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Acura 98 2.3 CL, White Steam + Leak of Fluid

Acura 98 2.3 CL: Hello! Looking from the driver’s seat, I saw white steam coming from the right hand side of the front. When I came out of the car and opened the hood (now, facing the car as if in oncoming traffic) I noticed the white steam came from the center-left side of the engine area (not the engine). There was also a fluid (slick but not oil - it smelled more like cooling fluid, or some kind of fluid) that was under the car, and it was not just a little bit - it dripped all over an area, probably the size of a small doormat, in the pattern of the car’s movement as I parallel parked the car. It has been very cold the last few days, and all the sudden warmed up this week. Some more information:

  • The white steam and fluid only appeared/dripped three to four minutes after turning ON the de-fogger

  • the white steam came from the center-right (from the driver’s seat vantage point) or, center-left (vantage point of someone facing the car).

  • the car, after being turned off, made a humming sound and then clicked off

  • The fluid from the car was slick but not oil (or not purely oil). It again reminded me more of a fluid, it did not smell like oil.

What is this? A blown gasket? Ruptured coolant area? Luckily the car did not do this until I parked it at home (it all happened within a period of about 120 seconds). I am concerned enough that I will not drive it and have it towed to the mechanic to fix. I love this car.

(Is there anything I should ask the tower? From what I have been told there is a RIGHT way to tow the Acura!)

Thanks a million for your review, I appreciate it. Andrew.

The fact that you had just turned the defogger on I think is a bit of a misnomer. Sounds like you’ve gotten a coolant line who’s time has come. Simple as that. It went, and puked coolant all over.

As for towing, I don’t know, but if you tell them it needs a flatbed, they’ll tow it like that. If all the wheels are off the ground, you’ll be fine. Most towing companies are moving towards this type of tow vehicle anyway. Too many cars get damaged, and then they have to fix them.

Sounds like you blew a radiator or heater hose, but sometimes the radiator can crack near the connections for the hoses. Was the motor overheating when you turned it off? Hopefully not. Acura don’t do well if they overheat so it is best to take no chances of that and get it towed.

If you pop the hood and top off the coolant you might drive it safely for a few miles to a shop, but as soon as the temp gauge moves past the middle up to hot (H) then shut it down and call for a tow.

A hole in a hose on a '98 car is very likely and this isn’t a big deal repair. If you overheat the motor, then it can become a very big deal in a hurry.

Hello! Thank you chaissos and Uncle Turbo. With regards to motor overheating when turned off - no, the motor was not overheating (correct me if I am wrong: the dials were normal, nothing on the dash going haywire). But: it sounds like a fan did go off (dials were normal, but there was a buzzing sound - as if a fan went on). I may be reading this wrong: dials looked normal.

There were no signs of any issues until parallel parking the car (2-3 minutes) with the de-fogger on - that’s when the white steam appeared, then (on quickly finishing parking, and turning off the car) I look outside and that’s when I saw all the fluids (none of it trailed the car prior to the parking). My mechanic is about 2.5 miles away.

Sounds like you need to get the cooling system checked coolant changed and flush job and new thermostat, if you haven’t done so in two years. While you were running the car the engine coolant backed up into the reservoir and out the over flow hose onto the ground. This is a sign of a clogged radiator.

You could probably make it to the mechanic call him and tell him you’re coming… Just make sure the rad and the reservoir are full (just use water) Put the heater on full and fan on high and don’t waste time warming up the engine.

I just moved the car forward (to make it easier to tow if necessary) - there was definitely a leak of a coolant substance I think - the ground beneath was damp and I touched the slick area and smelled it - definitely not gasoline, it had an odor but not a strong one. I am leaning towards having it towed - mostly because I am not sure how to fill the reservoir (I am ignorant and becoming less so through cartalk and everyone’s useful help here!)