Chevy Cavalier Coolant light

Hi, new to the forum. Looking for help with this problem. I just bought a chevy cavalier z24 2.4 liter engine. Yesterday my coolant light kept going on and off at different times so I added coolant to the overflow reservoir as shown in the car’s manual. Today the coolant light is on constantly and it was smoking under the hood. I stopped and there was a big puddle of coolant was under the car. The car is not overheating. Did I put too much coolant in it or could it be a problem with the radiator?

When the car is cool you need to check the level in the radiator itself. The car must be cool before you remove the cap. Monitoring the level through the reservoir only works well if you know that part is all working correctly. I’m pretty sure that the coolant level sensor is on the radiator, not the reservoir.

When you found the puddle under the car, did you try to see where it was coming from? Was the reservoir overflowing? It has marks on it - probably for “full cold” and “full hot.” Di you pay any attention to those?

My guess is that your reservoir is out of the picture and that you have a - now substantial - coolant leak. Check the radiator to find out for sure. And find and fix it before it does overheat.

Sounds like it overheated to me. With the smoke and puddle of water. It could be the water pump, clogged radiator or a stuck thermostat. Let’s hope you didn’t damage the engine driving with the temp light on. It don’t take long to ruin the engine after it gets hot

The dash reading has never gone higher than the middle of the dial. Could it still be overheating? The gauge isn’t stuck, it moves. On the reservoir it looked like the level after I was driving for a while was at the full level for cold. The smoke was coming from the opposite side of the car to the reservoir and I could see where it had leaked and was burning up. I couldn’t see where it was leaking from though. I’m sorry I can’t be more detailed, I don’t know a lot about cars.

Ok - well you just have a coolant leak, and it’s probably leaking onto your exhaust manifold which is making the steam/smoke. It’s a normal an routine thing. So when the car is cool get the radiator full. Then your very next stop has to be a trustworthy shop to have the leak addressed. Don’t try to drive around like this - or you will overheat it, and that can damage the whole engine. This shouldn’t be any big deal - a new hose or something and cooling system service. It’s possible that it’s worse than that, but probably not. But someone who does know cars will just have to look at it.

Great. Thanks for your time. I really appreciate it. I’ll have it checked out asap

I oppologize. When you said coolant light, I had temperature light on my brain. I believe @cigroller‌ is steering you in the correct direction

Until this is resolved, keep a constant watch on the dash temp gauge. Could save yourself a good deal of money. Be prepared to park the car immediately if it goes into the hot zone. Turning on the heater to max and the heater fan to max will offer some engine cooling, possibly just enough to avoid a head gasket job, so do that if the engine starts to overheat, but stop driving too.

BTW, just b/c the plastic coolant overflow bottle if full doesn’t mean the engine is full of coolant. The engine coolant could be down by quarts or gallons. The only way to tell the state of the coolant level for certain is by removing the radiator cap. Only do that when the engine is cold.

Coolant leaks are a pretty common thing. Usually the water pump, the radiator, or a hose is leaking. Just takes some investigation with a flashlight usually to find the source.

A coolant leak is an easy ting to find and fix, get it taken care of before you fry an engine.

I have an appointment to get it checked on monday. Am I safe to drive it short and necessary trips until then if I keep adding coolant to the reservoir?

I added coolant to the reservoir earlier and I looked through it with a flashlight. I couldn’t see anything but it was dripping on the floor near the oil pan under the car.

If you have a radiator cap it would be better to fill the radiator when cool, replace the cap, then the reservoir. A short trip may be ok, I do not know how fast it is blowing out, but leaving the radiator cap loose, while watching temp to avoid overheating will prevent pressure from building and spewing fluid faster. If you are not mechanically inclined the best advice would be get it towed to a shop for diagnosis.

I can’t seem to locate the radiator cap, just the pressurized cap for the reservoir. It would have to be under something because it’s definitely not on the top in plain sight.

The pressurized cap for the reservoir is essentially the radiator cap. There is no cap or filler neck for the radiator in this system. If the reservoir is full, the radiator should be full, since they are essentially connected with a couple of hoses. Both hoses allow for the reservoir to equalize with the rest of the cooling system, and it is typically the highest point in the system. Air in the system will rise into the reservoir, and coolant forced down into the system.

Speaking of hoses, I believe you will find the leak to be either a hose or a hose connector. Hopefully something that is easy to get to and cheap to replace. Car makers have been using so much plastic or fibre resin parts in the last ten years, it has really given me concerns on longevity.

You need a new intake manifold gasket.