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Old 12-12-2017, 01:23 PM   #1
Sid03SVT
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Default 06 wrx confounding cooling system woes

About a week ago I had an upper radiator hose fail (1/2" slit opened up on the top; bit of a gusher) replaced both upper and lower hoses and clamps, replaced thermostat while I was in there, burped the system, all appears to be good.

Couple days afterwards, I see a whiff of syrup smelling steam coming from under the hood, so I get the car up on ramps, run it until it's warm, and can't find a leak anywhere; at this point i'm thinking maybe it's a small crack in the radiator that only shows up when the car is put under heavy load (eg. spirited driving) as the steam appears to be coming from the front of the bay/radiator area.

Today when I get to work, steam again, pop the hood, the spray pattern indicates maybe it's the radiator cap (original) so I go to the local Subaru dealer and get both caps to be safe as that one is the original too; I get to the dealer and it looks like I'm shutting down Thomas the tank engine. I pop the hood, and the top of the radiator is wet, but I can't read the spray pattern, as it's raining today, but it still appears to be from the radiator area (not the new hoses though). hood insulation is wet along the length of the radiator, top of radiator is wet etc.

So I get my caps, price out a radiator while I'm there (note: will be calling Mishimoto instead of FHI on that front) and drive back to work, crazy part, no steam when I get into the parking lot, or after I pop the hood, or after I turn it off.

so it's a 2006 wrx with 120k miles.

Timing belt was done at 105k (gates), waterpump & gasket got done then too (OE Subaru).

Why I don't think it's a Head Gasket:
1.) Car is running/performing as "usual" no issues starting, no idle issues, no trouble winding out, no hick-ups/stumbles, idiot lights etc.
2.) Car is not overheating, nor is it slower to warm up than "usual"
3.) no steam/white smoke from exhaust once car is warmed up; it's winter so there is initial steam from condensation when cold, and even then it doesn't smell like syrup/coolant (no I'm not just huffing exhaust).
4.) oil change doesn't indicate it either - a little dirty maybe, but no coolant.

Why I don't think it's a heater core/thermostat issue:
1.) heat works
2.) coolant is circulating through radiator/engine (touching those hoses indicates such)
3.) fans cycle on/of as normal, further indicating circulation

Why I don't think it's a waterpump:
1.) coolant is circulating, if it were to fail, coolant wouldn't circulate
2.) not overheating - temperature is stable regardless of driving style
3.) "normal" warm up time - again, circulating coolant etc. car warms up as normal

I'm not losing a lot of coolant either, as I check it after the car cools down. So I'm leaning towards the radiator; it's the original plastic/aluminum one, and I read that they tend to leak at those seams; I'm just perplexed as to why it's an intermittent leak instead of a leak every time I drive; it's like a d&d dice roll.

Thoughts? as to why it could be intermittent like this?

My worst fear is head gaskets, and that's why I checked as much as I could to rule those out; prior to the hose failure I hadn't been losing coolant, so I'm leaning in the direction of not a head gasket.

next step is to pressure test the cooling system, but if any of you EJ nuts can give me a nugget I'd appreciate it.

aTdHvAaNnKcSe (Thanks in advance)
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Old 12-12-2017, 03:35 PM   #2
CalPal348
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This is a common issue on our oem radiators. Mine just went about a month ago, same symptoms you are experiencing. If you can get your hands on a radiator pressure tester kit, it will show you exactly where your radiator is leaking. I was driving pretty spiritedly one day and then pulled into a parking lot and smelly coolant steam came pouring up out of my hood scoop

I guarantee you its the top seams of the radiator. our radiators are crimped together when they are assembled, and after about 100k miles, all that heat and pressure just busts the seams

if you want to pressure test it, don't pump past 10 PSI, I think the system is rated at around 7-8 PSI

When I pressure tested mine, the whole top seam started leaking

Buy yourself a Koyorad radiator and call it a day. I spent about $350 getting the radiator, coolant, conditioner, and a special funnel to burp the system after install

there are a ton of DIY write ups on this exact install aswell

good luck!

-Callan
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Old 12-13-2017, 10:53 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalPal348 View Post
This is a common issue on our oem radiators. Mine just went about a month ago, same symptoms you are experiencing. If you can get your hands on a radiator pressure tester kit, it will show you exactly where your radiator is leaking. I was driving pretty spiritedly one day and then pulled into a parking lot and smelly coolant steam came pouring up out of my hood scoop

I guarantee you its the top seams of the radiator. our radiators are crimped together when they are assembled, and after about 100k miles, all that heat and pressure just busts the seams

if you want to pressure test it, don't pump past 10 PSI, I think the system is rated at around 7-8 PSI

When I pressure tested mine, the whole top seam started leaking

Buy yourself a Koyorad radiator and call it a day. I spent about $350 getting the radiator, coolant, conditioner, and a special funnel to burp the system after install

there are a ton of DIY write ups on this exact install aswell

good luck!

