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Old 11-05-2004, 02:23 PM   #1
mitya000
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Question Coolant Temperature/Low Coolant Light blinking simultaneously

Hey guys, my name's BJ and I've been a lurker on the boards for a while. Finally got an account today when I've had my first head scratcher.

I have a 1995 Saturn SL-2 (manual, no abs). This morning when I started the car, the coolant temp/low coolant lights began to blink simultaneously in a regular pattern. I could almost set my watch to it, they seemed to simultaneously blink once per second.

I was late for work and decided I'd look at it tonight when I got home, but after I got about a mile down the highway, the temp gauge began to pick up from it's normal 1/4 setting and began to cross into the 1/2 mark area. I decided to turn around and slowly drove back home. I turned the car off, but the blower fan continued to run. I thought that was odd. I restarted and shut the car off and the fan then shut off.

After letting the car cool down for about an hour, I got brave and removed the coolant tank cap. It's a 95, so it uses the green stuff, not orange. I looked in there and it was completely empty.

"Ok,", I think, "I'll just fill it up." I mixed a 50/50 of antifreeze and water, fill it up to the "cold full" line and think "okay that must be it.". Idling the car for a few minutes, no lights, I think everything must be ok and start back to work.

Sure enough, I get about a mile down the road, and the lights come back on. the temp gauge is in its normal position (a little less than 1/4 actually.)

I had to go to work so I drove it there and on the way, the lights would go out for a minute or two, (usually when I hit a red light) and then resume blink-ness when I got going again.

I checked the how-to sections and suspect maybe the ECTS sensor, but not sure if that's the right answer.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!
BJ, Austin TX
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Old 11-05-2004, 02:31 PM   #2
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You have a leak somewhere. Any puddles under your car? Check your oil too- if it looks frothy, then you have oil and water mixing.

Things that I have had leak on me:
coolant expansion tank (where you add coolant)
radiator - both the end tank and the petcock valve
water pump

Other possibilities:
hose
thermostat
head gasket (frothy oil)
cracked cylinder head (frothy oil)

My guess is that it was a maintenance item that was long overlooked and failed on you- the non frothy oil possibilities. It's great how they always fail when you need the car to go somewhere, huh?

Good luck and try not to drive it much until it is fixed. If you are leaking at the rate you seem to be leaking, just add water. You're just wasting your money on coolant.

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Old 11-05-2004, 02:49 PM   #3
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I can see that I have an oil leak, or at least seem to be burning oil from somewhere. Is that related?
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Old 11-05-2004, 02:56 PM   #4
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Could be. Most likely the oil leak is a leaky valve cover gasket- VERY common on these engines.

Fill the coolant system back up with water and see if it holds any. If it leaks, try to figure out where from. If it doesn't leak, try starting the engine and look for leaks again. Be sure to look in the engine bay as well as under the car.

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Old 11-05-2004, 02:59 PM   #5
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Ok so I'll fill up the coolant tank with water and check for leaks.

Once I find out where the leak comes from replace that part?
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Old 11-05-2004, 03:03 PM   #6
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You know the old saying: "If it ain't broke don't fix it."? Well in this case: if it is broke, then duct tape it! J/K Yes, replacing the part will be the route to take.

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Old 11-05-2004, 03:45 PM   #7
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okay well I'm a computer repairman, but no mechanic. I think I'll take it in this weekend and see what the guy says. I'm always afraid of getting ripped off though. Should I tell them all the things I've done?
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Old 11-05-2004, 04:04 PM   #8
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Well, if you are leaking like I think you are leaking, it will be pretty obvious where the leak is originating from. Go in armed with that knowledge and you should be fine. And depending on what it is, repairing a car can sometimes be easier than a computer.

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Old 11-05-2004, 06:45 PM   #9
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Most of the time if the leak is no obvious then it is coming from the coolant overflo cap. Those have known to go bad on saturns I've had.
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Old 11-05-2004, 09:56 PM   #10
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Default Re: Coolant Temperature/Low Coolant Light blinking simultaneously

Quote:
Originally posted by mitya000
"Ok,", I think, "I'll just fill it up." I mixed a 50/50 of antifreeze and water, fill it up to the "cold full" line and think "okay that must be it.". Idling the car for a few minutes, no lights, I think everything must be ok and start back to work.

Sure enough, I get about a mile down the road, and the lights come back on. the temp gauge is in its normal position (a little less than 1/4 actually.)

I had to go to work so I drove it there and on the way, the lights would go out for a minute or two, (usually when I hit a red light) and then resume blink-ness when I got going again.
After you filled the overflow tank, and the light came on again, did you re-check the level of fluid in the tank? If so, did the level go down, or was it still full?
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Old 11-05-2004, 11:18 PM   #11
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no, I didn't. what would that tell me?
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Old 11-06-2004, 08:55 AM   #12
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If the coolant tank is full, but the light is still coming on, then your problem is probably related to a faulty sensor or electrical connector, not an actual leak.
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Old 11-06-2004, 10:03 AM   #13
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see, I read the thing about the ecst sensor in the how-to section. I'm hoping that's what the problem is. I'to a mechanic this morning, so I'll find out soon enough, I guess.
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Old 11-08-2004, 01:46 PM   #14
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Default Re: Coolant Temperature/Low Coolant Light blinking simultaneously

Keep up posted!

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Old 11-08-2004, 01:57 PM   #15
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Checkered Flag Re: Coolant Temperature/Low Coolant Light blinking simultaneously

I took it to the mechanics at Precision Tune Auto Care here in Austin Texas.

I dropped it off at about 8:30 and went with my girlfriend to run some errands. about 10:30 they called and let me know that I had a leaking Water pump. They asked if it had ever been replaced, and I said I didn't know. I bought the car with 160,000 miles on it, and the previous owner kept no maintenance records. The mechanic said that after that many miles, the pump was due to fail anyway.

I was shocked how right on the money you were, Tom.

I had an Oil change done and the coolant was refilled.

They suggested a thermostat replacement as well but I opted out of it. I also asked if they thought a coolant flush was necessary and they said probably not but it couldn't hurt.

The bill altogether was $345.00 for a water pump replacement, oil change and 1 gallon of coolant.

It took most of my spare change to get it done, but I can at least drive my baby again.

Most of the bill was spent on labor, approximately 199.00. The pump itself was 108.00. I only wish I could find out how to learn car mechanic basics. Like taking a hands-on course or something so I can do my own work. I wouldn't have known it was the water pump leaking without going to the mechanic because I'm not smart enough yet to be able to distinguish that sort of problem in cars. I imagine, armed with the knowledge that the water pump was the problem, I could have fixed it myself. The trouble is getting a proper diagnosis.

Thanks again for your help Tom
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Old 11-08-2004, 09:48 PM   #16
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Default Re: Coolant Temperature/Low Coolant Light blinking simultaneously

Actually you did well. That shop's charges were quite reasonable and their diagnosis honest. I likewise LIKE that they did not try to sell you anything uneeded. (The thermostat suggestion was a good one by the way, but fear not, yours is probably just fine...it's one of those relatively cheap "Might as well do it while it's apart anyway" type deals. This shop deserves your trust and continued patronage IMHO.
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Old 11-08-2004, 10:55 PM   #17
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Default Re: Coolant Temperature/Low Coolant Light blinking simultaneously

I think in your car the low coolant/high temp indicator is one light that serves either purpose. My 97 SL2 had a slow coolant leak and the light would come on every few months (more often when it was cold). The only leak I could find was around the fill cap, but I'm not sure if that was what was causing it the whole time. It only lost a pint or so every couple months.

I really like the idea of a low coolant light. Without it, you could be out of coolant and only know when the car overheated. Usually the temperature light and gauge checks the coolant temp, so if you don't have coolant, it wouldn't be accurate. In both my Saturns the light would come on when it was just a pint or two low.
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