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Drove car 2 miles without coolant, foul play suspected

1994 f150 with 4.9L I6; 180k mi.

Parked vehicle last night after using it uneventfully for work the day before. Upon leaving the house at 11:30 AM, I noticed that I’d picked up a new mechanical noise. Nothing major; actually wasn’t sure I heard anything at all.

As I drove to the store, I noticed it was idling slightly unsteady…much less so than a missing cylinder. I resolved to check the high-tension connectors when I got home for security. I glanced down at the gauges to check and see if my oil pressure was good; I then noticed coolant temp reading “high normal.”

When I got out, I noticed a small pool of coolant forming. I looked at where the puddle was forming…the radiator hose had come off! (Actually separate from the radiator connector, as one might do if draining fluid without using the petcock.) I popped the hood: no unusual smells. Nothing seemed abnormally hot. Placing a finger against the head was uncomfortable, but not painful. Spit expectorated upon the head did not sizzle.

I then called my wife, explaining the situation, and walked back home 2 miles. We then took the spare car, bought antifreeze, and added it about an hour post-shutdown. Where the car was parked seemed wetter than the light drizzle allowed; daubing a finger in it and tasting gave a slight sweet taste.

I tend to check my fluid every so often (not every day, though) and coolant was verified as “full” as recently as 100 miles ago. (I don’t make a habit of crawling underneath, though, so I couldn’t tell you if hose had been slowly backing off or not.)

As to cause: is it plausible that this could happen without foul play?There have been a few vandalism incidents in the neighborhood; it’s also possible that I [peeved] off a neighbor recently. I’m not about to go any further than fixing, though, unless there’s really no other plausible explanation.

As to the mechanical questions: How much damage was done? Did I “catch it” in time? What do you suggest as far as repairs/maintenance? (I was planning on doing a compression test, and keeping a close eye on fluid levels over the next 1,000 miles or so.)

Engine sounds completely normal, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that I’ve dodged a bullet!

Driving 2 miles with little or no coolant should really not have much of an effect on the engine. If it were 20 then I might be concerned.

I can’t answer your question about why the hose popped off except to say that is is possible for one to come loose. If the hose is still relatively soft, fit the radiator snugly, and the clamp was in place then vandalism is always a possibility.


Does your radiator have plastic tanks?

If so, I believe I know what might have happened

But you’d have to look very carefully, to confirm my theory

I’ve often seen plastic radiator connections break . . . under the hose, so to speak. And it usually happens directly under the hose clamp, as a matter of fact

At first it seems that the hose was simply removed, but if you look carefully inside, you might see the broken off part of the radiator connection in there

If that is the case, it is definitely just an old radiator, not vandalism

@db4690: No, the hose fitting is still in place on the rad, it still has the plastic “flare” designed to keep the hose on and everything. The hose is new-ish, from when I did the head gasket roughly 15,000 miles ago. The clamp seems old, but tightened up nicely when I added the fluid!

My concern about vandalism is that I had no leak prior, it seems to have leaked out (mostly) in the car park, and components (excepting the clamp in question) are all fairly new. (Obviously, replace clamp ASAP!)

It’s a bit scary having something like that happen! Especially so, given that it’s the truck: having the Cobalt “cash in its chips” would be somewhat distressing…but the F150 is my family’s meal ticket: no go, no dough!

But hey, I’ll be an optimist about it: I get to whip out the Haynes manual and pencil in “180k” by the “Service Coolant System” maintenance item :slight_smile:

More than likely the hose clamp was not tight and pressure slowly pushed the hose off. This would be my theory, but a pissed off neighbor could have loosened it. I would not want to craw under someones truck and loosen a clamp. It would leave you very vulnerable if you were caught.

Anything is possible, but of it were me I’d consider installing a motion detector auto alarm.

I doubt that any damage was done here.

We had a case a week or two ago where the problem turned out to be a broken motor mount which was allowing the engine to twist and yank the hose off.

The Chinese may have done it. I replaced a water pump last summer on my Dakota and picked up several new hose clamps when I bought the water pump and coolant. All was OK for a few weeks until I started getting coolant leaks. The first one was at the upper radiator hose. When I went to tighten it…the clamp just kept popping but never tightened up. I tried the other new clamps and voila…the same thing happened. I pulled off the first clamp and it was “Made in China.” The same with the other clamps. I used my wife’s car and went back to Autozone and bought all new name brand clamps. No problem since. I hate to bash China but sometimes…they deserve it.

Much more likely a loose/defective/worn clamp, that would be a VERY odd way to sabotage an engine.

The I-6 should be an all cast iron engine so it would be a lot more tolerant to overheating than most engines with Aluminum heads.

Do you use a little RTV under the hose at the connection? I do where the rubber contacts metal, but I learned the hard way that if you use RTV between the hose and a plastic barb, it will pop off, no matter how tight the clamp.


What kind of clamp do you have?

Worm gear?

Constant tension?

