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Old 12-08-2010, 09:46 PM   #1
dimwittedmoose
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Default Antifreeze Smell in The Air Vents '02 OBW

Car History: 118k on the odo, not sure if the headgaskets have been replaced or not. Belts done at 108k.

My wife says she smells an"anti-freeze" smell in the vents. I quote: " When I get out to start it on a cold morning(lately!), after a 5 minute warm up, I smell anti freeze when I'm getting in the car and then I smell it through the heater vents.. When I open the hood, I smell it around the coolant reservoir". She added that last winter she turned on the defroster and got an internal fogging of the windows that caused her to pull off the highway due to lack of vision. This has not occurred since. The coolant level is dropping below the minimum line, but takes several weeks for it to do that and nothing shows up on the driveway that's liquid. I have not checked compression or done a leak down test on the engine.

I drove the car today and noticed none of her symptoms so here are my questions now that you have most of the symptoms:

1. Head gaskets, leaky heater hose, or is it the heater core going south? Certainly I've not known Subaru to have core issues, at least like VW does.

2. Why is this acting up for her and not me? Would the fact that she's staring it up cold and I'm using it later in the day make a difference?

3. If the heater core is the culprit, where would I look under the interior carpet to find the puddle? Or is there some sort of drip pan that sends the coolant back outside?

4. If it's the hose, how easy a fix is this?

5. Is it possible that she's somehow dragging the smell in with her when she opens the door and gets in? ...I didn't think so

I have plenty of tools and a Haynes manual, just missing a solution for this before it gets any colder

TIA

DM&FS
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Old 12-09-2010, 04:15 PM   #2
loose Subie
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Check other thread about coolant leak
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Old 12-09-2010, 06:19 PM   #3
57explorer
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Hoses are easy to change. Your manual should show you to do it. I would change the thermostat too but make sure its an oem one. I would call the dealer and see if there is any record of the head gaskets being changed. Is it auto or stick shift?
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Old 12-09-2010, 09:50 PM   #4
dimwittedmoose
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It's a stick. The T-stat was a new Japanese made one at 108k when I did the cam belt etc and water pump(Pahrump) and yes loose subie, I'll check the other thread. Just not sure how antifreeze smell occurs from a leaky hose.
Thanks
DM&FS
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Old 12-10-2010, 11:36 AM   #5
57explorer
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If anything I would think its your heater core if she can smell it from the vents
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Old 12-10-2010, 08:00 PM   #6
dimwittedmoose
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Temporary conclusion for now: A pin hole leak in the radiator crimp seems to fit the scenario and here's why I say that. The only time she smells the antifreeze is after the initial warm up on a really cold morning. The subsequent starts provide no smell leading me to believe that even a 40 or 50 degree radiator may have the aluminum expanded sufficiently too seal the pinhole leak where it crimps to the plastic. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but the explanation for the vent smell might be the ambient fresh air gathered from under the hood might have a slight antifreeze odor while driving until either the pinhole leak seals due to expansion of the aluminum or that the smelly air under the hood is replaced by fresher air upon driving. She says the vent smell doesn't last very long. I guess we could switch the vent system to inside air only next time and see if there's still a coolant smell then

Thanks for all the input. I'll see what I can do and eventually report back.

DM&FS

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Old 12-10-2010, 08:37 PM   #7
57explorer
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Good luck
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Old 12-13-2010, 03:30 PM   #8
loose Subie
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Sounds likely
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