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1997 Subaru Legacy - coolant loss but no puddle. The heck?

Acquired a 1997 Subaru Legacy a few weeks ago.

Drive it for a prolonged time in the heat, at speed, and you can smell warm coolant from the engine compartment. And the temperature gauge hovers in the middle of the dial, no matter what.

My wife explained the smell away by guessing she’d spilled coolant when she topped it up. But it’s been weeks since she did that.

Also - this sucker drinks coolant. I’m guessing every 2-3 days I’m adding another gallon.

It occurs to me that … maybe … a leak on top of a pipe so the coolant doesn’t drip out, but the loss of pressure (from the hole) causes the fluid to boil and flash out?

This might explain the ‘higher than I’d like to see’ operating temperature.

What say y’all?

The one thing Subaru’s are famous for is blown head gaskets…But this can not be assumed…if you are smelling coolant, perhaps the heater-core is leaking. With the engine cool, remove the RADIATOR cap and see if it’s full to the brim. If it’s not, that points to a head gasket.

A professional mechanic will have test equipment to spot the real problem quickly…

My vote is head gasket… Just because its a Subby and that is one of there lets say personality quarks.

This is another vote for having the head gasket checked.

I agree that the head gasket is suspect, but…IIRC, the Legacy had the 2.2 liter engine, rather than the 2.5 liter mill that the Outback came equipped with. The 2.2 has been an exceedingly durable engine and is not really prone to the head gasket problems of the 2.5 liter engine.

But…having your mechanic do all of the appropriate tests for a breached head gasket would be a good idea–especially in light of the “higher than wanted” operating temperature.

But…having your mechanic do all of the appropriate tests for a breached head gasket would be a good idea–especially in light of the “higher than wanted” operating temperature.

I’ll do that. I did not suspect a blown head gasket - there is just not the symptoms I experienced the last time that happened. On the other hand, that was a dozen years ago and a different model car.

In the meantime, took a closer, detailed look at the hoses and etc, looked hard at what I’d overlooked before.

Picture here: Sparkly Hose

What I’d seen, and overlooked before, was that the stuff my wife added to the coolant to stop potential leaks was sparkly, and sprayed around the compartment, adjacent to the transmission fluid inlet host. The point of origin seems to be a crack in the line, just behind the clamp.

So … taped, for now. Refilled the coolant. I’ll get her to a mechanic soonest for a gasket check.