Ok, so this might be overcomplicated, but I seem to have a self-healing car. A month ago, I faintly smelled coolant burning from my car after extremely long trips. So I took my car to the dealer the other day for a 75K mile checkup. They, of course, found thousands of dollars worth of work to do on it, despite the fact that it had been running fine prior to that (especially the temperature, which becomes important). Most importantly, they told me that they had pressure tested my coolant system, and they had found a small hole in or near the water pump, but it probably wasn’t anything to worry about, so long as I kept the reservoir full, which I check now once per day. It never had visibly leaked before the pressure test, and now it drips a drip every 2 seconds whenever I park it somewhere after driving it. After declining the $1500 fix that the dealer proposed (replace the water pump), I started driving it, and it nearly overheated several times for about a week. At first, the temperature gauge made sense: as I accelerated or drove around town or after I got off the highway, the temperature would go up. After a while, the temperature would pulsate as it dropped, so I rationalized it as the pump chasing the air out of the system. Well, after a few days, it didn’t heat up (above half way on the temperature gauge) after it got off the highway, so I assumed that the coolant was emulsifying and making a stable blend of air and coolant (yay for me, right?). Then it stopped overheating as I accelerated onto the highway every morning, which I chalked up to cool morning temperatures (again, a good thing). Finally, it stopped overheating entirely, no matter where or how I drive it: surface streets on a hot day with the AC on full blast or 75 mph on the highway under similar conditions. Now here is the strange part: my coolant reservoir is completely empty everyday when I check it, but it refuses to reach a temperature above 50% on the gauge. I keep filling it up, but I wonder if there is any purpose. Two other things to note: 1) I park on an incline at home, so I check my coolant at work before I leave to come home, since the ground is flat and 2) the cabin fan is automatically controlled to not come on until the engine temp creeps up from COLD, though the heat is not warm for the first 5 minutes or so, even though the fan is blowing (this 5 minute delay did not used to be present). Can someone figure out why this is happening, whether I have a magic car, and if I should go to a dealer to replace a water pump that cannot cost more than $150, though they are charging me 10 times that? Thanks.
You can get a new water pump from just about any decent independant auto repair shop. Get some other prices to compare to the dealer’s quote.
Since the coolant reservoir is empty each morning there was air in your cooling system which is working its way out. Eventually the level in the reservoir should stabilize. The water pump leak of a few drops should not drop the reservoir that much each day.
Get some other opinions on this leak to be sure it is the water pump, and then make some decisions.
I think there are some flaws in your logic. Your ‘nearly overheating’ may have been caused by an air bubble in the system or a sticky thermostat that became unstuck. If you’re losing coolant from your reservoir, it’s going somewhere. If the car is still dripping from the water pump, that’s where. If there are no visible leaks, I’d worry about the head gasket, although these motors aren’t really known for head gasket failures. Even if the temp isn’t climbing with the coolant jug empty, it will eventually when the coolant gets down enough. The cooling systems in these cars are pretty good, so it may have to be half-empty or more before you really start to notice it. Keep in mind that although the gauge may indicate normal, if the coolant is low you may be getting ‘hot spots’ in the engine, which will reduce engine life.
Eventually the water pump will catastrophically fail, dumping coolant everywhere and leaving you stranded. Also, certain engines have the water pump driven by the timing belt—if the pump seizes up, it may cause the belt to slip, which may destroy your engine’s valve train, a very expensive repair. If the timing belt has never been done, now is the time to get them both replaced. There’s barely any additional labor to do the belt when doing the pump, or vice-versa. If you shop around, you can probably get both done for $500 or less. If you wait too much longer you’re likely in for a repair that costs several times that.
I think you need to have the cooling system checked as loosing coolant no matter what the gauges say is a bad thing and less expensive to fix now than after it causes problems. A thorough diagnoses is needed unless you don’t mind blowing the engine and being stranded along side the road, and one of these days you will realize there is no such thing as a magic car. What was involved with the mechanics suggestions? Get 3 quotes for the pump.
i think you’re WAY over thinking this issue.
there IS a cooling problem. it has not ‘cured’ itself. it is still there, and will cause catastrophic damage. as WB says. get other estimates.
your original comment about a dripping water pump is a classic symptom of a failing (or about to fail) water pump. while at a mechanic, a replacement of the thermostat is another must do item.
these are ordinary maint items. while you are at it, you should inquire about a timing belt. cause if your car needs a water pump, a timing belt is in the same area, and would likely not increase the bill too much.
Some Intrepids Have Timing Belts. Some Intrepids Have Timing Chains. Certain Problems Are Vehicle Specific.
I believe that in either case, they drive the Water Pump. I asked for the model year of this vehicle and which engine it has, but got no answer.
In situations like this I always replace the radiator cap. If you are not maintaining pressure in the system it will boil away coolant, run oddly, and drip after you stop. Sometimes you can hear it boiling when you park it hot. A cap cost less than $10. Just get a new one.
Another Drive-By Or Hit-And-Run?
Old Intrepid Driver, are you still with us?