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Coolant poured out from under vehicle

So I have a 1999 chevy malibu that ive had for almost a year. Ive had a few problems but nothing major and always got it fixed. I came home after a 30 minute drive from work to something to eat to my home another 30 minute drive. Its really hot where i live so i had tge ac on blast the whole time up until i was 10 minutes away from home. My ac kinda sucks. Never blowed as cool as i want it even tho i added freon in a can a couple months ago. I turned it off cause it really wasnt blowing cold air. As soon as i get home and cut off my car and step out and start grabbing my things I start to smell something weird and happened to look down to see a flood of brown liquid coming from underneath my car. I was scared it was coming from my engine because that happened with my aunts car. But when i looked under the car it looked like it was coming from by the coolant tank and when i went to look inside it there was significantly a lot less than i remember. Anyone has any idea what has happened.? It could not have happened at a worst time. Im hoping its a cheap fix.

Probably you need a new radiator, along with hoses. You said brown fluid sounds like cooling system has not been serviced on a regular basis.
Until a mechanic looks at it there is no way to give a firm answer. doubtful there is a cheap fix. But who knows, you might get lucky and it is just a hose and a new hose and system flush will take care of the problem.
The AC is a separate issue, again until an AC specialist exams the system…who knows.

Either way, do not drive the car until fixed or severe engine damage will occur.


Yea me and my mother figured but i wanted more opinions until i get it checked out. I hope its just a hose im not sure i can afford a $500 fix right now if it’s the radiator.

I neglected the cooling system on my 1984 Chevy Cavalier - didn’t drain and refill with fresh coolant per the maintenance instructions. One hot day right after I exited the highway and was at a stoplight, it gushed fluid. I looked under the hood and saw the top hose had popped off the radiator. I think some coolant had also backed up into the overflow tank.

Anyway, I was lucky. I stopped the engine right away. After it cooled I put in coolant - maybe just water temporarily - reattached the hose and got it home. I don’t recall all the details, but I did not need a new radiator, just running the engine with water in the cooling system (maybe a flushing chemical added) then after it cools down drain it. Maybe do this once or twice. Once the drained water is clean and any chemical is mostly out, refill the system with the correct 50-50 mix of water and coolant. Drive with an eye on the temp gauge. If it doesn’t start to overheat that’s a good sign. (If it does, stop the engine. It may be time to consult a mechanic.) Next morning open the radiator cap and top up the radiator if it needs more, and recheck the overflow tank to see the level is between the Cold and the Hot mark. Keep an eye on things the next few drives. You may have taken care of it.

Since my incident, I have followed my carmakers’ cooling system drain-and-refill recommendations faithfully, and replaced the radiator and lower hose on my 1999 Honda Civic to fix a small leak.

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If it was coolant (and I can’t be sure because you said it was brown), you can top off the cooling system with premixed coolant or water and drive it to the nearest mechanic, keeping a close eye on the temperature gauge (and with spare coolant or water in the trunk in case it runs low on the way), but other than that, you should not drive this vehicle.

If you want to try topping off your cooling system and seeing if you can run it in your driveway to find the leak, I only suggest you do that if you have someone who can sit in the car and keep a close eye on the temperature gauge while you do it.

If you’re lucky, it’s just a hose, but on a car as old as yours, it could be a number of items. It could be a worn out coolant pump (usually referred to as a water pump), or a crack in the radiator. It could actually be a number of issues. If the passeges in the radiator have become clogged, you might have a rupture that was created by the coolant overheating. When coolant gets old enough to turn brown, it can boil.

What you need is to have the cooling system completely tested. Have a mechanic pressure-test the cooling system and flow-test the radiator, and in the process of doing the repair, have your cooling system flushed and refilled with clean coolant.

I’m kind of in the same situation as you. I drive a 1998 Honda Civic, and I recently spent more than my car is worth to replace a broken part. Because I didn’t have the $600 in my bank account to pay for the repair, I went to and applied for a Firestone credit card. It has a high interest rate (above 20%), but on a large charge such as this one, they give me six months to pay it off interest free. Also, the card came with a coupon for 5% off my first charge. offers similar deals on their credit card, as well as other national chain automotive repair businesses. Find one that is close to you and see what kind of financing they offer online.

