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Old 06-25-2020, 07:12 PM   #1
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Disappearing engine coolent

Hi, I have a 97 vectra 34' pusher 5.9 Cummins 12 valve. I seem to be loosing coolent from somewhere but can find no leaks anywhere and it's not overheating. I have to add about 1/2 gallon after driving around 100 to 150 miles. I don't know if it's normal or not. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated 🙂
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Old 06-25-2020, 07:20 PM   #2
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Pressure testing might show something but just as an added idea, it might be good to watch the oil level. At one point we had a car which started using coolant and the oil seemed to get higher. YUP! It was a head gasket leaking from one to the other!
Point is that we did not catch it soon enough top prevent some major damage. We should have watched closer and noticed the oil changed color and foamed.
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Old 06-25-2020, 07:50 PM   #3
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Head gasket? When coolant "disappears" it either goes in the oil crankcase (bad) or is burned in the combustion chamber (also bad).

If it's leaking on to the ground breath a sigh of relief. It your oil dipstick is over full or you see puffs of white smoke out of the exhaust... well, we feel for you.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:05 AM   #4
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If it's not going onto the ground it's a head gasket or cracked block.

I would start the engine cold and let it sit and idle until fully warm. If you can't find water coming out somewhere, probably bad news. I would though check around the water pump, radiator cap and radiator for signs of leakage.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:18 AM   #5
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Since it is so hard to fully see all parts of an engine, I like to go with testing as it can set long enough to actually prove out things we can't see. Small points like a weak radiator cap can be hard to spot by just looking for fluids. In most cases it will be something small like a hose, etc. but it does need checking before driving long enough to let it total the engine.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:36 AM   #6
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Since it is so hard to fully see all parts of an engine, I like to go with testing as it can set long enough to actually prove out things we can't see. Small points like a weak radiator cap can be hard to spot by just looking for fluids. In most cases it will be something small like a hose, etc. but it does need checking before driving long enough to let it total the engine.
I agree, but I'm not sure what pressure testing proves other than what we know--there's a leak. You still need to determine where. If the pressure test didn't show a leak that could mean it's the radiator cap, but I'm not sure that's a certainty.

For AC they can insert a colorant that can be viewed with a blacklight (or something) to determine where the leak is. I've never heard of that with coolant, but seemingly something like that would be possible.
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Old 06-28-2020, 08:03 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bobli View Post
Hi, I have a 97 vectra 34' pusher 5.9 Cummins 12 valve. I seem to be loosing coolent from somewhere but can find no leaks anywhere and it's not overheating. I have to add about 1/2 gallon after driving around 100 to 150 miles. I don't know if it's normal or not. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated 🙂
Pressure text the system, also check the sending unit in overflow. This could be a head gasket problem.
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Old 07-02-2020, 10:28 PM   #8
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Iím afraid everyone may be correct. Iíd take off the oil filler cap where you add oil to see if thereís any white or yellowish foam on the inside of the cap. The absence of that doesnít mean that the coolant isnít in the oil, because our filler pipes are so far away from the engine, but Iíd start there, and then probably drain the oil and look at it even of you donít find anything on the cap.
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Old 07-02-2020, 10:41 PM   #9
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Iím afraid everyone may be correct. Iíd take off the oil filler cap where you add oil to see if thereís any white or yellowish foam on the inside of the cap. The absence of that doesnít mean that the coolant isnít in the oil, because our filler pipes are so far away from the engine, but Iíd start there, and then probably drain the oil and look at it even of you donít find anything on the cap.
There's always the dipstick, but in the rental I had the leak was apparently slow enough and the engine hot enough that water didn't build up in the oil.
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Old 07-02-2020, 11:28 PM   #10
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There's always the dipstick, but in the rental I had the leak was apparently slow enough and the engine hot enough that water didn't build up in the oil.
Are you saying that the coolant evaporated from inside the crankcase? Thatís what causes the residue on the cap, I suppose, but the glycol residue would remain in the oil.

Iíve torn down my fair share of motors in my day, and when they had a head gasket leak, where coolant got into the oil, it was fairly obviousómilky, creamy oil...
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Old 07-03-2020, 06:31 AM   #11
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All good suggestions. If the hot water heater tank has a loop from the radiator I'd follow those supply/return hoses where they connect to tubing. It could have a leak further down the line that may not be that noticeable.

i know you aren't seeing any coolant on the ground but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't leaking from the system. Just for grins, double check the water pump weep hole. It could even leak from the cab heater if it has one. A small leak can exist. Good luck and let us know.
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Old 07-03-2020, 08:41 AM   #12
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All good suggestions. If the hot water heater tank has a loop from the radiator I'd follow those supply/return hoses where they connect to tubing. It could have a leak further down the line that may not be that noticeable.

