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Old 04-07-2020, 03:42 PM   #1
seansaturn
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Default transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

I wanted some info on this one if anybody can advise

im pretty sure i have transmission fluid in my coolant, and i guess, vice versa

I was going to buy a new radioator, but i wanted to check a few things first.

1. My coolant overflow doesnt smell like coolant (when i sniff it and sniff a 50/50 mix fresh bottle, they differ), it has a slight whiff of ATF. Im not 100%, but i dont have any test strips, is there any easy way to check this?
2. I performed the reverse slam fix and it fixed my issue with the transmission, but i feel its slowly becoming more delayed again. I was thinking a little coolant is getting in there. Again, im still not sure
3. my atf seems to be slowly disappearing with no external leaks. Maybe half a quart every 3 months? its a closed system right?
4. coolant seems to reduce very slowly, but nothing to write home about. I thought all cars lose a little over time

i think its only a minor leak because i my ATF isnt like strawberry milkshake, its more brownish if anything.

I wanted to ask:
1. Anything else I can check?
2. I heard that ATF, when is disappears, it can: get burned up by the engine, external leak, or exit via an internal radiator leak. Do these cars have transmission modulators?

I didnt want to buy a new radiator and the coolant smell was in my head (or overflows smell i little different) and the ATF was going someplace else

More car info is in my profile
Saturn Vue AWD 2007... I think its an MJ7 or MJ8 transmission.

Thank you!
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Old 04-07-2020, 07:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

ATF in the cooling system will look like strawberry milkshake, but ATF should not be brownish but cough syrup red.



Maybe start by changing the fluid 3 times or until it looks like the picture.
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Old 04-08-2020, 06:04 AM   #3
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

I know if there is a big leak, it would look like that.

But my post was really for a minor leak. If a little seeps in, it wouldnt really change color instantly

I wanted to do any potential preventive maintenance while its still only a radiator
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:44 AM   #4
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

Service manuals describe a condition of motor oil (possibly including xmission oil) inadvertently mixing with engine coolant - in the event motor oil mixes with engine coolant, flush the cooling system completely and replace the thermostat. The t-stat element becomes contaminated and fails.

I'd monitor engine temperatures closely. Service manuals don't mention which way a t-stat fails, open (cooler running)or closed (ruining hotter).

One test may help. Take a sample and cook it under a flame. Antifreeze boils around 265F while xmission oil boils at higher temperatures. If a small sample is cooked (without a temperature monitor), observe it as it comes to a boil then reduce heat to allow slow boiling. Coolant should boil off leaving xmission oil. Look up ethylene glycol and xmission oil for their boiling point temperatures.
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Old 04-08-2020, 06:35 PM   #5
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Service manuals describe a condition of motor oil (possibly including xmission oil) inadvertently mixing with engine coolant - in the event motor oil mixes with engine coolant, flush the cooling system completely and replace the thermostat. The t-stat element becomes contaminated and fails.

I'd monitor engine temperatures closely. Service manuals don't mention which way a t-stat fails, open (cooler running)or closed (ruining hotter).

One test may help. Take a sample and cook it under a flame. Antifreeze boils around 265F while xmission oil boils at higher temperatures. If a small sample is cooked (without a temperature monitor), observe it as it comes to a boil then reduce heat to allow slow boiling. Coolant should boil off leaving xmission oil. Look up ethylene glycol and xmission oil for their boiling point temperatures.
oh wow. How does motor oil mix with the coolant in the first place? I replaced an oil filter adapter gasket in a mustang one time that caused this, but it also had an external leak, so it was somewhat obvious. The coolant in the saturn is a good neon orange though, really nice condition, it just has a sweet transmission whiff about it. I understand the tstat may need replacing, but a faulty t-stat wouldnt cause that?

Does coolants boiling temp change with age? I know its protection fades overtime, I wondered if it went the other way too.

I wasnt sure that dex-cool had glycol in it. My car runs dex-cool, the orange one. I thought it was different to the green glycol antifreeze, but i'd need to double check that.

thanks for input! I saw a saturn with a rear end collision at our local pic a part, i was thinking about picking it up the radiator for 20 bucks and flushing everything out (xmission and coolant). the atf needs a change anyway, so i figured i could unbolt the coolant xmission line and give that a good flush while im at it. just wanted to check in before spending any $$
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Last edited by seansaturn; 04-08-2020 at 06:41 PM.
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Old 04-08-2020, 08:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

Please don't presume I'm fear mongering with t-stat horrors. It's just a fact as presented in service manuals. Ethylene glycol is the main ingredient in Dexcool.

DEX-COOL varies from other coolants in that it is made up of different materials. Regular antifreeze is composed of water mixed with methanol and ethylene glycol. These products are mixed and placed into your cars engine to allow higher boiling points to prevent your car from overheating. DEX-COOL, as well as other organic acid antifreezes, are glycol based. DEX-COOL is created out of a combination of different phosphates and silicates as well as the organic acid technology itself.

