potential problems.
3. Check the Pump
The coolant pump can develop problems, leading to overheating due to the lack of fluid circulating throughout the entire car’s cooling system. Some cars have a plastic pump with a shorter lifespan that can develop cracks and leaks easier. When you notice any leaks coming from the pump or issues with coolant circulation arise, replacing the pump will prevent overheating at the wrong times.
4. Inspect the Radiator
Sometimes, the radiator can have leaks or damages, causing coolant solution to seep out into the air and prevent the engine from receiving cooled air while driving the car. The radiator works to suck in air while in motion, allowing the engine to stay cool as it reaches higher revolutions-per-minute. When the radiator leaks, this can result in coolant reductions, so have any damaged radiators replaced immediately.
5. Have the Engine Block Checked
On rare occasions, when you cannot locate a coolant leak, but you notice antifreeze solution in the air after driving, this can indicate an internal leak inside the engine. Engines can receive holes inside the block that allow coolant to seep out and leak, which can be why coolant levels are reducing without any visible leaking. After all, you can replace parts and still experience leaks, which may indicate a hole in the engine block. Unfortunately, this is an expensive fix and might even require an entire overhaul.
There are many reasons why coolant leaks happen, and most occur due to age or due to rough driving styles. Pushing engines too hard can cause excess vibration that can loosen specific components, while not avoiding rough roads or potholes can cause many damages to car parts.
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