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Old 09-29-2016, 01:32 AM   #1
the_tim
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2001 SL2
Default Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

With over 200,000 miles on it, my 2001 SL1 has been operating near-perfectly until just recently it developed a mystery coolant leak.

I first noticed it as a puddle of coolant under the car after being parked a while. I've tried a few times to jack the car up and run it for a while, or go for a drive then come back and leave it running and try to spot the source of the leak, but it never seems to be visibly leaking whenever I get under the car.

I've inspected as many hoses as I can and haven't found any pinhole leaks. The radiator seems to be fine. The leak appears to be coming from somewhere behind the engine, but beyond that I haven't been able to narrow it down.

I did inspect the coolant connections on the intake manifold since I've heard those are prone to failure, and as best I can tell that part is still fine. Plus the coolant connector on the manifold is on the driver's side of the car and I think the leak is somewhere more toward the passenger side.

There was one time when I had the car running that I noticed a dripping from what I think is the condensation overflow port coming out of the firewall to the cabin, but I am pretty sure it was just water.

We have smelled what I think is coolant inside the car on occasion, which makes me strongly suspect the heater core is leaking, but oddly it is not consistent, and I haven't had the other typical symptom of a leaky heater core, the foggy windows.

Today I noticed it was actively dripping again even though the last time I drove it was over 24 hours ago. I got underneath to try to find the source of the drips but it looked like it was coming off the edges of the oil pan. I assume it must have collected on top of the oil pan, but I still couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

Here are a couple videos of what I was seeing under the car today.

youtube.com/watch?v=3jR2-eTiSVM This one is on the passenger side, close to the cabin firewall. You can see it is still dripping, but I see where it's coming from. I went above that area with a scope-cam and couldn't figure it out.

youtube.com/watch?v=7yd9jHpdhy0 This one is more toward the middle of the car, still behind the engine. You can see some coolant that has collected in a dip on the top edge of the engine pan.

Any ideas where this leak might be coming from?

P.S. (Sorry about the non-linking URLs above, the site wouldn't let me post links because I haven't made 15 other posts yet.)

...
2001 Saturn SL2 - 205,000 miles and counting

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Old 09-29-2016, 07:32 AM   #2
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

THe first few threads may hold some clues, or cheap solution until such time that a more permanent fix, if needed, is donehttps://cse.google.com/cse?cx=partne...ead&gsc.page=1

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Old 09-29-2016, 08:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

If the water pump was never replaced, check it carefully. With the intake manifold and xmission fitting on the radiator likely areas for leaks and not showing any, leaves the pump.

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Old 09-29-2016, 10:45 AM   #4
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

^ ^ ^ could leak onto the belt'pulley, then get flung into all kinds of odd places and drip down from there

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Old 09-29-2016, 10:58 AM   #5
floridasl22002
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

I would strongly recommend having a pressure test done on the cooling system. You can rent the items from the auto box stores or you can get a garage to do it.

My son had a mystery coolant leak on his L300 V6. I did the same as you and went under the car and checked all connections, etc, but couldn't find anything at all. I took it to my indi garage who did a pressure test and found the leak. $800.00 poorer but the leak is fixed. Going under the car when the engine is hot is not to be recommended, so with no alternative you check it cold. BUT there is no pressure in the system, s hairline cracks won't show their face. Do the pressure test and save yourself time and frustration.

My other son has a 2002 SL2 with the dohc engine. Just after we bought it, I noticed a coolant leak toward the back of the engine and found it to be the plastic coolant connector part of the the plastic intake manifold that was cracked. We bought the metal pipe fix and it has been bullet proof ever since then (4 years). We bought the pipe kit from the Ex Saturn Tech who designed it for about $60.00, but Dorman now sell it as well.

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Old 10-02-2016, 10:49 PM   #6
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

I once had a very similar problem in a 1996 SL with coolant dripping off the edges of the oil pan and as far away at the transmission. I had a black light (anyone with pets that like to pee where they shouldn't should have one) and put some UV dye in the coolant reservoir. Run the engine and use the black light to look for the dye. In my case it was pretty evident that the water pump was leaking.