Cylinder heads are separate from the engine block containing pistons and other essential things. The head gasket can use a metal ring surrounding the bore holes while cooling passages have synthetic paper gaskets to separate coolant from oil passages between cylinder heads and engine block. A damaged head gasket is one place for oil and coolant to leak and mix. Inadvertently adding coolant to oil or oil to coolant occurs from unfamiliarity with diy maintenance.

Antifreeze doesn't fade. The additives to prolong long life Dexcool and other antifreeze touting greater than three years/100k miles service have additives that deplete over time. Ethylene glycol doesn't fade away as much as the additives wear out. The additives protect aluminium from corrosion as dissimilar metals react (cast iron engine blocks, aluminum cylinder heads, aluminum radiators, etc.). Without being a boar/bore, following simple guidelines on when to drain, flush and replace coolant as directed in owner's manuals takes care of one aspect of vehicle maintenance.

Boiling point doesn't change as long as coolant remains at the recommended mixtures of 50/50. If I'm not mistaken, the ethylene glycol ratio to water establishes the boiling point. 265F is the number for a 50/50 mix of antifreeze to water. Higher with more antifreeze, lower with less. The majority of vehicles remain reliable with periodic maintenance. Dexcool, despite naysayers with valid (early) engine destruction of head gasket damage are largely gone because those early engines used paper gaskets swelling from Dexcool reaction. All Saturns use synthetic head baskets and the reason none suffered Dexcool gasket failures. My '03 L300 came with Dexcool and still uses it. 108k miles and the same orange red translucent coolant shows in the coolant container......

The only place where coolant can mix with xmission oil would be a rupture inside the radiator where xmission oil flows to maintain oil temperature.
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Old 04-11-2020, 09:24 AM   #7
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

ATF is going down. Coolant seems to be going down? Both cannot go down if you Have no leaks. Do you have a mixing issue or a leaking issue? Cooling system is pressurized and I would expect the trans fluid to go up and have trans issues. I think the fluid is drawn in while it goes thru the rad trans cooler. You could plumb in an external cooler to go around this issue. Or replace the rad.
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Old 04-11-2020, 02:05 PM   #8
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Boiling point doesn't change as long as coolant remains at the recommended mixtures of 50/50. If I'm not mistaken, the ethylene glycol ratio to water establishes the boiling point. 265F is the number for a 50/50 mix of antifreeze to water. Higher with more antifreeze, lower with less. The majority of vehicles remain reliable with periodic maintenance. Dexcool, despite naysayers with valid (early) engine destruction of head gasket damage are largely gone because those early engines used paper gaskets swelling from Dexcool reaction. All Saturns use synthetic head baskets and the reason none suffered Dexcool gasket failures. My '03 L300 came with Dexcool and still uses it. 108k miles and the same orange red translucent coolant shows in the coolant container......

The only place where coolant can mix with xmission oil would be a rupture inside the radiator where xmission oil flows to maintain oil temperature.
I ran a little test with boiling point temperatures today, and it's a little inconclusive. I just really cannot tell. There wasnt much in it. I guess the mixture isn't that apparent and it seems I have to wait until its more obvious

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavell View Post
. Do you have a mixing issue or a leaking issue?
that is the nature of my post above. I described all the info in the OP

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavell View Post
You could plumb in an external cooler to go around this issue. Or replace the rad.
im trying to diagnose now so that i dont have to do that, or at least, hold off on that. i mentioned above i had access to a replacement radiator for 20 bucks, i think that would be an easier next step pending further diagnosis
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Old 04-11-2020, 07:30 PM   #9
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

Had a car that got transmission fluid in coolant. It looked brownish. Was caused by a leak somewhere in transmission line going into radiator. Was a long time ago but maybe same thing
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Old 04-12-2020, 11:02 AM   #10
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by onefunkar View Post
Had a car that got transmission fluid in coolant. It looked brownish. Was caused by a leak somewhere in transmission line going into radiator. Was a long time ago but maybe same thing
thank you

i think ill buy that radiator and switch it out. best be safe than sorry

thank you all for the input!
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Old 04-12-2020, 11:59 AM   #11
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

Sure you want a $20 radiator?
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Old 04-12-2020, 03:30 PM   #12
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Default Re: transmission fluid and coolant mixing?

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Sure you want a $20 radiator?
You should be asking yourself: "what is the history of the car", not, "how much is the part"

Well I know its a rear end collision, I know every part is $20 so its not priced on value, I understand my financial situation, I know it has less than 40K on the motor and I also know I may have a potential issue with mixing trans and coolant.

If you are wondering if I have thought about it, yes I have. I have thought about it a lot
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