So… it’s the last day of my vacation – and I’m in a cute little town in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. 4400 feet elevation, 95 degrees.
On my way out of town, I decide to head up to a national park site that’s 10,000 feet elevation. I’ve been up there before, but never when it’s been that hot. It’s a long, steep road, and I have to take most of it in 2nd gear.
So… at about 9,000 feet… I see a couple small rocks. Not going very fast… but… one of them hits the undercarriage of my car with a sickening “thud” that does not sound good AT ALL. In my mind, I hope it’s not the oil pan… and since I’m almost to the parking lot of where I’m going, don’t think any more about it.
Well… I’m there about an hour. I come back to the car… and there’s a sizable puddle of green fluid dripping from my car. “OH CRAP!” I think to myself… that rock must’ve hit something… and now I’m leaking radiator fluid. Not a good thing to be leaking when you’re 650+ miles from your home in AZ… but… at least it’s not the oil or the transmission fluid (because I checked… just to make sure. Even though the green fluid was a dead giveaway).
So, I figure… if the car is low on radiator fluid and going to leak… and it’s going to be VERY HOT all day tomorrow on my way home… PLUS… whatever radiator fluid leaks out overnight while I’m asleep… I best be heading for home during the relative coolness of the night. Thinking that any repairs that need doing I’d rather do at home… where I have reliable mechanics… as opposed to driving back down to that cute little town and looking for a one there (assuming they even have the time to see me). And… since I always carry extra water with me, can just check on the radiator throughout the night en route.
So, I get to my first gas stop. About 130 miles down the road. Sure enough… the reservoir is almost empty. Since the engine is really hot… I don’t open the radiator cap… but figure it’s still leaking.
Same thing about 50 miles later. Reservoir is low. I add more water.
Same thing in Las Vegas. I add more water.
But… interestingly… there’s a huge wreck in Vegas. Stop and go traffic for about 15 minutes. I notice the car does not overheat. In fact, the temperature gauge doesn’t budge an iota. “Interesting,” I think to myself.
So… somewhere south of Kingman AZ… there doesn’t seem to be any leaking radiator fluid anymore. And… the reservoir is RIGHT where it should be. At the “full” line.
Same thing about 100 miles down the road when I stop for gas. The fluid in the reservoir is exactly the same level as before.
Here’s the punch line…
So, I waited a few hours for the engine to cool down, then checked the radiator. The radiator, is in fact, completely full of lime green radiator fluid. To the top.
No leaks on the ground either.
The only thing I can figure, is that the engine got REALLY hot (on a hot day) going up a VERY steep grade to 10,000 feet… and also maybe the barometric pressure (4400 feet vs. 10k) somehow played a part too… and caused radiator fluid to come out the overflow tube and onto the ground while I was parked there.
I did google this. Some other people apparently have experienced similar things.
Question… should I have this checked out? And what, exactly, should I tell my mechanic to look into… without giving him an excuse to make a boat payment (as Click and Clack would no doubt joke about).
Oh yeah… and… because I get this every time. Yes… I’m aware it’s a little ol’ Suzuki with high miles and that they stopped selling them in the US market. Yes, I have thought about looking for a newer car. Just want to make sure this is okay for the time being. Thanks!