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Old 10-04-2016, 01:24 PM   #7
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2002 SL2
Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by floridasl22002 View Post

My other son has a 2002 SL2 with the dohc engine. Just after we bought it, I noticed a coolant leak toward the back of the engine and found it to be the plastic coolant connector part of the the plastic intake manifold that was cracked. We bought the metal pipe fix and it has been bullet proof ever since then (4 years). We bought the pipe kit from the Ex Saturn Tech who designed it for about $60.00, but Dorman now sell it as well.
I'm overdo on this one AND the radiator - both original.

...
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Old 10-07-2016, 09:42 AM   #8
the_tim
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

Thanks for the feedback, all. I went ahead and picked up a new water pump and heater core and tomorrow I'll be replacing them both, since neither one looks like too complicated/difficult of a job. I still haven't pinned down exactly where the leak is coming from but those are both due for replacement anyway.

Big thanks to the users who put thorough walkthrough videos for these replacments on YouTube (richpin06a, campus189).

I'll post an update after I've finished about whether those replacements did the trick.

...
2001 Saturn SL2 - 205,000 miles and counting

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Old 10-07-2016, 02:00 PM   #9
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

Personally, I wouldn't place too much emphasis on your heater core leaking. A serious heater core leak will fog the bottom of the windshield as leaking coolant evaporates and rises to come out defroster outlet while smelling coolant all the time. You can search threads and may never find a leaking heater core when leaks are more likely everywhere else. Besides the water pump, radiator and hoses, the main coolant outlet behind the engine feeding coolant to the heater core is a weak part that gives way. There's even a Dorman part made for this after someone came up with an aluminum part. Search past threads to the intake manifold mod for info.

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Old 10-07-2016, 02:03 PM   #10
the_tim
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
...the main coolant outlet behind the engine feeding coolant to the heater core is a weak part that gives way. There's even a Dorman part made for this after someone came up with an aluminum part.
That was one of the first things I learned about when I started my research to try to track this down. I've looked pretty closely at this part and it still seems to be in good shape and not leaking, plus all the evidence I have seems to point to the leak being on the other side of the car from where that port is.

...
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Old 10-13-2016, 03:17 PM   #11
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

Well I replaced the water pump and the leak went away... mostly.

That is to say, there's no more massive coolant leaking coming off the frame and the edges of the oil pan on the passenger side of the car. However, seems to be a new leak. Or maybe it was there before and was just dwarfed by the water pump leak so I couldn't isolate it.

The location under the car where it's dripping now (in much smaller quantities) appears to be on the driver's side, pretty much directly under the previously-mentioned coolant connections on the intake manifold. So it looks like I'll be replacing that after all as well.

Fun times.

...
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Old 10-13-2016, 03:25 PM   #12
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

If its the coolant outlet feed to the heater core, search past threads about this repair with either a machined or Dorman part from ebay or other sites. There's a youtube video too on this repair. To the unfamiliar, it will seem impossible to repair but once aware of the modification with a permanent fix, its just time spent lining up the procedures and doing it.

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Old 10-13-2016, 03:33 PM   #13
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak in my 2001 SL2

If it is the plastic pipe on the inlet manifold that has cracked, then yu can replace it with a pateneted metal pipe and it will be a complete cure. We had to that 4 years ago just after we bought my son his 2002 SL2.

We bought the part from the company (ex Saturn guy) who designed the part. I think we paid $60.00. Since then Dorman have offred one for sale. It could be the same part just sold through Dorman. I don't know.

Anyway, here's the link to the Saturn guys you tube on this part and its replacement. It does suggest removing quite a few bits and pieces and removing the manifold. I did the repair without removing the manifold, but it was a bind, but we managed it. Your choice which way you do it.

Good luck.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK9cXijBnRc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-g4fX_MslJE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ESs2OAp0rs

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