2002 WRX ... coolant smell underhood sometimes ... can't find leak ?
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This is a discussion on 2002 WRX ... coolant smell underhood sometimes ... can't find leak ? within the General Maintenance, Troubleshooting & Accidents. forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; Every so often (after long rides) I notice a smell of antifreeze after I pop the hood. Its not amazing ...

  1. #1
    Registered User Mello's Avatar
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    Question 2002 WRX ... coolant smell underhood sometimes ... can't find leak ?

    Every so often (after long rides) I notice a smell of antifreeze after I pop the hood. Its not amazing strong but noticeable. Also there is sometimes antifreeze sitting on top of the rad and I think on the tray at the bottom of the engine bay underneath the rad. I purchased the car two weeks ago from the dealership, its not overheating or anything like that, but I'm just a little concerned. I hate taking it over there cause I get the "nothing is wrong" treatment until the car catches fire and there like "ya your gas cap was loose". So tomorrow I want to take some time and see if I can find a leak and or fill my new suby with new fluids. It's been cold here in NY but I was wondering if the turbo may be burning a little bit of water every so often, sometimes the exhaust gas is whiter then I'd expect it to normally be. On an 02 I didn't expect to see a whole honestly. Any ideas?

    I searched a bit .. but haven't really found anything related to this.

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    Registered User Robman7835's Avatar
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    I have a slow leak as well......i'm planning on getting it up on the lift tomorrow and pinpointing the location.........
    PSM Bugeye..Cobb Stage 2

  4. #3
    Registered User Mello's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robman7835 View Post
    I have a slow leak as well......i'm planning on getting it up on the lift tomorrow and pinpointing the location.........
    Make sure to post up here and let me know what you find. I wont have access to a lift till .. Monday or Tues. of next week.

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    Registered User blackzwrx's Avatar
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    It may be a pinhole leak like stated above, and is collecting in the bottem. Or the dealership could have toped-off the rad before they sold it and spilled some. I do that some times when I'm at work and I top off fluids. In the cold weater that smell hangs around. But you say that it is on top? Do you wipe it off? Then it comes back? Have you checked or tried replacing the cap? How does the rubber ring or gasket look on the cap? Try wiping off crusted up coolant off the cap or replacing it.

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    Registered User Robman7835's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mello View Post
    Make sure to post up here and let me know what you find. I wont have access to a lift till .. Monday or Tues. of next week.

    It ended up just being a loose hose on the bottom right of the radiator....
    PSM Bugeye..Cobb Stage 2

  7. #6
    Registered User Mello's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robman7835 View Post
    It ended up just being a loose hose on the bottom right of the radiator....
    I found what looks to be a leak on the right side of the rad. Its a silver block with what I think had a metal hose or two coming from it. I'll take pictures if I can after work if I have time.

  8. #7
    Registered User jarcaf's Avatar
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    Just thought I'd throw in my experience w/ a coolant leak to see if it helps you out. I was noticing the same faint coolant smell ever since i purchased the car (2002 WRX, about a month ago), and i assumed it was just smelly air being squeezed out the top of the coolant reservoir... being that it's not exactly an airtight seal.
    BUT!!! I was driving on I-5 here in oregon on the way back from a nice trip on the coastal roads and I looked down to see my temperature at 3/4 and climbing. I mean, I was really watching it climb. In under 30 seconds it was just short of critical, and I ended up spending about 2 hours at a car-parts shop while it cooled down so I could repair what I was convinced to be a leaking radiator. About a 1/2 hr before the temp spike, I got stuck behind a truck that was shooting rocks like bullets, so this seemed logical to me... besides the fact that it looked like the steam was coming from the radiator. I realized that the condenser core was in the way of the flying rocks, but stranger things have happened.
    To make a long story short... well, less long: After towing back to a mechanic [The first time i've ever decided to turn a car over to a mechanic] The fan had been chopping at the hidden side of the upper radiator hose for apparently a VERY long time, and it had finally developed into a full blown leak. The hose was replaced and shortened on both ends by about an inch to maintain an adequate clearance. I had them flush out the system to get rid of the StopLeak, and it cost me 130 bucks + $56 for the 20 mile tow (Thank you AAA).

