Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Car leaking antifreeze and can't find out where


My 2010 Dodge Caliber has been leaking anti-freeze very slowly. I notice it when I start the car up and for the first minute I can actually smell the antifreeze coming through the vents when I have the air on. If I park the car and go in to the grocery store for a few minutes and start it up again the smell doesn’t re-occur. I imagine I have a leak somewhere that is dripping onto the engine and when the car starts up from cold it burns it which is sending that smell through my vents.

I was told a while ago it could be the heater core, however I would assume that if it was the heater core I would have had a fog up on my window or a constant smell, not one that dissipates after a minute.

I had this problem last year except I was losing a lot of antifreeze (about a whole reservoir in 3 - 4 days. The problem was found to be a broken clamp on one of the hoses. This time however I cannot find any broken clamps or a source of the leak for that matter. I did notice that when I shut the car off the one time, and checked under the hood of the car I seen one air bubble spring up from the reservoir tank. I cannot see any signs of a leak from under the hood. However under the car I can see it is dripping from the frame, but not where it is coming from.

A UV dye kit would be one option.

When you are looking for an antifreeze leak it is helpful to hose all the antifreeze away, antifreeze doesn’t evaporate very well . Then lit the car dry. When you start it up again, the first place ypu see coolant will probably have the leak above it.

I wrap paper towels around the suspects, it takes no time to find the leak that way.

If you have ramps or jack stands. Raise it up and dry it off. Then run it and look for leaks. If you don’t you’ll be stuck taking it to a garage.

I just worked on my uncles’s truck this past weekend for the exact same problem. Make sure you inspect all your freeze plugs. His transmission had to come out to replace the leaking plug. I hope your leak is easier to spot and much easier to repair.

I would also check for a heater core leak. Smelling it through the vent is a sure sign of this.

In this cold weather, on full HOT defrost, a heater core leak will coat the windshield with glycol fog that just smears when you try to wipe it off. It does look like your leak is in the engine compartment.

missileman , Do you know they make expandable neophrene plugs with a bolt in the centerr to replace a core plug you can’t drive straight in?

i recently replaced my radiator due to a hairline crack in the plastic neck where the upper hose connects. the crack wasn’t visible at all (until the hose was taken off), but there was white residue below it from where the dripping coolant had dried. coolant smell drives me nuts so i can understand the frustration of looking for a leak you can smell but not find.