-Callan
Yeah its the entire top seam; it started over on the drivers side (near the cap/inlet) and has now spread further across the top seam; new radiator should be in tomorrow, ended up going with a Mishimoto.

I did the timing belt & water pump like 20k miles ago so I'm no stranger to pulling the radiator.
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Old 12-13-2017, 11:21 AM   #4
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Make sure you throw away the Mishimoto radiator cap and only use the OEM ones. The Mishimoto cap WILL leak.
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Old 12-13-2017, 01:22 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai Jack View Post
Make sure you throw away the Mishimoto radiator cap and only use the OEM ones. The Mishimoto cap WILL leak.
Thanks for the advice, I'll use my new OEM one; apparently it's also suggested to run teflon tape on the drain plug too.
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Old 12-13-2017, 03:44 PM   #6
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Yes a few wraps of pipe tape will be fine, don't over do it and don't over tighten it.
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Old 12-14-2017, 08:21 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sid03SVT View Post
Thanks for the advice, I'll use my new OEM one; apparently it's also suggested to run teflon tape on the drain plug too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Capacity
Yes a few wraps of pipe tape will be fine, don't over do it and don't over tighten it.
Wrap the drain plug 1.5 times with the Teflon tape. Any more than that and you are using too much and can cause fitment problems.
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Old 12-14-2017, 09:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sid03SVT View Post
Thanks for the advice, I'll use my new OEM one; apparently it's also suggested to run teflon tape on the drain plug too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Capacity View Post
Yes a few wraps of pipe tape will be fine, don't over do it and don't over tighten it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai Jack View Post
Wrap the drain plug 1.5 times with the Teflon tape. Any more than that and you are using too much and can cause fitment problems.
And don't start right at the narrow end of the plug, start 1-2 threads from the end. This keeps strands from coming off and floating around in the system.
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Old 12-28-2017, 01:33 PM   #9
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Welp I'm boned or incompetent, leaning towards boned as I've been wrenching on cars far too long for it to be incompetence.

Replaced hoses & clamps, replaced radiator (and trimmed hoses because all aluminum mishimoto) replaced both caps now I've got a minor intermittent coolant leak I can't find.

car: 2006 wrx limited wagon, 120k miles, timing belt & water pump done at 105k. Here is what I have noted.

the good:
no codes & no perceivable miss-fires, temp is rock solid, heat works beautifully. No noticeable leaks at the drain plug, at the overflow nipple, at either cap, or at the coolant hose connections. system has been burped and no bubbles appear in the overflow bottle or radiator (start from cold with caps off, get up to temp, wait for fans to cycle a couple times, rev motor, etc.). No oil in coolant or coolant in oil as far as I can tell.

the bad: under tray has small amount of coolant on it after drives. steam from radiator area after spirited drives and/or "long" drives. some times it seems to be coming from the passenger side, sometimes the drivers side.

making it difficult: it's currently 4F outside, I only drive 6-8 miles to work (depending on loop I take). I cannot make it leak under "controlled conditions", eg. running it for 30+/- minutes in the garage freezing my nuggets off laying on the concrete floor under the car while swearing at it in at least three different languages searching for leaks. It only appears to leak under heavy load, I was thinking a cap, but it doesn't appear to be.

I'm going to run it through the car wash tonight in an attempt to spray the coolant residue off of it (because I'm not using a hose in 4F weather), but I am really confounded by this car.

Any thoughts, similar experiences, voodoo or hoodoo that will fix it are appreciated; I will sacrifice a chicken under a full moon while praising the nine brightest stars of the Pleiades if that will fix it.
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Old 12-28-2017, 01:49 PM   #10
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If there is a fine steam you might have a pinhole leak somewhere. Could be mishimoto because they are low quality, or a hose. You'd have to drive the car and place a paper towel all around the hoses to find the leak. Or just clean off everything (brake cleaner or scrubbing bubbles without bleach) then drive for a day and the following day look for the light green crusty area of the leak.
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Old 12-29-2017, 11:18 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blurred View Post
If there is a fine steam you might have a pinhole leak somewhere. Could be mishimoto because they are low quality, or a hose. You'd have to drive the car and place a paper towel all around the hoses to find the leak. Or just clean off everything (brake cleaner or scrubbing bubbles without bleach) then drive for a day and the following day look for the light green crusty area of the leak.
That statement is nothing but complete BS.
Mishimoto is not a low quality brand. Stop making things up.

Sid03SVT - what used to be a common problem was a small leak at the water pump & the lower radiator hose. The leak would be small enough that it wouldn't really show.

Re-check your radiator hose connections.
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Old 12-30-2017, 10:12 PM   #12
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That statement is nothing but complete BS.
Mishimoto is not a low quality brand. Stop making things up.
Ok, i'll re-phrase.

"Over the past 20 years the only brand of radiator that I have personally seen continually have failures of various types are Mishimotos."