Keep in mind not getting this fixed is not an option. You’re either going to keep driving it, leading to more expensive problems, and/or you’re going to have to replace the car, so if you need the car for work, bite the bullet and finance a proper repair. Don’t let some hack mechanic just fix the leak without checking the entire cooling system, flusing it and filling it with fresh coolant, and fixing everything that is wrong, because trying to save money now could very likely cost you money in the longrun.

Remember, proper maintainence, such as draining and refilling the cooling system every 2-3 years*, is less expensive than repairing the vehicle after something breaks.

*(I say every 2-3 years because of the age of this vehicle. If your vehicle were newer, it would need this service less frequently. Also, if you keep up with the cooling system maintenance, you won’t need to pay for expensive flushes, just for a drain-and-refill).


There’s a pretty good chance it’s just a cooling system rubber hose that has burst. I’ve had that happen before. I think it cost me less than $20 for the new hose. Until you get it properly diagnosed, don’t drive the car or even start the engine.

Thanks for all the opinions on what it could be. I had a friend of the family who used to work on my mother’s car take a look at it. He thinks i had too much coolant in the tank and the cap wasn’t tight enough. Im taking his word for it since everysince he checked it i havent had anything happen. Gonna keep driving it and hopefully nothing like that happens again.

Good luck and please let us know how it goes. You’ll be keeping your eye on the temp gauge and checking under the hood the next few days, right?

Yeah I’ll definitely be checking. If he happens to be wrong and it is leaking i don’t want it to get worse. I’ll let you guys know how it goes.

Best of luck.

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They probably filled the system with the red color long life coolant the last time it was serviced.This red color coolant turns brown if it is really dirty with rust particules.The green stuff will also turn brown if this is the case.I use a voltmeter to test the metal content in the coolant.

It does sound like too-old coolant and neglected cooling system. Drain and refill a good idea.

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Will it work with water.? Thats whats in it now.

Yes the tank sadly needs cleaning. It’s terrible. Cant even see in it really. Probably why there was too much in it.

Perhaps you should have the operation of the car’s cooling fan/fans checked by a skilled professional. You could also have the entire cooling system tested during the coolant servicing visit.

You don’t say whether you were moving freely or doing some driving at slow speeds in traffic when the over-heating occurred.

Your radiator depends on air flow through it, either by the car moving down the road and ramming air into it, or, (as in stop-and-go traffic) cooling fans forcing air through it.

However, you did leave a possible clue to a fan problem when you stated that you had turned off the air-conditioner, just 10 minutes from home, prior to the incident.

Running a car’s air-conditioner usually immediately turns the coolant cooling fans to maximum capacity (often running 2 fans, rather than 1), by design.

Ordinarily, rising coolant temperature should also cause the fans to respond in this way. But, there could be a problem with the temperature sensing/ fan activating system.

It just could be that turning off the air-conditioner made the car over-heat and turning it back on could have prevented it.

I take it that you don’t have a coolant temperature gauge on your dashboard instrument cluster? Some cars have one, some don’t. If you have one then let us know.

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Water is OK for a day or a week if it’s above freezing outside.

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Aside from mechanical damage, water can also reach a boiling point faster than a coolant mixture, and this causes cars to overheat easily. In the event that a car has overheated and pushed out coolant, water can be added as a temporary substitute. To add water, allow the entire car to cool, then begin adding water through the reservoir. Next, drive to the nearest repair shop so the cooling system can be repaired and the correct coolant mixture can be added.Do not drive it any further than the nearest repair shop.

It’s best not to have 100% water in the cooling system for any length of time. Water is highly reactive with iron and aluminum, and will result in rusting/oxidizing of the parts inside the engine, not a good thing. The proper coolant mixture contains a bevy of additives to prevent the rusting.

If you mean tap water, you should flush the cooling system and fill it it with a 50/50 mix of coolant and distilled water (or premixed coolant).

If you leave tap water in there, bad things will eventually happen.

Ive been checking at least once a day and no more leaks. Guess it was just the top. But now my manager thinks i may have a problem with my fuel intake. I swear if its not one thing it’s another.! :worried: