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Old 12-15-2011, 09:15 AM   #1
Timmay
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Member#: 5844
Join Date: Apr 2001
Chapter/Region: RMIC
Location: Broomfield, CO
Vehicle:
02 WRX
Blaze Yellow

Default 2002 WRX Slow Coolant Leak

I’ve been chasing a coolant smell on my 2002 WRX for over a year. The car has 56k miles. I’m the original owner.

Possibly relevant modifications include a VF39 Turbo, STI TMIC, STI Pink Injectors, Walbro 255, MRT Turbo Back, JDM STI Up-Pipe, ECUTEK, SPT Short Intake, Koyorad Aluminum Radiator and Samco Upper/Lower Main Coolant Hoses.

The smell currently seems to be strongest above the alternator. There’s no discernible loss of coolant. I’ve never seen any actual coolant leaking. I currently drive the car 1.5-3k miles a year. The car isn’t having any performance issues. The thermostat, timing belt and water pump are original. There doesn't appear to be any coolant in the oil.

Here’s what I’ve done so far in chronological order:

• 12 months ago – Saw coolant residue on the top of the OEM radiator. Replaced the radiator with an aluminum Koyorad sealed radiator. I continued to smell coolant but I assumed it was fluid I’d spilled burning off.
• 4 months ago I drove the car from Denver, CO to Durango, CO with no problems, it’s around 500 miles each way and goes over many high passes. I could occasionally smell coolant but it was getting hot or losing coolant. I figured the long drive would burn off anything that was left over.
• 2 months ago, I could still smell coolant so I started looking for the leak again. I noticed the two smaller lines leaving the top left of the reservoir going over the intake were both speckled white. Closer inspection showed they were both slightly worn. I replaced both hoses and replaced the clamps. I pressure washed the engine after.
• I didn’t smell any coolant for about 5 weeks. I’ve been out of town and the car has sat for around 3 weeks. I drove it last night and smelled coolant again. I had a friend confirm he also smelled coolant. The smell seems to be coming from the front right side (turbo side) of the car.
• I noticed last night that the lower radiator hose has the white speckling, but I can’t see any coolant leaking.

I’m pretty much out of ideas at this point. Any suggestions on where to look?

Thanks,
Tim
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Last edited by Timmay; 12-15-2011 at 09:40 AM.
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Old 12-15-2011, 12:15 PM   #2
oguitar
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Member#: 206720
Join Date: Mar 2009
Chapter/Region: SWIC
Location: Albuquerque NM
Vehicle:
2002 WRX Wagon
Silver

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Maybe the turbo coolant reservoir has a small leak.
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Old 12-15-2011, 01:50 PM   #3
GrimmSpeed
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
Vehicle:
2015 WRX, 2012 WRX,
2013 BRZ, 2006 STI

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I chased a coolant leak on my miata for months. The best way to check for leaks is get a dye and an ultraviolet flashlight. Put the dye in the coolant and run the car for a while maybe a day or so. Park it in a dark garage and use the flashlight to check for leaks.

It could be your heater core. Do you smell coolant inside the cabin?

Taras
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Old 12-15-2011, 03:35 PM   #4
snper72
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double check the lines in and out of the turbo. and make sure the clamps are on straight.
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:14 PM   #5
Timmay
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Blaze Yellow

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Thanks for all the replies.

Turbo lines are tight and the clamps are on straight. The smell seems to be more pronounced after it has been sitting. I can't find any obvious leaks anywhere and it hasnt lost enough coolant to require topping off. It's just a constant stink that i can smell only as i walk past the engine after driving the car. A little coolant makes a lot of stink...

Last edited by Timmay; 12-15-2011 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 12-15-2011, 06:33 PM   #6
Timmay
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Join Date: Apr 2001
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Location: Broomfield, CO
Vehicle:
02 WRX
Blaze Yellow

Default lower return hose on water pump?

I think i found the culprit. The lower return hose on the water pump looks like it has been leeking. It's right above the exhaust so it would dissapear before it could puddle. See the pics below.


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Old 12-16-2011, 10:38 PM   #7
jmr302
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Location: Valencia, CA
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Interesting. I've been having the same issues for a year on my 2002 wagon. I also replaced the factory rad after the top tank seal failed. Going to slide under there tomorrow and see if the same hose is leaking.
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Old 12-16-2011, 10:47 PM   #8
Timmay
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02 WRX
Blaze Yellow

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Another friend told me he recently replaced the same hose on his buddy's subie. Apparently this is a common failure point.
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Old 12-16-2011, 10:51 PM   #9
Rich86
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i have been haveing the same issue also im going to try and see if i can get my 02 wrx on a lift at work in the morning and take a look at that hose
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Old 12-17-2011, 01:33 PM   #10
esteve
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2006 STI

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The stock spring clamps suck, over time they lose their tension. I had a strong smell of coolant after I installed my VF43. I traced the leak to the coolant hose near the uppipe which was the main one, and the one above the compressor housing was seeping a little too. After I got done logging one night, I noticed the clutch seemed to be slipping in 3rd and I realized it was from the leaking coolant which was right over the tranny.

I noticed the stock clamp became so weak that the coolant hose near the uppipe actually worked its way up a little. I put a gear clamp on after wrapping the hose with some self-fusing emergency tape to protect it from getting chewed up by the clamp and that took care of the leak.

I have a 90K mile coolant change coming up, so I think I'm going order up some liner gear clamps and replace all the stock clamps I touched during the turbo install.

Last edited by esteve; 12-17-2011 at 01:40 PM.
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