i know you aren't seeing any coolant on the ground but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't leaking from the system. Just for grins, double check the water pump weep hole. It could even leak from the cab heater if it has one. A small leak can exist. Good luck and let us know.
Got to agree with this as I currently have a running discussion going with the local Ford garage on windshield fluid. My fluid is gone after about a week, I have an extended warranty which covers the repair but when I take it in, they do not want to tear off the wheel well, etc to access the fluid bottle but they put it on a rack and nothing comes out, so they tell me it is not leaking!
I guess a drunk is coming in to siphon it out but takes a week to get it all?
That carpeting under the heater and dash can soak up a tub full of liquid!
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Old 07-05-2020, 02:39 PM   #13
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I had a '94 Freightliner chassis with Cummins 5.9 pusher. It was always losing antifreeze. It was not in the oil. Crawling around under the engine did NOT turn up any moist spots on the engine or ground.

After a four years of just sort of ignoring the problem, one day under the front of the RV, I happened to touch a piece of foam insulation. It was wet, and the wet was slimy like antifreeze. It hadn't been raining, and I'd been parked for several days.

Turned out that Freightliner used radiator hoses from the dash heater core down 8 feet under the chassis and connected up to steel supply and return tubes covered with foam insulation. Those tubes went back to within 8 feet of the engine where another couple short pieces of radiator hose connected to the supply valves on the engine.

What had happened was that there was a leak at the hose to steel connection that had rusted the steel pipe over the first 5" or so of the pipe. It would leak into the foam insulation, and that would wick the antifreeze around and down the foam, and then slowly drop it on the ground in small amounts. And that's why I missed seeing it as a leak for so many years.

So check your undercarriage for that?

Note that many diesel pushers of that era have shut off valves of the antifreeze supply to the front dash heater and you can turn them off there at the engine. Then top off the AF and take a trip. If you're still loosing AF, it's probably not a leak onto the ground.
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Old 07-06-2020, 01:29 PM   #14
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Just for another idea. May not apply to anyone else.

But this year, cruising down the scenic I10 heading west in West Texas, after stopping for the day, I got a low coolant warning on my Cummins diesel. Sure enough, the fluid was about 1/2 gallon low, as seen in the reservoir tank at the top of the radiator. I couldn't see any dripping fluid in the sand, under the engine

I didn't know if it had been gradually going down, or what, as I hadn't really looked at it in a long time. So I topped it off with some distilled water. And we continued our trip the next day.

As we continued through El Paso, and on into New Mexico, and stopped for the night, I immediately went out and checked the fluid, it was down a little but not much, and still no dripping fluid in the sand below the engine.

The next day, we continued on our trip on through New Mexico, heading west, and stopped for the night. Again went and checked the fluid, again down some, again. But this time, on the hard packed soil under the engine, I saw a small wet patch. Looking back up to the engine, I could see a single drip from the lower radiator hose. Looked like a small slice with a pinhole at one end. All in line from the rear tires. I suspect a sharp rock flew up, and caused that injury to the hose.

I fashioned a patch from a small piece of inner-tube, used some industrial contact cement, and held it in place with a 3 1/2" hose clamp. No leaking for another 1000 miles until I replaced the hose.

It happens.
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Old 07-06-2020, 06:58 PM   #15
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I agree, but I'm not sure what pressure testing proves other than what we know--there's a leak. You still need to determine where. If the pressure test didn't show a leak that could mean it's the radiator cap, but I'm not sure that's a certainty.
I'd much rather go hand-over-hand on a cool engine and all hoses. Plus, when stopped and cool, the small stream or drip from a pinhole leak isn't blown away in the fan's slipstream.
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Old 07-06-2020, 07:18 PM   #16
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Did you check transmission oil? I have a 2000 Journey 36 with same engine and heat exchanger ruptured internally and coolant made it's way to the transmission.
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Old 07-06-2020, 10:26 PM   #17
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Hi Jim Hitek, you got the problem right on. Leak at the heater hose to pipe. Just a drip but probably more when driving. Made repairs at two places. Will test it tomorrow. Thanks to everyone for the input. Learned a lot from you guys ��
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Old 07-12-2020, 01:14 PM   #18
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Make it easy on yourself and put in a bottle of Bar's Leaks 1186 Liquid Aluminum Stop Leak. Doesn't hurt anything and can even be used as a preventive measure.

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Old 07-12-2020, 04:51 PM   #19
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Now, I have a V-10 F53 chassis. After I first purchased I too was using a 1/2 gallon or more an antifreeze every 200 miles or so. It was not running hot either. I took it in and they found out one of the hoses was routed up against the engine and had caused the leak. They put on a new hose and re-routed it and no issues after that. This sounds similar to your issue. Just an fyi.
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