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What do the symptoms of this coolant leak suggest?

I’ve got a 97 Cavalier that has been leaking coolant since Fall. It started off as a very slow leak, but has gotten to the point where I have to refill the coolant every day now. Over the past few days what has happened is I would be out driving, then when I stop somewhere to park and shut off the engine I would hear a draining noise under the hood and whenever I get out of the car to check, all my coolant would be puddling right beside the passenger side front tire, dripping down the plastic guard thing directly under the bumper. I haven’t been able to get a good look under the car, nor see where the leak was coming from with the hood open the last couple times this has happened, and this hasn’t happened every time I’ve shut off the engine since. Do these symptoms indicate any clear offenders?

Thank you!

Definitely a leak. You need to get it addressed asap. It is more than likely a bad hose or a loose clamp. Keep it topped off with 50/50 mix and get it fixed before you overheat the engine.

Rather than dithering over the exact cause of this obvious leak, I urge the OP to just get it fixed right away.

Between the coolant runoff potentially poisoning scores of dogs & cats plus the reality that the runoff is polluting the storm sewers and the streams into which they empty, this situation is a mini-environmental disaster.

The sound you hear may be the recovery tank. The actual coolant loss could be from anywhere, even a head casket. If there are no obvious coolant stains or wet areas, you need to get it attended to. If it isn’t a head gasket, it could be shortly if you keep loosing coolent. It doe not take obvious over heating to blow a head gasket. Just frequent minimal overheating with hot spots in the right areas can do it. Don’t delay.

I have a general rule about coolant leaks because they can lead to big trouble and catastrophic failure if something suddenly let’s go while driving and you can’t stop.
If the coolant is down, I try to find it myself, and tighten all the clamps. If it drops again, it goes in for service ASAP.
Where you feel you can’t do anything yourself, you are a few weeks way over due.

If the the vehicle has the 2.2L engine, the water pump is located in the area where you see the coolant leaking.


All excellent comments above. Another common source of leaking in a car of this vintage is the radiator. Especially if it is one of the kind that has plastic tank on the top and bottom. The plastic tank can separate from the metal part and leak. When that happens, the leak will run down the metal part of the radiator, where it will pool at its base. Then as it leaks more it will typically run to the right (passenger) side of the car, b/c the car tends to be tilted in that direction due to the road crown. That would explain why you see a puddle near the right front tire. Get out a flashlight, pop the hood, and see if you can see the bottom area of the radiator through an opening in the grill area. Is there a puddle of coolant there?

Had the same problem.

Head gasket

Put a clean white paper towel under the water pump before the next drive.

I’ve tried a combustion leak test and the test fluid stayed blue throughout, so I’m pretty sure it’s not the head gasket. But I’m going to look into the water pump.