Do you have any enemy neighbors that you know about?

A colleague told me about an incident, in which he surprised a would-be car thief. It was a clear cut situation, no misunderstanding. The guy was trying to use a slim jim

He quietly walked up behind him and said “How are you doing?”

As soon as the guy turned around, he decked him, broke his nose and knocked out a bunch of teeth

He said it was one of the most satisfying days of his life

Just some food for thought, in case you do catch somebody messing with your truck


It's a screw clamp, but not the "worm gear/metal band" type. You tighten a bolt, feeds through a nut, and the body of the clamp is two thin wires. (At any rate, it's off and a standard screw clamp is on.)

My next-door neighbors, on one side, don't like that I work on cars. The night prior, I had repaired my Son-in-law's rusty minivan when the trans cooler line blew. As you can imagine, pretty messy proposition! (IF this is vandalism, I expect that's the reason why.)


A lot of the neighbors in my street apparently don’t mind my occasionally working on cars in the driveway/garage

That’s probably because I worked on their cars after they asked me to

They better not complain . . . because then I won’t save their bacon the next time they ask for help

Neighbors are the same all over. I once had some neighbors complain that I parked my trash bin the wrong way on the street. I parked the bin backwards so that all the truck had to do was lift my bin without having someone get off the truck and turn it around. The old truck just picked the bin up as it was headed towards the street and the neighbors had got accustomed to having the bins parked that way…all nice and neat. It so happens that my niece’s husband is in charge of the refuse department in our fair little town. I convinced him that it would be a “time saving” effort to have all the trash bins lined up backwards. He sent a letter to that effect out to all the customers. It wasn’t long before all the trash bins were lined up the same…except for one old codger. Guess what happened after a couple of weeks of this? Some of the neighbors complained that he was parking his trash bin the “wrong” way. People!

We are in an HOA and we cannot repair cars outside. Sometimes I leave the garage door up, nobody has complained. But there is one neighbor that every time I would be washing/waxing my car in the driveway, he would throw rotten fruits from his backyard to the driveway. At first I didn’t realize what was happening, then finally when I got it, I collected all of them in his driveway and when I saw him, I showed him the pile and told him I am returning his fruits. So far, it hasn’t happened again.


Folks can get obsessed about stuff, that’s for sure. Years ago when I lived in Colorado there were two neighbors battling it out with each other over which side of the property line contained a small piles of sticks! Each refused for years to remove the pile, saying it belonged to the other. And it wouldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes for either of them to pick the sticks up and remove them. As far as I know the sticks are still there, and the neighbors fighting over them.

One of the strangest neighbor actions involving cars for me, early one morning as I was getting into my Corolla and heading for work, I noticed my truck was covered w/ dog poop! Someone during the night had apparently used their hand to wipe it all over the truck. I could see their hand prints. Hopefully they at least wore a latex glove. Anyway, later I discovered they had thought I had let my dog use their front lawn. But I hadn’t. It must have been someone else’s dog.

I was going to complain, but I got to thinking this must have been a sort of unpleasant experience for them to do, and as it took maybe two minutes to squirt the truck off with the hose, I thought the complain unnecessary. They already got their punishment! So I just chalked it up to the neighborhood humor department … .lol .

Speaking of neighbors . . .

I have a neighbor who used to park his car on the street, in front of my house

He had plenty of room in his driveway, and there was plenty of space in the street, in front of his own house

I think his “problem” was that he didn’t want any cars in his driveway or in front of his house . . . including his own vehicle

I have no problem with a neighbor occasionally parking their vehicle on the street, in front of my house, but it gets real old, real fast, if they do it every single day, and for no good reason

I know I don’t own that spot, but I expect people to use common sense and show at least a little bit of respect

Well, here’s what I did

Trash day is thursday, so wednesday evening, we put out the 3 trash containers. Anyways, I would “block him in” with my 3 trash cans. Each trash can would be mere inches from his car. Apparently, he got tired of moving the trash cans to get to his car.

Now he doesn’t park his car on the street in front of my house anymore

In a town where I lived when I was single there used to be a middle-aged, fat woman who lived across the street from me and she absolutely despised me. Why? Because I had long hair, a beard, and was known to step out in the yard with a cold beer in hand. She was a total religious whack job and would stand in her doorway for hours waving the Bible at me and pointing to the heavens. Sometimes there was hand clapping and singing for an hour.

One hot summer day I’m tinkering with the car with my shirt off and head under the dash. Suddenly I get a bucket of ice water thrown on me through the window and by the time I collected myself and got out I saw a young (14 maybe) teen girl running off and around the corner. Through the grapevine I found that the whack job had paid that girl 10 bucks to pull that stunt.

After that I really got a bit coarse with a few words and actions not suitable for this forum. No physical assault or even setting foot on her property but she did call the cops to me once. I just played the don’t know what in the hxxx you’re talking about routine; go talk to her. It took the cops less than 5 minutes with her before they washed their hands of the matter… :slight_smile: