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1995 Buick Regal Antifreeze Leak

Greetings from the desert of the SW. I have a 1995 Buick Regal I inherited from my Mom when she passed away several years ago. It had low mileage at the time so when things started going wrong, I replaced things like a rusted gas tank, head gasket, thermostat, and belts and the car got me from the Midwest to the Southwest. It now has 105K miles and I’ve started to smell antifreeze when I drive. The temperature gauge needle will move from the middle line towards hot but never all the way to hot when the car is idling. As soon as I get moving again, the temperature indicator moves back down to the middle line of the gauge. The anti-freeze level in the ‘jug’ is fine and the level in the radiator is ok too. I’m wondering if there might be a problem with the thermostat? Unfortunately I live in an area where there aren’t any “real” car mechanic garages to take it to for a check up. I’m planning a trip to Phoenix in a couple of weeks which is 5 hrs away. Since antifreeze isn’t pouring out of somewhere, I’m going to drive it and hope I make it there and back again.

Are the fans coming on. When the car is idling the temp sensor turns the fans on when the engine temp increases. Also, with AC the other fan will kick on. If the fans are not coming on it could be a relay or the fan motor itself. The antifreeze smell could be the heater core has a leak.

If the level of coolant in your overflow and radiator have not dropped then you can’t have more than a very minor coolant leak. As @knfenimore noted, the temperature behavior just suggests a problem with the cooling fan operation. It’s fine to drive as long as the needle never goes near the red. If it does, then you want to pull over immediately. Whenever you stop check the overflow, and whenever you’ve had occasion to let the car cool down completely check the radiator level again.

Your best bet though is to have a mechanic pressure check the cooling system and check the fans. This is pretty basic stuff, not necessarily requiring a “real” shop - though I’m not sure what you mean by that. You often get the best service from little places like “bob’s hole in the wall auto service”

Hello! I’ve not been able to log in under the name I first created so had to go thru the sign in rigamarole all over again! Where I live, there aren’t any car repair shops unless I want an oil change or tires repaired. The nearest car repair is about 45 miles away. I did drive to Phoenix and the only trouble I had was being stuck in a traffic jam for a few minutes and the temp. gauge started to head towards H but fell back down when I got moving again. I followed your advice about the fan(s) and I watched them while the car was running. Only one fan came on. I changed out the fuses to see if the one connected to the non functioning fan was burned out but the fuse is fine. I can only surmise that there’s something wrong with the fan motor. I also assume that because this fan won’t turn on, it’s causing the thermostat to react while idling. Thanks for the suggestions that helped me think about things and observe the engine to see if I could find the problem. Would I (as a non mechanically inclined woman) be able to replace anything on the fan to fix it? Or is it best left to a professional, lol? Thanks again!

The other fan is for A/C. Does it come on when you turn on the A/C?


Here’s my advice

Have a shop perform a coolant pressure test . . . you might actually have a leaking heater core, from the sound of it

Have the shop repair any leaks, and also replace the thermostat and cap

I recommend AC Delco for the cap and thermostat. As for the coolant, I think the universal green will suffice

The temp gauge moving into hot zone only when idling? I’d suspect the radiator cooling fan isn’t working for some reason. Fuse, relay, more often it is caused by a faulty coolant temp sensor. For a 1995, I suspect there is a separate coolant temp sensor that controls the radiator fan. If the temp is maintained ok when the car is moving, a thermostat problem is unlikely. No harm done to replace the coolant and thermostat (edit: and radiator cap) though as part of the fix, those are routine maintenance items.

Some slight smell of coolant is possible even in a perfectly functioning cooling system. Most of the radiator overflow devices aren’t completely air tight, there’s an escape vent, so some coolant vapor may escape, especially if the coolant gets hotter than it is supposed to, then the vapor can get sucked into the passenger compartment through the air vents under the windshield.

It is critical to your pocketbook you not allow the engine to overheat at all during the diagnosis. You can get some engine cooling if you turn the passenger compartment heater on to max and the heater blower to max.