Coolant level 2004 Cavalier


My daughter, who lives in Austin Texas, has called me various times, stating that her low coolant light has come on. I live in El Paso, Texas, more than 500 miles from Austin so it is a tad difficult for me to check her coolant. I’ve asked her to take it to a service place and have it checked; however, she has yet to do that.

She tells me that the light will go out and the temperature gauge does not indicate the car is overheating.

Any ideas what could be wrong? Why would the light come on and stay on for awhile and then later not come on for awhile…

Should she cover it with masking tape??? :slight_smile:


Has she checked the coolant level in both the reservoir and the radiator, and has she added any coolant after the light comes on?


Why can’t she check the coolant level herself? This is not difficult, and she should learn at least a few basic auto maintenance procedures. Checking fluid levels is about as basic and simple as it gets. She’s not helpless, she just needs to learn how to do it, TEACH HER!

A bad coolant level sensor will make the light come on when it shouldn’t, but I don’t think you should assume that’s the problem until you know what the coolant level (in the radiator and the reservoir) really is.


NEVER cover any warning light with tape or anything else.

Those idiot lights are there for good reason.

Riggyrow makes a good point and let me add: if such is the case, there must be a leak, if so, where?

Being in a very hot climate, although the car is only 3 years old, it is possible the bottom of the coolant reservoir has a hairline crack in it or perhaps a brittle/loose hose.

Check all the hoses and clamps.

Don’t forget the 2 heater hoses and the coolant return hose between the rad and the coolant reservoir.


Assuming she hasn’t checked the reservoir/radiator coolant levels and hasn’t added any coolant and is just continuing to drive the car, I’m wondering if the level is low when the engine is cold, which is triggering the light to come on. Then, when the engine has heated up and the coolant has expanded, the level sensor is registering that there is an adequate amount of coolant in the system, and this cycle of contraction/expansion is eventually causing the light to go off…and then eventually on again, etc., etc. I don’t how how the sensor in the Cavalier works, but I would guess it gets triggered by the amount of coolant in the radiator itself rather than in the reservoir, but I could be wrong. Either way, when the engine is cold she should check the amount of coolant in the reservoir and the radiator–even before taking the car in to get checked out. As noted, it’s easily done and you can talk her through it over the phone. If she’s not good about maintaining the car, the coolant may be low just from evaporation/normal use. It’s a 2004? Is it still be under warranty? If so her next move should be to take it into the dealer for a pressure test. Otherwise a good independent shop can check it out for her… But sooner rather than later or else she runs the risk of air getting sucked into the system or in some other manner turning a potentially easy/quick fix into a real pain in the butt.


Thanks for the reply. I’ve asked her to check it, I tried to explain to her how to check it. She seemed confused… I was worried that she would check her wiper fluid instead of the coolant… That is why I told her to take it to someone or have one of her friends check it. It is my understanding she hasn’t done either yet. Kids!


NEVER cover any warning light with tape or anything else.

Relax… it’s just one of Clank and Clunk’s overused jokes. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if some people have actually done it…


Checking fluid levels is about as basic and simple as it gets. She’s not helpless, she just needs to learn how to do it

I have a friend who destroys car engines on a regular basis. After she spent a bunch of money replacing a seized engine, I quizzed her on whether she ever checked the oil. “Oh yes,” she replied, and demonstrated her skills: popped the hood, pulled out the tranny dipstick…


No problem, I’m plenty relaxed.

I have the misfortune of knowing one guy that DID cover up the idiot lights and seized the engine. That, after me insisting he not do it.


I really don’t know why some people are so wrong. They will ignore the best advice from anyone! /// I checked a young woman’s (a college student) older model car (FREE even!). A tie-rod end ball-joint was so worn that the edge of the wheel could be, freely, moved two to three inches! I would would not have driven that car out of the PARKING LOT! I asked someone later and they told me she had driven the car for MONTHS that way! I don’t know how it was even possible. I don’t know why; but, your daughter reminded me of that young woman.


It could be as simple as the level in the overflow tank is low. Many of these have low level sensors in them.

She needs to have it checked ASAP because if the cooling system is low it could cause a overheating problem and engine damage.