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Why Does My Car Keep Getting More Coolant Leaks?

I just had my water pump replaced to fix a coolant leak. I drove the car for a couple of days, and now it’s leaking coolant again. The shop I went to told me that my radiator needs to be replaced now. Isn’t this something they should have noticed when they replaced the water pump?

This is a really good question! There are a few important things to know about coolant leaks:

Fixing a coolant leak is kind of like plugging a dike.                        

Once you fix one leak, another one pops up. Water follows the path of least resistance, so it will leak out of the weakest point in the system. Once you have repaired that weak spot, the water will then escape from the next weakest spot in the system. Here’s an exaggerated example: If your water pump had a hole the size of a quarter, and the radiator had a hole the size of a pin, the water is going to be leaking out of the quarter-size hole rather than the pin-sized hole. Once that quarter-sized hole is repaired, and the cooling system is able to operate at full pressure again, only then would you be able to even notice the pin-sized hole from the radiator.

Sometimes there are multiple weak spots in the cooling system that just don’t start leaking until the larger leaks are repaired.

Coolant acts as a solvent.

Think of coolant like a laundry detergent. It is designed with certain cleaning agaents that allow it to clean debris that builds up in the system. Many cars, especially ones that haven’t had the coolant regularly changed, may see that there has been gunk that has built up in the system that is actually helping plug up some of the areas that may otherwise leak. Once new coolant is added to the system, it can actually loosen some of the debris, causing it to “unplug” the leak.

Coolant leaks can be tricky. Even if the shop had pressure checked the system after they replaced the water pump, it may check fine immediately after the repair, but after the new coolant has circulated through the system, it may take a few days or weeks before a new leak surfaces.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have your cooling system serviced on a regular basis. Keeping fresh coolant in your vehicle prevents it from having corrosion that can cause leaks in the first place, while eliminating some of those nasty goobers that clog up your cooling system.


Have a question for Dan? Send it to askdan@gascan.com

Dan Amundsen is a Master ASE Certified Technician, with over 40 years of automotive repair experience. He has been the owner of Juanita Firs 76 since 1978. He runs a true family business with his two children, three nieces, and many just-like-family employees that have been with the company for over 15 years.

What’s the Difference Between a Coolant ‘Flush’ and a ‘Drain & Fill’?

I want to get the coolant changed on my car, and was shopping around for prices. Some shops call it a ‘drain and fill’ and some call it a coolant ‘flush’. Is there a difference, and if so – which one is better?
There isa difference between a Drain & Fill and a Coolant Flush. Let’s first talk about why you would want to get your coolant changed in the first place.Why Service Your Cooling System?

Coolant is designed to perform a number of different jobs. It keeps your engine cool so that it doesn’t overheat, and also keeps your engine from freezing into a big brick of ice in the winter. It also keeps the seals and gaskets soft and supple so they are less likely to get brittle and leak, and has anti-corrosive properties in the fluid that protect the metal pieces of the engine from corroding.Just like your oil breaks down over time, so does your coolant. After about 2 years or 30,000 miles (for most cars), the coolant starts to lose its ability to protect your engine the way it was designed to. Thus, the coolant service. The purpose of servicing your coolant is to get the old stuff out and the new stuff in so that it can protect your engine the way it was intended to.

Drain & Fill

A Drain & Fill does just what is sounds like – the coolant is drained from the radiator, and filled back up with a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water.   Shops have been servicing cooling systems this way for years. While this has been a traditional and accepted way of servicing a cooling system, it isn’t necessarily the most effective because the old coolant is only removed from the radiator – not the other parts of the cooling system such as the engine block and hoses.Coolant Flush

A Coolant Flush is another way of servicing a cooling system that provides a more thorough cleaning and a more complete exchange of fluid. While I can’t speak for how other shops perform their coolant flushes, I can tell you how we do it here.We first add a chemical to the cooling system that helps remove any debris that has built up in the system (rust, corrosion, etc), and then we use a machine that moves the old, dirty coolant out, and replaces it with a brand new 50/50 mix of coolant and H20. The fluid moves through the cooling at the same speed at which it would go through it under normal operating conditions (translation: it won’t damage your engine).With the extra equipment and chemicals required for this service, you will often find that this service is more expensive than the typical Drain & Fill. Our recommendation? The added expense is worth it – you’ll get a more effective cleaning of the system, and your cooling system will be better protected in the long run

Have a question for Dan?  Send it to askdan@gascan.com

Dan Amundsen is a Master ASE Certified Technician, with over 40 years of automotive repair experience. He has been the owner of Juanita Firs 76 since 1978. He runs a true family business with his two children, three nieces, and many just-like-family employees that have been with the company for over 15 years.