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Old 11-12-2018, 12:13 PM   #1
Rj 2000 LS2
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2000 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

As you know, I replaced the sub frame on our LS2. We been driving it without issue for several days. My wife is at work and said the coolant light went on. I looked in the garage and sure enough there is a puddle of antifreeze that ran out the garage door.

I did support the radiator while doing the sub frame. It only move an inch at best. From the puddle on the garage floor, it appears it is leaking somewhere near the expansion tank side. Not the water pump side (which I changed a couple month's ago).

The coolant system hoses are a mystery to me. They are packed in there and I still don't know where they all are. Most can't be seen very well.

Any guesses on where the coolant is coming from? I know this is a needle in the haystack, but who knows... great minds create solutions.

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Old 11-12-2018, 12:38 PM   #2
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

The only thing I can suggest is to get a pressure kit as a loaner from the autostores and do a system pressure check that way. Essentially you are placing the coolant system under the same pressure as when it is running. The big difference is the engine will not be running and you will have NO hot pipes, etc to contend with. That way you can get underneath and have a good look around and do it safely.

You can also visually check for leaks on the parts you can see, such as squeezing hoses, checking for tightness, looking for cracks in the coolant reservoir, etc. How old is the reservoir cap? They are usually set for a given pressure, but if they are worn, they will allow coolant to leak out when under pressure.

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Old 11-12-2018, 01:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

The upper radiator hose is a short bendy one from the left/passenger side connecting to an extension tube from the t-stat under the intake manifold center. The lower hose is on the drivers side coming up to the engine. The smaller neater hoses are in the same area as the lower radiator hose. If you can't see any leaks from above then jacking up the front to crawl under should show where coolant is leaking out. Hopefully you'll see where the leak is coming from otherwise you can always top off with water, look for a leak then startup. Any leak should be obvious after starting up.

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Old 11-12-2018, 02:36 PM   #4
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

I and my wife are getting so tired of these mechanical issues with this vehicle. She loves the car as I do, but come on!

Two days ago, I thought I saw some moisture on the ground in the garage, but it had been raining/snowing so I dismissed it. Today, it is obvious there is a large leak like a river running to our garage door. Last night when we got home, I smelt something that wasn't right. I thought perhaps it was some paint on the exhaust from over spray during the sub frame repairs etc... It must have been antifreeze burning on the exhaust. I guess I need to stay more vigilant and investigate immediately, but I don't want or need to be an over active protective mechanic! LOL

I hope it's not a crack in the radiator brought on by replacing the sub frame. I was very careful but I guess these old parts don't like movement. I plan on filling the antifreeze to drive the car back home and then digging underneath to see what is going on! Wish me luck! I'll let you know what I find.

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Old 11-12-2018, 02:48 PM   #5
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

The local independent mechanics I take my vehicles to do not have the required adapters to test the cooling system on my Saturn. When I'd asked them to check for leaks in the past they'd put the car on the rack and do a visual inspection. Our cars needed adapters which were not widely used within the GM family of automobiles.

With regard getting a pressure testing kit on loan: if you tell them that you need it for a Saturn L-Series (engine size makes no difference) you may be told that they don't have the correct adapters for it. However, there were other GM vehicles which utilize the same adapters. If you'll refer to the link below for the Stant radiator cap p/n 10259 you'll find other vehicles which also use it. Perhaps the store will provide a better answer if you choose a different GM vehicle from the Buyer's Guide in the link. Of course, I could be wrong. (I hope that it will be helpful.)

http://partcat.com/stant>Part Number and add 10259 into the that field>Go>Buyer's Guide
Saturn applications are found on pages two and three.

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Old 11-12-2018, 07:27 PM   #6
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

It was only low enough to trigger the light and I couldn't see any spots where it was leaking out. This is the second time I filled it up since the water pump was installed a few months ago.

We drove home and I could smell antifreeze burning underneath. At home, I expected to see antifreeze flowing/leaking some where, nope!

I looked closer and of course asked my wife to help! She can find the "needle" in the Country magazine in minutes. After further investigation, I found two small spots... one under the front exhaust manifold and one under the back manifold. However, our water pump went out a few months back and it managed to cover everything in antifreeze. So I'm not sure this is new or old just making it way to earth.

