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6 Things That Can Cause an Antifreeze/Coolant Leak

It’s just another day driving down the road, but you get this sweet smell wafting through your car. It smells like maple syrup, but you know that’s impossible as you’ve not had pancakes. This is a familiar aroma that’s indicative of a coolant leak.

No, this isn’t something good enough to eat, as it can indicate a severe problem going on under your hood. You’re lucky if your leak has a sweet smell. Some folks say it smells like rotten eggs and is quite intense.

Common Reasons for a Coolant Leak

Coolant is stored in the radiator and flows throughout your engine to keep things at an acceptable temperature. Many hoses allow this liquid to transport to the right systems, and any one of them can leak.

Now, a coolant leak can be simple, or it can be a very complex matter. It’s certainly something that we deal with often here at Carolina Auto Service. Here are the most common reasons why you’re leaking coolant.

1. Blown Head Gasket

There’s nothing worse than having your mechanic tell you that you’ve got a blown head gasket. The primary function of this gasket is to keep the engine oil and coolant separate from one another.

When this gasket fails, the oil and antifreeze will mix, and you may see the temperatures of your engine head towards the red zone. Once the issue becomes severe, the coolant will leak onto the ground.

2. Leaky Radiator Cap

The radiator cap might not be getting a good seal. It’s not abnormal for these parts to fail, as they’re responsible for holding in a lot of pressure. The rubber seal around this cap can fail over time, allowing the antifreeze to escape.

3. Busted Radiator

The radiator sits in the front of the vehicle, so it’s subject to much abuse. It can be hit with rocks, sticks, and other road debris.

All these things and age can cause a hole in this vital system. When you have a hole in the area that holds the fluids, it can allow it to leak.

4. Failed Water Pump

Your water pump is another vital part of the cooling system. It’s the piece that circulates the antifreeze from the radiator to the engine. A rubber belt keeps this part moving, which can fail.

Additionally, the liquid inside the housing is subject to corrosion and leaks over time. When the pump isn’t functioning as it should, it can cause coolant to leak. Replacing a water pump is routine maintenance that’s required after 100,000 miles on the engine.

5. Expansion Tank Defect

The plastic container that holds the coolant is called the expansion tank. There’s a hose that runs from this tank back to the radiator. Since plastic can deteriorate or crack over time, it can cause antifreeze to seep out from this section. It can also develop a crack or split in the hose that connects it to the radiator.

6. Worn Clamps

Clamps are used to hold hoses in place throughout the engine. The clamps can crimp too tight and cause the hose to crack, or it can just break down over time. These clamps are usually an inexpensive fix, but they can be tricky to find.

What Should You Do If Your Vehicle is Leaking Coolant?

You may not see visible signs of the leak, but you will certainly smell it. The leak may be small at first, so it leaks onto the manifold and burns off before it hits the ground. This could be why you’re smelling that maple syrup smell without the benefit of a pancake breakfast.

However, as the leak increases, the antifreeze will leak faster than what the engine can burn off. If you see puddles of antifreeze under your vehicle, it’s cause for alarm. First, the sweet smell can draw animals to it, and it’s deadly to them. Second, your engine cannot be adequately cooled when this cooling agent is low or absent.

You should never drive your vehicle once it gets into the red zone, as you risk imminent engine death. Your engine can seize if it becomes too hot, leaving you stranded. Engines are costly to replace or rebuild, so the last thing you want to do is cause unnecessary damage.

Getting Your Automobile Serviced

You must get your car in for service when you have indications of a cooling leak. The engine needs antifreeze to keep things at an acceptable temperature. If you continue to operate the vehicle without fixing this issue, it can cost you thousands to repair later.

Then, there’s always the option that you’re stranded alongside the road. If you suspect you have a coolant leak under your hood, call us today at Carolina Auto Service for assistance.


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