Mystery of the disappearing coolant

I have a 2002 pr cruiser. I bought it two years and two weeks ago, it had 56,000 miles on it. It came with a 30 day warrenty. About 10 days after I bought it, on a hot day it began to over heat while I was sitting in traffic. I took it back to the dealer and was told it had a slight leak in the lower right corner of the radiator and it would be $500 to replace the radiator. I told the mechnanic NO! They topped the radiator off, because it was low on fluid. I had no problem with it until about the same time last year on a hot day. The fluid was low, I topped it off, no problem until August. We had record heat here in the Raleigh, NC area. About the middle of August, this year, the problem became progressively worse. I started needing to add coolant about once a week. August 17 my son, a certified mechanic, found no evidence of leaking, determined the thermastat was stuck and replaced the theramstat, while I was visiting him at Fort Lee, VA. My son’s feeling was that the car was burning off the coolant and evaporating the water. Then it was fine for two weeks. Then it began to over heat, and was losing coolant again. I have a friend who is an ASA certified mechanic, he spent about two hours going over the entire engine compartment with a light to determine if there is a leak somewhere. He also did a pressure check on the radioator, and it tested with in normal limits. He was sure that I had a leak but he could not confirm from where it was leaking. He made sure the coolant level was full. For most of the next couple of weeks, I was out of town and did not drive my car. In the last two weeks the problem became even more progressively worse. My dad suggested that I put a new radiator cap on, which I did, and he suggested that I cut the 50/50 coolant in half, which I did, by last Thursday ((9/30), I was putting about 1/2 gallon of coolant in every day, and the only was to keep it from over heating, even in the cool of the morning was to drive with the fan on full heat and the thermastat on cold. After church Sunday, I took it to a friend from church who is a very expereinced amerature mechanic, and he changed the oil, no water or coolant or water in the oil. He drained the radiator, no oil in the coolant; there has been a lot of discussion among my men friends about the possibility of a head gasket replacement. This seems to indicate that, that is not the case. (And all my men friends need to go wash their mouths out with soap for using such words.) He put flush in my radiator, and I drove it for 6 hours this week as the product recommended. Yesterday, he drained the flush, and there was a lot of crud, but no oil, thank You Jesus! I am driving for a couple of days with just water to make sure all the crud is out of the whole cooling system. Sunday afternoon I am going back to drain the radiator and add coolant back. God willing this will be the end of the problem. My friend is not feeling very comfident about that.

This seems to be a problem with pt cruisers, universally. There is even a website

I would love to discuss this with you on the radio, because there seem to be a lot of pt cruiser owners that are having this problem and would like to know what to do with it other than driving it off a cliff somewhere.

Have a mechanic test for a leaking head gasket. Your car has all the symptoms.

If it was leaking a half gallon of coolant per day externally you’d see the leak, and you wouldn’t have to look very hard.

This is too expensive to guess about. There are tests to determine, conclusively, whether or not a head gasket is leaking. I’m surprised none of these “mechanics” has performed the tests yet.

Oh, yeah, how about a paragrph break now and then? You post, as is, is very hard to read.

What do you mean by “cut the 50/50 coolant in half?”

You can’t get to the show via this pathway, but there are some of us here that might help.

Regarding the headgasket possibility, there’s a simple way to verify or dismiss that as a possibility. A few ways, actually, but the most definitive is a pressure leakdown test of the cylinders. But 1/2 a gallon of coolant every day is a heck of a lot of coolant. You’d be trailing a white cloud of water vapor if you were burning that much and the engine would be running pretty crappy from all the water ingestion. It’d basically be running on three cylinders, and probably on the verge of hydrolocking the leaky one.

I’m guessing that you’re probably routinely overheating and blowing coolant out the reservoire. This is not good and can cause the leaky headgasket discussed above…complicating the problem even further.

There are diagnostic tests that can be used to find the cause of overheating. The fan operation should be tested and the raditaor “mapped”. Mapping of the radiator means doing a survey of it with a pyrometer. That’ll show hot spots and cold spots and how well and evenly the radiator is dissipating heat. Flow can be checked too.

An eroded water pump impellar can reduce the ability of the pump to flow the coolant, reducing the ability of the system to dissipate heat. The pump flow can be tested.

Radiator hoses can sometimes collapse internally (the liner collapses) restricting fluid flow without being obvious on the outside. The ohses are cheap and easy to replace.

In summary, I think you probably needed a new radiator and/or pump and/or hoses originally, and you now probably need a headgasket as well. I may be wrong about the headgasket. I hope I am.

Show this to your dad, your son, and your friends…and to a rputable mechanic. Someone needs to take a good look-see before the engine becomes damaged.

You have a serious problem and, as it is clear that none of the people you have been working with so far have been able to diagnose and fix it, you need to take it somewhere else.

Diluting the coolant with extra water to save money will cause a number of additional problems and could lead to permanent engine damage, if you haven’t damaged it already.

Stop driving it, and take it to a competent mechanic as soon as possible.

BTW for future reference, you got ripped off. It had a 30 day warranty. They tried to charge you $500 to fix it with 20 days left on the warranty.

Also for future reference, cooling system leaks are serious. Even the smallest leak can cause your engine to overheat. Don’t let cars go 2 years with cooling system leaks anymore :slight_smile: