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Old 03-10-2008, 09:39 PM   #1
last lemming alive
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Default Is any amount of coolant loss normal?

Im an '06 and have been on stage 2 since 1,500 miles. The car now has 5,000 miles - 99% city miles (about 13 months since new). My trip back and forth to work comes to 14 miles a day. Today I noticed that my coolant level in the overflow tank was at the low mark after a 1/2 hour of sitting and engine still hot to the touch.

Realizing that the coolant system is closed, does that mean that there should be zero coolant loss or is a small amout concidered normal after a year of stop and go traffic? I don't run hot, in fact the needle just gets to warmed up and has never moved up. Oil is not emulsified - just did an oil change. I did however install an oil pressure sensor under the IC a couple of months ago and had to disconnect some small coolant lines to the throttle body, the may be some leaks from these but its hard to tell even with a flashlight and probing around. When installing the sensor some fluid did leak out - maybe a couple shot glasses worth but not enough to account for the coolant being down at the Low mark. I doubt I have a head gasket leak though anything is possible.

I'm also assuming that the coolant should be at the "full" mark when cold. Anybody have any ideas or thoughts?
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Last edited by last lemming alive; 03-10-2008 at 09:44 PM.
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Old 03-10-2008, 09:45 PM   #2
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the coolant system isn't 100% closed, the overflow tank vents to atmosphere so a small amount due to evaporation over the course of a year is normal.
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Old 03-11-2008, 04:40 AM   #3
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a quick way to check your head gasket is to open the radiator cap. WHILE COLD an let it have a little time to warm up a bit then give your car a slight rev. you are hoping not to see frothing
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Old 03-11-2008, 06:53 AM   #4
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Mine has just over 8k on i and has been stage 2 sins about 4k and I have not lost any yet that I know of. Ill check it when I get home and see.

Later.
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Old 03-11-2008, 09:38 AM   #5
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Well, I checked my overflow tank level this morning and after I got to work (car fully warmed up), but the level did not change in the overflow tank. I don't know if that means anything but I thought I'd mention it. Also, while very unscientific - and maybe quite obvioius - is that when the car is warmed up I can smell coolant near the radiator cap. There is no sign of a worn cap - it's never been opened - and no sign of coolant leaking out.
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Old 03-11-2008, 10:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by last lemming alive View Post
Also, while very unscientific - and maybe quite obvioius - is that when the car is warmed up I can smell coolant near the radiator cap. There is no sign of a worn cap - it's never been opened - and no sign of coolant leaking out.
That is the plastic->metal endcaps leaking a little. It was a big problem in early years like my 02, you can always see the stains from the leaking coolant. It isn't impossible your radiator is leaking a little away, try looking carefully for water stains.
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:38 AM   #7
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.....I get the "coolant smell" periodically from both my '03 WRX and '08 Forester (since new). Although an actual leak may be your problem (and was in my case on my '03 with a seam leak), there are also normal gaps where the smell may emit from (i.e. where the hose enters the tank). Having said that, I routinely make visual inspections when I check my fluids just to make sure there are no issues (with coolant or otherwise).
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Old 03-11-2008, 01:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by last lemming alive View Post
I'm also assuming that the coolant should be at the "full" mark when cold. Anybody have any ideas or thoughts?
Yes, when the car is cold, the coolant level should be lower than when it is warm, which will have more coolant in the overflow.

Last edited by blackfang; 03-11-2008 at 02:22 PM. Reason: fackin confused...dammit i need to go home
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Old 03-11-2008, 01:57 PM   #9
last lemming alive
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My biggest fear is a head gasket gone bad. But I doubt that is the case, though I AM running stage 2 and making 14.6 psi boost with an OTS map (14.6 is by Cobb Access port reading). I should think the engine can handle this. I don't abuse the engine but I do run it up to readline once or twice a day.

I'll have to do like a previous post says and check for frothing. I'll have to have a friend rev the engine to see it, or can I just take the cap of cold, start the engine and wait for it to warm up and then look for bubbles.
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Old 03-11-2008, 02:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackfang View Post
Yes, when the car is cold, the coolant level should be higher than the low mark and near the full mark.
If you would have said: "...and near the full mark when warm", that exactly describes my '05 WRX- a little above the low mark when cold and 3/4 between the low/high when warm. No issues, very consistent.

The only "coolant loss" issue it ever had was an OEM coolant line clamp right near the (turbo area) rad. cap was leaking very slowly. Replaced it with a screw-tight clamp and nothing since.
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Old 03-11-2008, 02:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surowrxa View Post
If you would have said: "...and near the full mark when warm", that exactly describes my '05 WRX- a little above the low mark when cold and 3/4 between the low/high when warm. No issues, very consistent.
Ahhh ****. I typed it backwards.

When cold it should read lower, when warm, it should show more.
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Old 03-11-2008, 03:24 PM   #12
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so is it NORMAL to have the loss of coolant over time or not? I'm confused
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Old 03-11-2008, 03:32 PM   #13
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Id say any amount of coolant loss is bad. The amount you would loose to evaporation over time is almost miniscule unless you are running with more water than coolant (which I dont know why you would in the first place) If you are worried about a leak best thing to do is take the time to find if there is one. You can buy a tube of UV dye and a small UV light for combined $30, the dye will show you where if anywhere it is leaking from. Better to find out now and be sure about it then find out later your rad is cracked, or you are having head gasket isssues when you are over on the side of the road due to overheating.

As said, some easy places to check would be for white stains. If you pull off the oil cap and there is what resembles a milkshake on it then 90% of the time you have a bad headgasket. Either way take the time to find out, it will save you $$ down the road.
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Old 03-11-2008, 04:00 PM   #14
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At your next coolant change,add Bar's Leaks tablets-the big pills. The Big Three have used this at the factory since the 1950s to prevent minor coolant loss due to metal porosity,etc. My 2004 STi used one ounce of coolant about every 400-500 miles from new. I pressure-tested the system at 16 psi and after 12 minutes it was at 15.5 psi,which seemed reasonable to me and to a dealer tech I asked. After the Bar's Leaks treatment about 20,000 miles ago the coolant consumption is too little too keep track of. My 2002 Corvette,which has a truly closed system,uses zero coolant.
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Old 03-11-2008, 04:08 PM   #15
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....some amount of loss which requires "topping off" is perfectly normal. However, Subaru indicates that "if frequent addition of coolant is necessary, there may be a leak in the engine cooling system".

Having said that (and to answer the OP's original question), I would agree with kramer and say that a small amount over the course of a year is normal. .......if you're concerned (and there is no visible signs of a leak), just keep an eye on the level (as you should anyhow).
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Old 03-11-2008, 04:35 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoadTrippin View Post
As said, some easy places to check would be for white stains.
now that you mention that the tube going from the rad to the tank has a white like chalk substance speckling it all over and I do believe the top of the rad around the cap has this too. hmmmmmm. . .
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Old 03-11-2008, 07:20 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by last lemming alive View Post
now that you mention that the tube going from the rad to the tank has a white like chalk substance speckling it all over and I do believe the top of the rad around the cap has this too. hmmmmmm. . .
The white spots on the overflow tube are common, around the cap is not. Your cap may be going bad. You can have it tested (or use it as an excuse to get a STi one).

This may not be the problem, but it's something.
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Old 03-11-2008, 08:39 PM   #18
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Quote:
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Id say any amount of coolant loss is bad. The amount you would loose to evaporation over time is almost miniscule unless you are running with more water than coolant (which I dont know why you would in the first place)

other way around... pure antifreeze has a MUCH lower vapor pressure than water. it evaporates substantially faster. Also, lots of high performance engines run more water (or 100% water) than coolant. Water is a much better conductor of heat. Antifreeze is added to increase the boiling point and lower the freezing point, but water by itself will do a better job.

Yes some coolant lose is normal. Checking the overflow tank once a year and adding some is well within reason.
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:42 AM   #19
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Check the top main radiator hose where it goes into the engine block. I had a mystery coolant leak at about 20K miles that was leaking there. Mine has been a continuous problem from then to now. (72K miles)
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Old 03-13-2008, 11:56 AM   #20
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I think I've gone through a half a bottle of cooland in last couple of years. Evey few months the reservoir is almost empty and I have to add some.
Having said that, I don't think of it as a big problem. Oil analysis shows no coolant in oil so it's not the head gasket. I have no leaks on the garage floor. Only thing I can think of may be turbo since I sometimes smell coolant from there and get faint white smoke from under the hood when I'm stopped. Also sometimes my exhaust has little white smoke on the take off, so I'm being told by people who watched me drive off.
As long as I don't have coolant in oil and turbo is charging desired boost I don't care
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Old 03-13-2008, 12:43 PM   #21
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Well, I put the dye in the car a day ago but the cheap light that came with it doesn't work, so I'm going to have to buy another cheap light and hope this one works out. I also rented a radiator pressure tester from autozone with assurances it would fit - it doesn't.

My question is:

Lets say you had a head gasket leak that was letting coolant exit the exhaust, would the dye show up on the tailpipe of the exhaust?
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Old 03-13-2008, 11:04 PM   #22
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I have found that with the car completely cold after a night of sitting. Make sure the resivoir is filled to the cold line. As close as you can get it. Then check it in the morning if you have a good leak you will see it go down from the line. My 04 has had several little leaks. Radiator seam, lower hose both ends. Now the oil cooler line is leaking.
Good luck
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Old 03-14-2008, 10:49 AM   #23
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Actually I've been doing this the last couple days and I'm starting to get really concerned. I filled the tank to the fill line and drove the car for a day. The next mornging the tank was down to half way. I chalked this up to the sealed part of the system not being fully filled, so I filled it up again to the full line and drove it for a day. The next morning the tank fluid ws down about 3/16". I drove the car again for a day and this morning checked the level. Again, I'm down another 3/16".

Now here is the frustrating part, I put dye in the system and can't find it coming out anywhere, not even the tailpipe. The underside of the oil cap dry, the dipstick is nice clean oil. The car doesn't overheat - at all. Visually there doesn't seem to be any oil in the system. I will be pressure testing the system this weekend, but after that I'm just not sure what to do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dougkmcse View Post
I have found that with the car completely cold after a night of sitting. Make sure the resivoir is filled to the cold line. As close as you can get it. Then check it in the morning if you have a good leak you will see it go down from the line. My 04 has had several little leaks. Radiator seam, lower hose both ends. Now the oil cooler line is leaking.
Good luck
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Old 03-20-2008, 07:36 PM   #24
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I pressure tested the system - but I wasn' sure how long to do it? I only left it on for 10 min. and the needle moved a little more than the width of a hair. I pressure tested from the turbo fill cap to about 15 psi and when I was done I noticed that the overflow tank was alost full to the top of the bottle (way past the "full" mark). Interestingly the fluid took 5 days or so to make its way back down to about 1" below the "full" mark. I cant explain this. I would have thought as soon as the car would have started the system would have balanced itself.

So I have a couple more questions:

1. Is the coolant level always suppose to return back to the same point when fully cool, or can it vary a little - say a 1/2" or so?

2. I can't seem to find where the fluid is going (see my post above this one). Is there any way for the car to burn coolant and not have some sort of detectable symptom?
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Old 03-21-2008, 08:49 PM   #25
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Bump +1
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