'99 Mazda Protege Coolant Reservior Empty

I have a '99 Mazda Protege, automatic transmission, 74,000 miles. Today I noticed a loud clattering sound under the car while accerating, proceeded by the engine temp needle pointing to hot and the check engine light went on. After letting the car cool down I opened the hood and found that the coolant reservior bottle was completely empty and the top had popped off. There was a small amount of coolant around the engine near the reservior, but no puddle under the car and no massive amount of coolant all over the engine. I added water to the coolant reservior as I didn’t have any coolant available, but the engine still runs hot and the clattering sound is still there. Could I have a leak somewhere, even though there’s no puddle on the ground? Could this just be a fluke and adding more coolant will fix it? What can I check for before having to take the car in the the shop? I don’t really know anything about cars, but I’m willing to learn something new. Thanks in advance!

You need to add coolant directly into the radiator. Fill it, turn the engine on, and fill it again. And keep adding until no bubbles come out. Then see if you can see the leak. If not, have the system pressure checked.

Also have the clattering checked out. It’s entirely possible that you have a blown headgasket. That would overheat the coolant and blow it out the system AND cause clattering.

Now comes the interesting part. The blown headgasket could either be the cause of the engine overheating or the RESULT of the engine overheating. The engine overheating could have resulted from the coolant running dry due to a simple leak. In short, if you’re one of these owners who never bothers to check your fluids, such neglect may have cost you a headgasket. Which, if you don’t get it fixed, will cost you an engine.

I ended up taking my car to the repair shop and they couldn’t keep pressure in the radiator, so they replaced the radiator. After I picked up the car, I noticed the engine temp gauge still registered hot after driving for a little while, although the car ran just as it did before the radiator problems. I brought the car back and the mechanic said that the engine temp is normal and maybe the gauge or a sensor went out. This was last Friday and haven’t heard an update. My fluids are checked every time I get an oil change which is on a regular schedule, every 3000 miles. And I never saw a pool of coolant either in my driveway or in the parking lot at work, to alert me of a possible problem.

Thank you for all the suggestions. I will have the repair shop take a look at the headgasket just to be sure.

Thank you for posting back.

I’m glad the clattering is gone. That’s a truely good sign. If you had blown the headgasket you’d still hear the clattering.

It’s entirely possible that the thermostat is lust sticking. T-stats often get sticky after being heated up in free air. Usually the T-stat is changed whenever a car has blown it’s cooling fluid and overheated.

Well, an update… I just heard back from the mechanic and was told that I need a head job. So it sounds like your original idea may have been right on the mark. I was quoted $1200-1500 for the repair, which at this point I’m not really interested in putting that much money into my car, especially since I just spent $300 on replacing the radiator. A friend told me to try this head gasket sealant in a neon green bottle (bought it at Pep Boys) and he said that he used it on his car and sealed up whatever was wrong with his head gasket. Do you or anyone else have any experience with this and do you think this might be a less expensive alternative to temporarily repairing the problem? My car is almost 9 years old but only has 74,000 miles. I think it might be time to hang up this car and move on, unless someone here can give me other suggestions. I would prefer to keep this car as I can’t afford to replace it, but I also don’t want to sink all my money into it if it’s at the end of its life. Thanks for all your advice!