    Moral of the story: Check EVERY square inch of your hoses if you think you might have a leak.

    Then again, I don't know that the coolant smell issue has been resolved. There is still residual antifreeze laying around, so I'll get back to you all once I know it's burned off.

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    Registered User koogxone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jarcaf View Post
    The fan had been chopping at the hidden side of the upper radiator hose for apparently a VERY long time, and it had finally developed into a full blown leak.
    ohmygod, the EXACT thing happened to me. the fan had some rough edges and it was chopping away at the wall of the hose.. COMPLETELY through that reinforced sleeve thats on the stock one. on the way home last week when this happened, i too saw the temperature gauge just going crazy on me =/

    the new rad hose i got at the dealership had a lot more clearance and i didn't have to cut it or anything at all

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    i had to replace my radiator a year ago when the top seam (plastic/metal) started leaking. It was hard to spot at first but as you mentioned I could smell it. Then is continuously got worse.

    Take a look at the seams

  11. #10
    Registered User jarcaf's Avatar
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    re koogxone: Sounds like we're driving the same car!
    But yeah, I'm afraid the smell isn't fading yet, so probably not gonna happen till i fix the mystery leak. I was afraid it would be the tanks, so i'll check it out in the morning.

  12. #11
    Registered User koogxone's Avatar
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    hahah seriouslyy. mine still smells like coolant sometimes after some hard drives, but its because i spilled a little bit on the bottom of the engine bay and didnt completely clean it up -__-;.

    check your radiator welds maybe?

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    re: seams

    Quote Originally Posted by njsonicwrx View Post
    i had to replace my radiator a year ago when the top seam (plastic/metal) started leaking. It was hard to spot at first but as you mentioned I could smell it. Then is continuously got worse.

    Take a look at the seams

    Regarding seams, just wanted to throw in my experience as well, since I found this thread looking for answers on a similar hard to find, slow coolant leak. Maybe someone else can use this info.

    THE SCENARIO:
    Over the past few weeks was experiencing from a faint to strong sickly sweet smell of leaking coolant in my '02 WRX. After a number of recent drives (on the highway) there were spatters of coolant all over the engine near the radiator on the drivers side. After leaving my car parked while doing errands, there was a pool of coolant on the ground. However, it wasn't at all obvious were this leak was coming from.... soo....

    CHECKING FOR PROBLEMS:
    I pretty much ruled out hose leaks or water pump leaks.
    At someone else's suggestion, with the hood open, i left my car in neutral and reved the engine up to 3.5 - 4k rpms to try and replicate what had caused the coolant to spatter all over the place. I didn't observe any spattering (I'm assuming that happened as a result of highway driving and various normal bumbs on the road), but there was definitely some leakage going on at the top of the radiator, a kind of seepage.

    I thought maybe it was the seam / crimps connecting the radiator tank to the radiator itself that were lose, so I used a socket wrench extender and a mallet to tap any that might not be tight enough:



    WHERE I FOUND THE LEAK:
    Doing this tapping as described above is what actually revealed the leak, which was a sizable crack in the radiator tank. Whenever I tapped on the crimps, the coolant would seep and spill out of the crack, which I promptly sealed with plastic tank repair putty and marine sealant over that:




    Problem solved (for now)
    Last edited by belacane; 10-02-2011 at 03:46 PM.

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    Just found this post while searching for coolant issues. Would like to chime in that I discovered the exact same leak in the exact same location as mentioned above.

    Can you elaborate as to how you sealed the crack? Also after sealing the crack, is it enough to just refill the white plastic tank to full, or should I do a full coolant replacement (it's not technically due for one at the moment, and there is some coolant still in the tank, but below the "low" line).

  15. #14
    Registered User oguitar's Avatar
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    You need a new radiator. That is the only way you will properly fix your problem.
    Life is like riding a bicycle in order to keep your balance you must keep moving.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oguitar View Post
    You need a new radiator. That is the only way you will properly fix your problem.
    well yeah but in the mean time it held up better than just leaving the crack with nothing in it.

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