Coolant leak

At last oil change, dealership reported coolant leak that could be fixed for $3000.00. Second opinion independent mechanic could not find evidence of leak. There is no visible fluid collection under car but dealership claims there is a tray under the motor that catches the leaking fluid. Independent mechanic states that coolant leak would end up on garage floor. This is a 2003 model. Would fluid leak be visible on the ground? Is a third opinion warranted?

Don’t believe the dealership unless they can show you the leak and you see it with your own two eyes. If it was leaking, yes, you would eventually see coolant on the garage floor. There is a plastic splash guard under the engine, but it’s not going to prevent leaking coolant from dripping onto your floor eventually. If your independent mechanic actually looked at the engine and found no leak, I wouldn’t bother going to a third mechanic. Sounds like the dealer needed to make some boat/alimony payments.

Granny, I Guess This Situation Argues In Favor Of Frquently Checking Vital Fluids Under The Hood Of One’s Car.

Coolant leaking out should be evident by the fluid level dropping in the cooling system.

That said, you should probably have a pressure test performed on the cooling system to see if it will hold pressure over time. If there is a leak the pressure will not hold and an external leak will probably be seen.

It is possible for the leak to be internal, within the engine, and coolant could be consumed (turned to vapor) without a leak being seen.

I would get it checked, though. A coolant leak, if there is one, will get worse, lead to more damage and possibly leave you stranded.


I would take the word of your independent mechanic unless you see coolant under the car or under the hood. The plastic splash shield will hold a small amount of coolant, but it won’t hold it forever, and even if there were coolant there your independent should have seen it.

I suggest you monitor the coolant level yourself, in the radiator (when cold) and the overflow container, rather than waiting for something to show up on the ground.

Just out of curiosity, what did the dealer propose to repair for $3,000?

Is the level in the coolant overflow tank dropping. Mark the level with a Sharpie when the engine is cold to track a slow leak, i.e. intake manifold or head gasket. Subaru 2.5 engines of this era were known for head gasket failures (Subaru owners correct me if I’m wrong). Good idea getting the second opinion though.

Also check the coolant level in the radiator (if possible) with the engine cold.

Ed B.

McP, It’s A Subaru ! You Know !


The dealer (or someone else at an earlier time) may have removed the radiator cap while the engine was still hot, causing some coolant to gush out of the top and onto the splash shield.

Has the coolant level changed when you’ve checked it recently? If so, by how much?

At last oil change, dealership reported coolant leak that could be fixed for $3000.00. Second opinion independent mechanic could not find evidence of leak.

It was smart for you to get a second opinion.  While there are a number of possibilities, this on sounds a lot like the dealer is looking to buy some expensive gifts for someone and that is not you.