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My mechanic says can't find a leak so it can't be repaired

I bought my 1995 Ford Escort LX in 2000 from my great uncle’s estate (Cambridge, MA) and it had 1,900 original miles. I’m now up to 127,000 miles which includes driving (moving) to Florida. Automatic transmission. Mechanic installed new radiator recently but because the driver’s door was replaced with a 1994 door, mechanic thought the car was a 1994 and installed a 1994 radiator. Car is in excellent shape except “check radiator” light goes on and the reservoir always needs to be filled up. There is no fluid leaking under the car. My mechanic says if he can’t find a leak, it can’t be repaired. But my question is how much longer can I live with this? Is the problem a radiator that’s a year too old for the car? And where does the radiator fluid go?

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Find another mechanic and say, “Please pressure test the entire cooling system.” For all we know, it might just be a faulty sensor, but if your mechanic isn’t willing to at least try to solve your problem, you need to find a better mechanic.

Why Did The Mechanic Replace The Radiator . . . Leaking, Overheating ?

In a case such as this where the coolant keeps getting low, and especially if it ever got very low or overheated the engine a little, an internal engine cooling leak could develop. It’s also possible to develop just from the age of the vehicle, now 16 to 17 years old.

Whitey is correct in advising you to have the cooling system pressure tested. It needs to be able to hold pressure for a period of time. If it doesn’t then the system has a leak and coolant can escape outside of the system or inside the engine. Inside an engine the coolant is consumed (turned to steam and goes out the tailpipe).

Be prepared to possibly learn that you need a new cylinder head gasket. It’s not all that uncommon on a car of this age and this number of miles. It will likely cost several hundred dollars to replace because of labor time.

If the timing belt hasn’t been replaced on this vehicle then it’s overdue and if the head gasket needs replacing then that won’t ad much to the repair costs as the timing belt has to be practically removed anyhow, when installing the gasket.

"But my question is how much longer can I live with this?"
I wouldn’t live with it any longer. Besides inconvenient, the leak will become worse and could cause additional damage.

CSA

“But my question is how much longer can I live with this?”

Whether the coolant is disappearing into the outside world or into the engine’s cylinders, you cannot live like this much longer.

Responses like this from your mechanic you should not live with for one more moment. Look for an independently owned and operated shop with a good reputation, and go there. Ther are numerous ways to diagnose disappearing coolant. and you current mechanic is either incapable or unwilling to disgnose it.

Whitey and CSA have prooffered the most likely sources of the mystery. Follow their advice. know also that when the engine is warm the water pump impellar shaft is spinning and the system is pressurized. There are circumstances wherein coolant can leak past the water pump shaft when it’s spinning, dissipate into the air as you’re moving, and not leak and create a puddle when it’s stopped.

CSA & whitey are both correct in stating that a pressure test is needed but whitey suggested you may have a faulty sensor. If the low fluid lamp illuminates and the coolant reservoir is low then the sensor is apparently doing it’s job.

Could be a head gasket, pressure test and find out.

I had the same problem with a 1995 Escort - and it turned out that one of the head bolts was broken andf the fluid was slowly leaking out - but onl;y when the engine was thoroghly warmed up. Because the leak was slow, it wouldn’t show a pudlle on the ground - it evaporated as the fluid ran down the side of the block.

I eventually figured it out by using a florescent dye.

So the pressure test is a good starting point.

Thanks, guys! Appreciate your wealth of knowledge and ability to help me.

You’re Welcome. We Can Learn Something From You, Also, If You’ll Be So Kind As To Tell Us What You Find.
CSA

I suspect that the “mechanic” did not find the leak because you really never found a mechanic. Good luck!

Head gasket problems are pretty common of Escorts so it’s possible you’re burning the coolant in the engine and it’s going out the tail pipe as steam. Has to car ever overheated or does it run on the high side of the normal range on the gauge? If either of these are true I’d suspect the head gasket.

The radiator for a 95 Escort and a 94 Escort are the same. If your mechanic doesn’t know this it doesn’t say much for him.

The higher pressure from a head gasket leak could also have caused the original radiator failure in the first place.

You have two choices IF after you find that your head gasket is leaking…(prob is)…fix it properly and spend 1500 or so…or buy a $60 bottle of Blue Devil…and correctly install the stuff. Your choice… but I’d make a deal with the Devil before dropping big bucks into an Escort. If it were a nice vehicle I’d tear it down and repair it correctly myself…something I am not looking forward to doing on my BMW… :frowning: