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Old 10-26-2019, 02:55 PM   #1
98SatSl2
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Default Mystery coolant leak

Hi everyone,

My 98 SL1 with ~160k miles has a mystery coolant leak.

About three weeks ago I noticed my coolant light on. Waited for the car to cool down, topped it off. Didn't think much about of it. Three days later, I checked and it was low. Three days later again, low. I've only seen one puddle of antifreeze so I know it is leaking and the oil is clean. And the puddle was weird. I pulled up to a driveway, person got out of my car, and then I was backing up and he waved me down. Got out and it was antifreeze.

Last weekend, I did a pressure test on the system. Could not make it leak. took the front passenger wheel off and the plastic to see if there was a leak from the water pump. When I was pressure testing it, I didn't see any other components leaking. I've looked everywhere for coolant. I didn't see any leaks, couldn't see a trail of coolant.

I'm just lost on what it could be. I can drive three days, and then on the third day it seems to just dump half the coolant.

...
98 Forrest Green manual SL1- Rufus
-198,500
-06/14/11-5/25/14-rear ended
98 Maroon manual SL1- Daphne
-96k miles-115k (10/23/15)- 140k (4/9/18)
-06/12/14-current

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Old 10-26-2019, 03:21 PM   #2
onlinebiker
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Sometimes it won' t leak when cold. Try pressure testing it warmed up.

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Old 10-26-2019, 03:52 PM   #3
edlee
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1999 SL1
Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Your intake manifold gasket might be failing. Coolant might be leaking into an ignition chamber and evaporating.

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Old 10-26-2019, 04:02 PM   #4
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by edlee View Post
Your intake manifold gasket might be failing. Coolant might be leaking into an ignition chamber and evaporating.
I like this one ^^^ BUT he did say he's found a puddle once. When I changed out my lower radiator hose a while back I tightened it juuuust a little too lax, causing a slow leak that created no puddle or obvious trail, but it kept activating the "Low coolant" light, so I might also consider tightening up all of the hose clamps just to be sure.

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Old 10-26-2019, 04:07 PM   #5
98SatSl2
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by onlinebiker View Post
Sometimes it won' t leak when cold. Try pressure testing it warmed up.
Damn, I didn't let it warm up so if I found a leak I wouldn't have to wait for the block to cool down. Thanks, i'll try that whenever it stops raining.

...
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-06/14/11-5/25/14-rear ended
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Old 10-26-2019, 04:09 PM   #6
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by SlayZombi View Post
I like this one ^^^ BUT he did say he's found a puddle once. When I changed out my lower radiator hose a while back I tightened it juuuust a little too lax, causing a slow leak that created no puddle or obvious trail, but it kept activating the "Low coolant" light, so I might also consider tightening up all of the hose clamps just to be sure.
I probably would have a puddle more often but gravel hides everything, expect oil. I did have to change out my radiator last summer. Maybe a hose or something is loose. Also, I should have added, the puddle seemed to have come more from the passenger side.

...
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Old 10-26-2019, 04:15 PM   #7
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Post Re: Mystery coolant leak

Passenger side is where the water pump is under the AC compressor. The bearing has a weep hole and that is where they start to leak.

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Old 10-26-2019, 04:35 PM   #8
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

What I'd do is to look at the weep hole with the car running. Don't get caught in the belt.

...
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Old 10-26-2019, 05:15 PM   #9
98SatSl2
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waiex191 View Post
What I'd do is to look at the weep hole with the car running. Don't get caught in the belt.
I will definitely look at the weep hole. Would the weep hole dump almost a quart or so just in 15 second of someone getting out of the car and me backing up to leave?

...
98 Forrest Green manual SL1- Rufus
-198,500
-06/14/11-5/25/14-rear ended
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-06/12/14-current

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Old 10-26-2019, 05:25 PM   #10
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

When my water pump went, it went in a spectacular fashion.
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...9&postcount=24
So it is a likely spot.

...
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Old 10-26-2019, 07:48 PM   #11
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by 98SatSl2 View Post
I will definitely look at the weep hole. Would the weep hole dump almost a quart or so just in 15 second of someone getting out of the car and me backing up to leave?
That would be quite a leak, for it to be intermittent.

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Old 10-27-2019, 08:13 AM   #12
98SatSl2
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by 454cid View Post
That would be quite a leak, for it to be intermittent.
That's why I'm lost. I can go about 3 days, and then it just dumps.

...
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Old 10-27-2019, 09:05 AM   #13
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

If it's intermittent, it could be a heat soak thing, or only happening when your temp rises up near fan on conditions or something.


I had one recently that took some digging to find. The reservoir had a very small crack that would only vent at above normal operating temp, and then in the form of steam. The crack was on the fender side, so the vapor puddled as it cooled, ran down the fender and inner liner, and came out at the body panel to bumper seam up near the front of the car.

I had cleaned and dried the "usual" areas a couple days before, but until I saw evidence of the liquid coming out the bumper I was still checking those usual areas.

It was so small at first that I might not have even noticed the steam.

...
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Old 10-27-2019, 12:31 PM   #14
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

98SatSl2, with a gravel driveway hiding coolant leaks, pick a dry day or two and place cardboard under the engine right after parking with a warn engine. Either a leak shows up in the next hour or the next morning.

If you can remove the serpentine drive belt you can rock the water pump pulley. Bearings never have any play in good condition. When bearings wear, it will be obvious when hand turning and rocking the pulley.

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Old 10-28-2019, 01:47 PM   #15
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

While heat makes things expand, it does seem weird to only dump fluid every three days. I would more suspect that there's a slow leak that only gets noticed every three days, or when the fluid is low enough to throw the light.

Are you able to lift the car or view it from the bottom? It's probably the fastest way as Anti-freeze fluid is pretty visible, even if it's only the dried traces.

So you've checked the water pump, and recently replaced the radiator. Did you replace the hoses as well? My latest leak was from the bottom of the lower radiator hose, where it connects to the thermostat housing. Slow leak where I never saw any drips, but saw it when I was under the car. By now, those guys are over 20 years old if you've never touched them, and it would kinda be toward the passenger side.

Good Luck!

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Old 10-28-2019, 02:11 PM   #16
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
98SatSl2, with a gravel driveway hiding coolant leaks, pick a dry day or two and place cardboard under the engine right after parking with a warn engine. Either a leak shows up in the next hour or the next morning.

If you can remove the serpentine drive belt you can rock the water pump pulley. Bearings never have any play in good condition. When bearings wear, it will be obvious when hand turning and rocking the pulley.
I will find some cardboard to find the leak, and wiggle the water pump pulley. Thank you!

...
98 Forrest Green manual SL1- Rufus
-198,500
-06/14/11-5/25/14-rear ended
98 Maroon manual SL1- Daphne
-96k miles-115k (10/23/15)- 140k (4/9/18)
-06/12/14-current

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Old 10-28-2019, 02:14 PM   #17
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by blueknigh7 View Post
While heat makes things expand, it does seem weird to only dump fluid every three days. I would more suspect that there's a slow leak that only gets noticed every three days, or when the fluid is low enough to throw the light.

Are you able to lift the car or view it from the bottom? It's probably the fastest way as Anti-freeze fluid is pretty visible, even if it's only the dried traces.

So you've checked the water pump, and recently replaced the radiator. Did you replace the hoses as well? My latest leak was from the bottom of the lower radiator hose, where it connects to the thermostat housing. Slow leak where I never saw any drips, but saw it when I was under the car. By now, those guys are over 20 years old if you've never touched them, and it would kinda be toward the passenger side.

Good Luck!
It is very strange. I check it every morning before I leave for work. I filled it up Wednesday, drove Thursday, and today, so I will have to fill it up before work tomorrow. I can almost guarantee it.

I didn't wiggle the pump pulley, but I'll do that this weekend. Nope, original hoses. I'll have to double check those. Thank you

...
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-198,500
-06/14/11-5/25/14-rear ended
98 Maroon manual SL1- Daphne
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-06/12/14-current

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Old 10-28-2019, 05:04 PM   #18
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

I just went through this: Coolant temp light kept coming on every couple of days. No coolant on the ground or anywhere else, BUT I could see that the reservoir was low each time. One day, immediately after parking, I open the hood and steam and coolant is coming out of the reservoir cap. However, it's evaporating almost immediately once it hits the outside surface of the reservoir (which is why I never saw any coolant wetness before). The underside of the cap had some little plastic bits broken and/or missing. I bought a new cap.....problem solved. I hope your problem is just as easily solved.

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Old 10-28-2019, 06:32 PM   #19
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

One easy way to find the source of a leak is to put a little UV dye in the coolant. It's only a few bucks at an auto parts store. Then look under the hood with a UV flashlight, and you should see the leak light up pretty clearly.

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Old 10-28-2019, 07:14 PM   #20
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Default Re: Mystery coolant leak

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Boy View Post
One easy way to find the source of a leak is to put a little UV dye in the coolant. It's only a few bucks at an auto parts store. Then look under the hood with a UV flashlight, and you should see the leak light up pretty clearly.
Great idea. I've used it for air conditioning leaks.

...
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