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Old 07-27-2017, 05:15 PM   #1
emg77
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2008 Astra XR
Default Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

Hi all, some of you may have seen my other thread about this unexpected development with the Astra,

During an inspection of my car for a trade-in, the dealership says they discovered "alot of oil in the coolant". Upon further inspection, there's no oil floating on the coolant and the coolant looks fine. There is some black in the top of the coolant tank, but I'm not sure it's oil and I can't reach it to see what it is (but I don't know how it would get in the top of the tank unless the coolant was overfilled, which it wasn't.) The engine oil shows no sign of coolant in the oil. So maybe the dealership was overreacting? Or maybe I have a slight leak in either the head gasket, or maybe I've also read the oil cooler gasket behind the timing belt. There's no bubbling in the coolant when the engine is running. I put a paper towel about an inch into the coolant and it didn't have a bit of oil on it when I pulled it out. I would expect there should be oil floating on the surface after it's been sitting a few days.

So questions for those who know more than me.
- If oil is getting in the coolant, wouldn't coolant also be getting in the oil. And it seems that would show itself quickly with the higher pressures in the radiator.
- Does the manual transmission have a oil cooler in the radiator that could be leaking?
- Does anyone else have any ideas on what's going on?

I don't want to sell it to someone without knowing what is going on, but I also don't want to overreact if there really isn't a problem and not get as much money as I can for the car.

Here's some photos:
Coolant bottle... see the black in 3 compartments on the top?
20170727_174405_resized_1.jpg
Coolant ... I know you can't see it, but it's clean coolant with nothing floating on it.
20170727_174424_resized_1.jpg
Oil fill area with no foaming. Dipstick is also clean
20170727_174354_resized_1.jpg
Engine compartment, if it helps for some reason. There's no leaks
20170727_174458_resized_1.jpg
The Astra, still looking too nice to scrap with almost 120,000 miles on the clock.
20170727_174559_resized_1.jpg

...
Drives: 2014 Volt, 2015 Acadia
Past Cars: 08 Astra, 12 Enclave, 09 Traverse, 05 Vue, 04 Grand Prix, 00 Alero, 97 LeSabre, 72 Cutlass S

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Old 07-27-2017, 06:20 PM   #2
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

After my mechanic "super-flushed" the cooling system and replaced the hoses, he asked me to drive 500 miles and said any remaining oil in the system would be floating in the clear reservoir bottle; none was and the coolant is still a transparent pinkish color.

Your cooling fluid is quite dark but I'm not sure if dipping a paper towel into the coolant will tell you much. I can't tell by the photos but one tell-tale is if your cooling hoses are swollen and/or sweating oil; my new hoses are quite dense and hard.

https://www.gatestechzone.com/en/pro...ilure-symptoms

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Old 07-27-2017, 06:35 PM   #3
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2008 Astra XR
Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

When was the last time you changed the coolant? Seems I remember something I believe in one of the forums heee that if there was an air leak in the coolant system it could cause the dexcool to blacken. Have you had the system pressure tested? Again not 100 percent sure on the air getting into the system.

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Old 07-27-2017, 06:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

The fluid is the Dex-cool compatible stuff. It's orange. I had it flushed at a bit over 5 years, so it's about 4 years old, and probably has about 60,000 miles on it.

I noticed those 3 compartments that have the black are separated from the others, at least at the top. So the 2 small hoses from the radiator lead to the darkened part.

I might at least drain the radiator this weekend and see if there is anything in the fluid in the radiator. I don't think I'll know for sure until I do that. It's easy enough to put a couple jugs of new fluid in.

The hoses all look fine.

I do think there's something going on because of the black in the top of the tank, but it's weird that there's nothing in the re-fill area.

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Drives: 2014 Volt, 2015 Acadia
Past Cars: 08 Astra, 12 Enclave, 09 Traverse, 05 Vue, 04 Grand Prix, 00 Alero, 97 LeSabre, 72 Cutlass S

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Old 07-27-2017, 08:53 PM   #5
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

Just throwing it out there........is it possible someone deliberately put some oil in the coolant tank so it can appear as a bargaining chip for a lower trade in?

Do you recall the last time you checked the engine bay for unusual color in the coolant tank?

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Old 07-27-2017, 09:12 PM   #6
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

I had the same thoughts, but they came back from the test drive saying that after the drive they were going to buy it, but then saw the oil in the coolant and didn't want the car after that, so no offer was made.

I had looked at the coolant a couple days prior when getting it ready for sale, and I didn't notice anything odd but I might not have noticed the darkened tank at that point.

The car ran no different than normal. It was a 40 minute drive on the interstate with the AC on prior to the test drive by them, and it didn't overheat. No check engine lights either.

...
Drives: 2014 Volt, 2015 Acadia
Past Cars: 08 Astra, 12 Enclave, 09 Traverse, 05 Vue, 04 Grand Prix, 00 Alero, 97 LeSabre, 72 Cutlass S

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Old 07-27-2017, 09:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

Since oil and water don't mix, antifreeze does mix with oil. Unless proven, a specific antifreeze/water mix would have to be combined manually with oil to see if this mixture mixes on its own. Then manually mix this concoction and see if they all combine together. What's unusual is that almost everyone with a confirmed head gasket failure finds either a chocolate coolant or the beginnings of oil in coolant with droplets floating in the coolant tank. Your picture seems to be oil floating on top of the tank. How does engine oil simply avoid the Mixmaster water pump as coolant continually circulates in a hot cooling system without combining to tint coolant. Instead of mixing, oil just pools conveniently at the top of the coolant container? I'm stretching my imagination with all the normal goings on of a typical cooling system run at normal operating temperatures and find this situation unusual....... Maybe there is a leak somewhere and maybe not.