This "opinion" is based on the 200-250 cars per year I see on the dyno and the only brand that consistently has issues is mishimoto. I consider that to be low quality. you might have a different experience but I have a pretty large sample size to draw opinions/conclusions from.

I am not even going to touch on the amount of times that switching to another manufacturer somehow cured a coolant temp issue on some platforms on the track...
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Old 12-30-2017, 10:52 PM   #13
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What about your expansion tank? Did you look around for pin holes in the that area? Also the cross over pipe at the bottom by the t-belt cover, they get Rusty.
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Old 01-01-2018, 11:49 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blurred View Post
Ok, i'll re-phrase.

"Over the past 20 years the only brand of radiator that I have personally seen continually have failures of various types are Mishimotos."

This "opinion" is based on the 200-250 cars per year I see on the dyno and the only brand that consistently has issues is mishimoto. I consider that to be low quality. you might have a different experience but I have a pretty large sample size to draw opinions/conclusions from.

I am not even going to touch on the amount of times that switching to another manufacturer somehow cured a coolant temp issue on some platforms on the track...
My personal experience is that Mishimoto has been perfect over the last several years.

Before I purchased I did a lot of research and Mishimoto came out on top over other brands.

Maybe the difference is that I installed my own radiator, same as I do most of my own work, and I tend to have very few issues compared to others.
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Old 01-04-2018, 10:21 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai Jack View Post
My personal experience is that Mishimoto has been perfect over the last several years.

Before I purchased I did a lot of research and Mishimoto came out on top over other brands.

Maybe the difference is that I installed my own radiator, same as I do most of my own work, and I tend to have very few issues compared to others.
The mishimoto isn't the issue, my puke-tank hose was one of the issues, took care of the majority of my problem, but there is still a whiff of coolant every other drive to figure out; perplexing because I can't find it, but it's clearly a leak somewhere.
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Old 01-04-2018, 10:58 AM   #16
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time for another pressure test
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Old 01-04-2018, 11:17 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by hondaeater69 View Post
time for another pressure test
Agreed. If the pressure is dropping, grab each end of every cooling/heating hose you can and wiggle to see if it's a connection. Just had one the other day that was losing coolant, everything looked good but had some coolant on the ground.
Brought the system up to pressure and saw it drop. Then wiggled hoses until I found the loose connection.
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Old 01-04-2018, 09:14 PM   #18
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Make sure you have the correct radiator caps on where they belong. Additionally, check the coolant hose that goes to the turbo, I had that fail on me once.
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Old 01-05-2018, 11:08 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hondaeater69 View Post
time for another pressure test
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie-III View Post
Agreed. If the pressure is dropping, grab each end of every cooling/heating hose you can and wiggle to see if it's a connection. Just had one the other day that was losing coolant, everything looked good but had some coolant on the ground.
Brought the system up to pressure and saw it drop. Then wiggled hoses until I found the loose connection.
Quote:
Originally Posted by drivequickly View Post
Make sure you have the correct radiator caps on where they belong. Additionally, check the coolant hose that goes to the turbo, I had that fail on me once.
Will be pressure testing again this weekend.. I remember when I used to spend weekends in the garage putting hop up parts on fast cars, now it's every weekend screwing with a family wagon; ah well such is the life with older cars.
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Old 01-08-2018, 07:08 PM   #20
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Pressure test revealed it was the lower hose; tightened it like it owed me money, passed a pressure test and a shakedown run; hopefully that's all it was and nothing more; strange that they loosened up, but at the same time just glad to have it "fixed". there's probably about $60 worth of Subaru blue between my house and where I work, ah well. Now onto the next two issues (PS pump, reservoir, lines and the starter). I'd like this thread kept open for the time being though, I'd like to see if this is truly the end of if I'm going to be finding new leaks now that this one is taken care of.

Last edited by Sid03SVT; 01-08-2018 at 07:19 PM.
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Old 01-08-2018, 07:16 PM   #21
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Well, glad it's fixed.
I've had a few similar issues in north NJ recently. What was fine when a bit warmer seemed to show minor issues as major issues with the "extreme cold" the northeast has had recently.
Yes, basically 2 weeks straight with highs below freezing is highly unusual here.....
It was 25*F today here, almost felt like shorts and T shirt weather......LOL...
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Old 01-09-2018, 07:39 AM   #22
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Quote:
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Well, glad it's fixed.
I've had a few similar issues in north NJ recently. What was fine when a bit warmer seemed to show minor issues as major issues with the "extreme cold" the northeast has had recently.
Yes, basically 2 weeks straight with highs below freezing is highly unusual here.....
It was 25*F today here, almost felt like shorts and T shirt weather......LOL...
24*F when I woke up this morning, a relief for sure, might be closer to 50*F on Friday, was joking with the wife about playing hookie and going to the beach.

Everything still seems good after a couple shake down runs (last night, this morning) but I'll pay close attention come Friday when the cooling system is slightly taxed.

Can't believe how much snow & ice was on my under tray, needless to say I took a bath under the car last night in my garage.
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