Help! All the coolant just poured out of my car!

My 2001 PT Cruiser began to over heat today. By the time I immediately pulled off the road and smoke began to come out from under the hood. Once I stopped I heard a bubbling noise and watched as all my coolant steadly dripped onto the ground (almost a pour). What does this mean?

it could be as simple as a blown radiator hose. Let’s hope it is because that’s cheap and simple to fix.
Don’t drive it but have someone knowledgeable look at it. Driving it will do damage.

Yep, your radiator might have spring a leak or a hose is busted. The smoke was steam from the coolant. Some also splashed on a hot engine and turned into steam. Take it a good shop and let the check your cooling system. If you stopped before you lost all coolant not likely that you ruined the engine.

Don’t just replace the failed hose…Replace ALL the coolant hoses…

Good idea, Caddy.
If it is indeed just a hose, while you’re there and the coolant has been drained anyway, ask them to replace the thermostat and radiator cap as well. Cheap insurance and they are probably due for replacement.

I expect you have a radiator that sprang a leak. Your mechanic can confirm this. If so, third party radiators from auto parts stores are pretty economical. But they might not cool as good as the original. If you want OEM, you can either pay the dealership for a new one, or what works well for me, I take the old one to a local radiator shop. They have the tools and parts and know how & stuff to fix a bad radiator up like new usually. And the price for their service compares quite favorably to a new OEM radiator.

As said above, don’t drive the car until the cooling system is working again. And be aware that this incident may have done other damage, like the head gasket, so ask your mechanic if you should do the tests (leakdown, etc) for this too.

Was there also any white “smoke” coming from the exhaust? If so, you probably blew the head gasket which pressureized your cooling system and blew a weak hose apart. Definitely get it tested for a bad head gasket before you spend big bucks on the radiator or hoses. A compression test will probably show it, but a leak down test, as mentioned, would be better.

Thanks for all the good advice.
Well I left my car until this morning when I returned the first thing I did was remove my radiator cap and check for coolant. To my surprise it was pretty full I was only able to add a little. The car started just fine and so I let it run for a bit. Nothing began to leak and the temperature was fine so I drove it home (about 5 miles). I continued to let it run once home and all seemed fine…I did notice that even though the temperature never went above normal running temp. my fan never came on. So this leads me to believe that I need to replace the fans motor. …I’m still confused as to why the temperature climbed so quickly yesterday and began to lose coolant??

Where exactly was it pouring from when you overheated?

Well it is reaching a boiling point in a reserve tank and coming out of the top of that.

Make sure your fans are operable.
Do they come on when you turn your AC on?

My AC seems to be working just fine. But the big cooling fan in the front isn’t coming on.

That fan should run anytime the the A/C is on or the engine temp climbs above normal. Check the wiring and connections to the fan. If okay, you can verify if the fan is shot by opening its connection and using a pair of test leads, connect it directly to the battery. If it runs, you have a problem upstream, starting with the fan relay. If it will not run, it’s shot…The most likely thing is the fan relay…Next is the fan itself…

In the meantime, you must be careful driving without the fan…If you get stuck in heavy traffic, you are going to overheat…

“HELP! All the coolant just poured out of my car!!” No it didn’t…

According to the schematic I found, your fan is dual speed and there are two relays that control it. If you never see it come on in either speed, there’s a good chance it is the fan or the connection both those speeds have in common - the fan’s ground, the black wire according to my schematic.
Both relays could be bad so you could check them but they are less likely to be your problem, just because they both appear to not work. What are the chances they both fail at the same time, after all?
Still, I’d check two fuses: there’s one for the fan relays (A21) and one for the fan (A0).

Just in case you want to try Caddy’s trick, the black wire to the fan’s connector is ground, yellow is high speed, dark green is low speed. Be very careful hooking flying wires from the battery to anything. Shorting them will cause some inadvertent welding.

Oh, and please don’t drive the car until you get this resolved. You can do a lot of damage if the car overheats. It seems you’ve been lucky but I wouldn’t push that luck.

You can also try turning on the AC, then tap the backside of the fan motor. If the fan starts, then you need a new fan. A safer way to test the motor is to find the relays. Pull one of them and find the diagram of the contacts. You want to short the two blades that correspond to the terminals on the relay. If the motor doesn’t start, then its bad.

If the fan isn’t running it doesn’t necessary mean the fan is bad. I’m not familiar with your car, but there will be a fan relay(s) somewhere, it may have gone bad. You can check the fan motor by running jumper wires straight from the battery to the fan. Find out which terminal is hot and which is ground and run jumper wires for testing the motor. If it runs start trying to find out where the relay(s) is located. My Ford Escort has 3 relays, one in the engine compartment fuse panel and a high speed and low speed relay mounted on the drivers side fender well.

You never had to refill it?
Maybe just the water boiled out, and now it’s got a better 50/50 mix??

The radiator cooling fan only comes on – or is supposed to come on – when the coolant reaches a certain pre-set temperature. Below that, the radiator fan doesn’t spin. At least not on my Toyota. It might not reach that temperature if it is a cool day and you are not in stop and go traffic. When the car is moving beyond 30 mph on a level surface and the day isn’t too hot, there’s enough airflow through the radiator w/out the fan. Watch the temp guage on the dashboard. Usually the fan is set to kick on about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the dashboard temp scale. On most econoboxes, this occurs when the car is stopped and idling for 5-10 minutes. If the temp guage goes over 2/3 of the way up and the fan isn’t turning on, stop driving your car and let your repair person know asap. As said above, if you have AirCon, the radiator fan usually is programmed to turn on when the AirCon is turned on, independent of the coolant temperature.

BTW, if the fan is supposed to be spinning but isn’t, that doesn’t usually mean there is something wrong w/the fan. Cross your fingers it isn’t the fan, as the fan is expensive. The most common cause though is the temperature sensing switch, which is usually inexpensive to replace.

I took it to a well know mechanic in town and very trustworthy and looks like I need new head gaskets, radiator, fan…ect. going to cost about $1,700. I think after this fix it will be time to start looking for something a little newer and more reliable. Thanks for all the help!

I would get a second opinion before a $1,700 repair.