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Old 07-27-2017, 09:46 PM   #8
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2008 Astra XR
Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

Yeah, and I'm having the same problems with it all in my mind. And I don't like automotive mysteries.

I can't even get into those sections of the tank to scrape off what is on the top of the tank to see if it's oil. And the oil(if that is what the black is) seems to be stuck to the top of the container, well above the coolant level

And the coolant I can get to doesn't seem to have any oil in it at all (I stuck a rolled up paper towel in it and it just looked like orange dex-cool anti-freeze to me. I can see the bottom of the tank through the fluid.

And it seems to be that the coolant side should be much higher pressure than the oil side and that, if anything, the coolant should be in the oil, not the other way around. So my oil should be a frothy mess. But it's not.

I'm stumped.

I appreciate the input Fdryer... I've always considered you to be the most knowledgeable person on this forum.

...
Drives: 2014 Volt, 2015 Acadia
Past Cars: 08 Astra, 12 Enclave, 09 Traverse, 05 Vue, 04 Grand Prix, 00 Alero, 97 LeSabre, 72 Cutlass S

Last edited by emg77; 07-27-2017 at 09:52 PM..

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Old 07-27-2017, 10:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

I make scientific wild ass guesses sometimes. To doesn't make me knowledgeable at all. The one cell between my ears will not hold much and I swear, I'm now old enough to use the phrase "I've forgotten more than you think you know...." line. In my case, I think I've forgotten more than I remember.......... Maybe that black stuff isn't oil. Ink?

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Old 07-27-2017, 10:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

A true mystery.

I changed my clear tank to a simpler design without the defective level indicator so don't remember how the OEM tank is designed.

With a cool engine, I think your clear tank can be easily removed. Then disconnecting the hoses you can drain the entire tank into a clean white pails and see what's inside.

My mechanic said that initially oil in the coolant would typically float to the top of the tank or radiator. So that would be a good tell-tale if we needed to flush the system again. Not sure if that is just the case with new coolant. For sure my Astra's coolant had devolved into chocolate milk on two ocassions prior to the "super-flush" but I don't know if that took some time and heat to blend. . .

I suppose you could do a simple leak down test to check the head gasket. And maybe a coolant pressure test. There are other tests you might do. I might just flush the coolant and try driving a 1000 miles to see how that goes. . .

Sorry can't be of more help. . .

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Old 07-28-2017, 07:58 AM   #11
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

I had looked at the coolant a couple days prior when getting it ready for sale, and I didn't notice anything odd but I might not have noticed the darkened tank at that point.

SOMEHOW, oil got poured into the coolant reservoir. Since oil does not mix with coolant and tends to float, it got insulated in the coolant reservoir. It never made to other parts.

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Old 07-28-2017, 09:02 AM   #12
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2008 Astra XR
Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

I wish it was that simple, but I'm the only one who drives the car (my wife never learned to drive a stick), and because of the baffles, it would be impossible to pour oil in the tank where it is, without disconnecting the hoses, because it's not in the side where the fill point is.

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Old 07-28-2017, 12:34 PM   #13
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

If you did not change the oil, someone confused the engine oil cap with the reservoir cap. I can see the coolant from the radiator is expelling the oil into the reservoir. In addition, I have second thoughts that thing may not be oil at all, saying an old stuff from the Antwerp assembly line that got dissolved.

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Old 07-28-2017, 04:28 PM   #14
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2008 Astra XR
Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

Any chance this could be due to deteriorating hoses? I recall someone mentioning this possibility could result from prolonged use of dexcool. I just checked and I have the same symptoms and hope it is a relatively inexpensive fix. replacing the head gasket would not be a simple solutions...

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Old 07-28-2017, 09:33 PM   #15
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

I always change my own oil... it's so easy on this car.

I certainly hope it's something like the hoses. That would be much easier.

I plan to pull the coolant tank this weekend to see if I can determine what is in the top of it, and to dump and examine the fluid.

Thanks everyone.

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Past Cars: 08 Astra, 12 Enclave, 09 Traverse, 05 Vue, 04 Grand Prix, 00 Alero, 97 LeSabre, 72 Cutlass S

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Old 07-31-2017, 02:00 PM   #16
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

I just had a 'duh' moment... Oil floats on water.

There may be coolant in the oil. Just not enough to be visible yet.
There could be some bubbles or even a thin layer of coolant in the very bottom of the pan. Not enough to see on the dip stick and not enough to foam the oil yet.

Depending on how your reservoir inspection goes, it might be worth doing an oil change into an open pan and inspecting that as well.

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Old 09-22-2017, 07:26 AM   #17
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Default Re: Oil in Coolant, but coolant not in engine

Just a quick update on this... I changed my coolant and have since put another 1000 miles on the car and had no problems. My original coolant was dark (it was about 4 years old), but didn't have an oily residue, but I think it was just age of the coolant, and perhaps as someone mentioned, maybe I was getting some residue from the hoses. The oil is still in good shape (no visible signs of coolant or frothiness), I've noticed no change in the engine, and the new coolant still looks fine. I'm not sure what was going on, but it doesn't seem like a head gasket issue to me.

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