Hopefully your car coolant is going where it should be, through your engine! The coolant in your vehicle actually takes two different paths depending on whether or not your car is warm or cold. Even though you probably weren’t actually asking what path the coolant takes on its normal journey, understanding that will help you understand why your vehicle is losing coolant. Since the purpose of your engine’s cooling system is just that, to keep it cool, it actually isn’t needed for the first few minutes after you start up your engine, especially in cold weather since it is far from its normal operating temperature. However, most vehicle’s cabin heating systems today are actually heated by the warm engine coolant which is usually desired just minutes after the engine has been started. To accomplish both of these goals, when your vehicle is cold the water pump will pump the coolant from your engine block, where it is warmed by the combustion process, then up through your vehicles heater core which is usually under the dashboard, and in the case of some large SUVs also under the rear seats. The heater core is just a radiator that your vehicle’s cabin fan blows air through to warm the cabin. The coolant then returns by a hose to the engine where it can be warmed again and returned to the heater core. Once your vehicle’s engine warms up to the operating temperature designed by the engine manufacturer there is a thermostat that will open. The thermostat is just a valve that when open allows coolant to flow not just through the heater core, but also through the vehicles radiator. The radiator is mounted usually at the front of the vehicle or at least somewhere it can get a large amount of outside air flowing over it. Here most of the vehicle’s coolant is cooled back down before it can go back to the engine block to continue cooling the engine.
If you can look under the hood of your vehicle and identify the components of your cooling system it will give you a good place to start tracking down the leak that is causing your vehicle’s coolant to disappear. The radiator is often in the front of your vehicle, but will always be behind the AC condenser and any oil coolers. Because of this, the radiator is located closest to the engine and will have a fan attached to it or near it. It should have a hose at the top and the bottom. The bottom hose usually will connect to the inlet of the water pump and the top hose to an outlet either on the block or intake manifold. The hoses that take coolant to the heater core will likely be the only coolant hoses in the engine bay and will be ½” to 1” in diameter. They will connect to hard tubing at the fire wall and likely be close together. One hose will be connected to the block near the water pump outlet and one will return to the block or the cylinder head likely near the rear of the engine. Your heater core can often be very difficult to locate as it is likely deep under your dashboard covered by electronics, air ducts and maybe insulation. The water pump is the only rotating part in your cooling system so it is driven by a pulley connected to your engine’s crankshaft by a belt. Often times there is a diagram under your hood that will label which parts are which. Usually, the water pump will be the largest pulley besides the crank pulley and will usually be located right above it and be the only pulley driven piece of equipment large diameter hoses going to it. The thermostat will be located where one of the radiator hoses is connected to the engine.
While your engine is running, check all the components of your cooling system for signs of leakage. This could in include dripping coolant, but also may include steam from hot coolant. If it is a very slow leak you may just see an area with an excessive amount of grime or build up as the slow leak is too slow to drip but the wet area will collect dust and dirt more quickly than a dry area of your engine.
If you discover your leak is coming from the end of one of the hoses in your engine it may be time to replace the hose. If it is swollen and appears too big for the end connection, has cracks, rips or tears it is time to replace that hose. If you discover your leak coming from another location use BlueDevil Pour-N-Go to seal your leaks. BlueDevil Pour-N-Go is a specially formulated to seal the leaks in your cooling system without damaging or harming any other equipment. BlueDevil Pour-N-Go is a non-particulate sealer that reacts to the temperature differential created at the leak point. BlueDevil Pour-N-Go is safe to circulate in your cooling system and will only activate at the leak point bonding to metal or plastic. For V8 engines, vehicles with large cooling capacities or very fast leaks use BlueDevil Head Gasket Sealer. BlueDevil Head Gasket Sealer is a more aggressive sealer and will require a complete cooling system flush and a removal of your thermostat.
You can also pick up any of our great BlueDevil products at your partnering local auto parts stores like:
- O’Reilly Auto parts
- Advance Auto Parts
- Bennett Auto Supply
- CarQuest Auto Parts
- Prime Automotive Warehouse
Pictures courtesy of: www.autozone.com and repairpal.com