As I explained how the coolant system worked to my wife... I asked her to look in the passenger side floor to see if it is wet... Yupp, it's flooded! Then, I went back underneath the saw drips coming off the sub frame triangle mounts. It appears the heater core or pipes to it are leaking at a pretty good clip and the antifreeze piles up until it finds it way out to drip on to the hot exhaust pipes. It is only dripping a little bit. The antifreeze level is good.

The feed and return hoses are completely dry by the firewall.
How much fun is changing or inspecting the heater core on my Saturn?

Just shoot me~!

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Old 11-12-2018, 08:42 PM   #7
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

Found the heater core! Wow, how easy! Nothing like others I have dealt with.

It doesn't look like it is leaking from the core, it might be, not sure. Where it is extremely soaked is where the pipes from the heater core run up to the firewall. The foam around the pipes is completely soaked.

I think I need to perform an autopsy to determine where it's actually leaking from. It could be the core itself, pipes, connectors etc.. The coolant could be wicking from carpet to foam after leaking from the heater core etc... I learned from aquaponics... Leaks can travel and they are rarely where you think they are.

I guess I'll have to empty the coolant and tear down everything to inspect the part. I suspect some is due to the space shuttle O-rings failing, but it doesn't explain the mass of coolant found. Inside connectors had one tiny drop and outside (in engine compartment) didn't have any wetness at all. Under the car off the sub frame triangle mounts... it's raining wet.

So much fun!

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Old 11-12-2018, 09:48 PM   #8
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

Search past threads from members taking pics of their heater cores for replacement. The most likely place for coolant leaks are the two heater hoses using plastic quick connects like air tools with metal quick connects. The heater hoses use O-rings that wear out. Not many but they wear out. The second and least likely leak would be the heater core. If I'm not mistaken, the passenger side hvac box has parallel lines to guide a box cutter to slice into the side panel to make access to heater and evaporator coils. Once heater hoses are disconnected, the heater core is slid out from the hvac box.

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Old 11-12-2018, 10:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

We made an adaptor for our hand pump pressure tester at work. We removed the hose from the pump and installed a piece of 5/16Ē fuel hose and a T. We now connect to one of the small 5/16 or 3/8 hoses and pump up the entire system including the cap. It works great and we donít have to buy all those different adaptors.

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Old 11-13-2018, 12:30 AM   #10
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

Quote:
Originally Posted by 02 LW300 View Post
We made an adaptor for our hand pump pressure tester at work. We removed the hose from the pump and installed a piece of 5/16Ē fuel hose and a T. We now connect to one of the small 5/16 or 3/8 hoses and pump up the entire system including the cap. It works great and we donít have to buy all those different adaptors.
That's a great idea! It seems to me that you'd have to splice into a cooling system hose on the car being tested. Is that correct? How would you use that set up on an L-Series car with the V6?

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Old 11-13-2018, 01:28 AM   #11
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

We have a short hose on one side of the T. We disconnect one of the small hoses at the pressure tank and add the T and the small section of hose. You can use the factory clamp on the T if the hose is the same size as the T. It really works well on many of our applications. I can take a photo tomorrow at work.

...
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Old 11-13-2018, 01:37 AM   #12
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

I'll post a few photos tomorrow. Getting to the heater core is extremely easy. It's located at the left foot of the passenger behind a panel that comes right off without any fasteners. I'm not going to order any parts until I diagnose the problem. Those quick disconnect connectors sure are cheesy, but they worked well for almost 19 years!

The leak remains a mystery because it appears to be on the both sides of the firewall. Perhaps I have one small leak in the engine compartment and another near or at the core and more coming from already leaked coolant dripping through the floor boards. The indoor foam packed around the pipes before the firewall are totally soaked. The core area looks relatively dry with nothing dripping. We'll be watching it closely as I give my wife a ride to work in the morning so I can monitor and work on the car tomorrow.

As for the DIY pressure tester. If you used a couple long lengths of fuel line to raise above the expansion tank to a T connector... you could use an air fitting to blast a bit of pressure via an air compressor... i.e. 20lbs (or whatever the radiator cap is rated minus a few lbs for safety) and forgo the rented hand pump all together. The key is to keep the T about the highest point of coolant for filling and releasing the pressure.

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Old 11-13-2018, 07:49 AM   #13
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

To air test my system I bought a new Coolant Recovery Tank Cap because I suspected it might be leaking. I took the old cap, drilled a hole the size of a tire valve stem then put a valve stem like this to be able to ad pressure. https://shop.advanceautoparts.com/p/...E&gclsrc=aw.ds
Never exceed the amount of pressure the cooling system is rated at.

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Old 11-13-2018, 11:06 AM   #14
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

IMG_6422.JPG Car was put on ramps and left to cool over night. 12 hours later there was a river of coolant.

IMG_6433.JPG This shows how much coolant was lost in 12 hours.

IMG_6428.JPG Drip every 6 seconds from the driver's side triangle sub frame bolt circled in yellow.

IMG_6432.JPG River of coolant.


IMG_6423.JPG Lower pipe has a drop, but no drips. Carpet is dry underneath heater core the passenger side. The soaked area is near the firewall where foam protects the pipes.

I still haven't found the source of the leak. Beneath each quick connect it is dry other than the one with a drop hanging on it. I don't see any flow to create the river. There is no coolant beneath the engine compartment heater core hoses. I don't see any way the coolant could be leaking uphill to the engine compartment and then back to the driver's side where it is leaking like a bad faucet! I did see two spots where next to both exhaust connections by the engine are moist, but no drips. I don't see where the heck this coolant is draining from. I suppose I'll have to drain the coolant and remove the heater core to inspect it. I can't understand how the coolant is draining on the driver's side with no noticeable trace or path of source. But, it is definitely leaking out even without any pressure/heat in the system. You would think this would be easy to find. What Fun!

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Old 11-13-2018, 11:08 AM   #15
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

I think that I understand your set up, 02 LW300. Since this adaptation pressure also tests the cap, how do you verify that a cap may be bad (apart from a loss of pressurization)? Do you listen for air hissing or feel air exiting somewhere around the cap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dsaturn View Post
To air test my system I bought a new Coolant Recovery Tank Cap because I suspected it might be leaking. I took the old cap, drilled a hole the size of a tire valve stem then put a valve stem like this to be able to ad pressure...
Another excellent idea for adapting a pressure tester to our cooling systems, Dsaturn! I like it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dsaturn View Post
...Never exceed the amount of pressure the cooling system is rated at.
Absolutely correct.

...
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Old 11-13-2018, 11:23 AM   #16
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rj 2000 LS2 View Post
......I can't understand how the coolant is draining on the driver's side with no noticeable trace or path of source. But, it is definitely leaking out even without any pressure/heat in the system. You would think this would be easy to find. What Fun!
I would agree, Rj 2000 LS2, but it's still difficult for you to find even so. A pressure test of the system should make the leak easier to locate as it would force liquid out faster. In that way you could also listen for where the source of the leak may be.

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Old 11-13-2018, 11:26 AM   #17
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

We fill the system to the top. With air entering down in the system the leak will show up pretty quickly. I found a split top tank on an Explorer the other day after filling the system to the top. Before filling to the top the system just bled pressure but remained dry.

...
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Old 11-13-2018, 11:39 AM   #18
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

Pressure test before ripping into the heater core. You will be able to hear were the leak is then you can Track down the general location of the leak.

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Old 11-13-2018, 11:40 AM   #19
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

I forgot to mention the expansion/recovery tank (whatever it is called) is completely dry. No signs of a leak underneath it or connected hoses. And the drops keep raining down. I'm going to jack up the car to get underneath it to get a better view where it is dripping.

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Old 11-13-2018, 12:18 PM   #20
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Default Re: Antifreeze is leaking!!! Help

My guess for the most likely reason for coolant leaking overnight and nothing afterwards? The engine was at operating condition, cooling system pressurized when you parked the car in the garage. A pressurized system leaking coolant is easier to occur as opposed to finding coolant leaks on a cooled engine. Pressure dropped as coolant leaked out on the warm engine.

A mystery coolant leak with a crowded engine bay may be a candidate for great suggestions of using a modified cooling system pressure tester plumbed into the the small diameter hoses (custom setup) otherwise refilling with plain water and starting the engine will probably show where the leak is coming from as it warms up.

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