I would check the color of the diesel in the fuel tank first. Siphon a small sample out into a clear container. If it has a yellowish apperance to it and is not transparent combined with the fact that you are losing water I would strongly suspect the injector tubes in the cylinder head. The coolant passes around them so when they leak you can get water in the diesel and diesel in the water. That would the most likley cause, the other possibility is a cracked head. The air conditioner does use water at all. It condenses water on the coils from the air and drips down, more so on humid days.
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Trying to understand from what you wrote..It sounds like something is not recirculating correctly.I would change out the thermostat first because it's the cheapest thing you can do..It might be getting stuck...not opening normal..When you said you turned on the heater and no hot air.. there's a hose right there at the thermostat that runs to your heater core usually under your glove box..If your not getting hot air then the water is not recirculating through your heater core..it could be a valve that is stuck when selecting heat that's not working also.. Flush your radiator..Open the radiator cap only after car motor has cooled down..Drain the radiator...There's a small turn valve nut at the bottom of it..Watch what comes out..is the water rusty color especially as it slows down from draining...They make radiator flush.. Also you can buy a thermostat that opens sooner...Like if yours is 180...you can buy one that opens at 160..A lot of cars are missing the black spoilers under the car that help push air up to keep motor cool..Make sure your water pump is good..Cat converter is not clogged in front of muffler...It will make you car run hot if it's getting clogged...Also Find out where your losing coolant...I've seen on holes in the heater core that leek from where your AC condensed water drips out..It will fool you and loose about a cup of water.. Smell the water your loosing also....if it's dripping from where the AC water is and you smell coolant...You have a bad heating core
Generally, in motor vehicles, the cabin air fans get the warm air from the same hot water/coolant circulating through the engine.
Surely, the leaking staff is antifreeze from the air blower heater element like a radiator. check the hoses in case of breaking and their joint in case of loose clamps.
I doubt the cooling problem is either. The most common reason for running hot at slow speeds is not enough air coming thru the radiator. Either the cooling fan is not coming on, or there is a blockage in the radiator. And the loud noise could be a mount. You may want to get a second opinion before having the repair done.
I have an older Chrysler Town and Country but I had the same problem, I found mine to be a leaking radiator, check all of your hose connections and if you have the flimsy plastic radiator in your van, get the more expensive aluminum version. The plastic radiator melts at the bottom because the are required to be grounded and sometimes this is not done properly, therefore sending an electric current through the radiator melting out the bottom, went through three of these before anyone let me know that they had to be grounded. If there are no leaks under your radiator or hoses, the next thing I would check is your cylinder head the burning smell could be dripping from your head to your exhaust. I would say you have a nice sized leak some where because with these vans if you do not have enough coolant in them they will not produce hot air fill your radiator up with more coolant and then test your heater, it should work but until you find the leak I would make sure to keep extra water/coolant inside the van.
my 98 Blazer I had to replace radiator water pump heatercore and hoses. Had head gasket go. Once that happens air and dexcool corrode cooling system. Do you smell antifreeze? Are you loosing antifreeze? Check oil see if its another color not clear or black but i think light brown. Have you flushed out system?
Since your blower is working and it is a heat issue,thats where we'll
start,First thing is have you checked the coolant level in the radiator when
engine is cold,make sure it is filled to top,next verify you have coolant in
reserve ,Start your van and get it up to normal operation temperature,If your
heat gauge on the dash works correctly it should be 190 degrees,Now lift the
hood and locate the two heater hoses going into the heater assembly at the fire
wall,Both hoses should be hot to hold on to,if both are hot and no heat inside
your problem will be the blend air door in heater assembly. if neither hose
is that hot you need to replace the thermostat in the engine to get it up to 195
degrees. if one hose is hot and one is luke warm then the heater core is
blocked and to blame. hope this helps you
i know the shop told you its the head gasket, but it sounds like the water pump is out not the gasket.. because the pump is barely pulling water, thats why the car is hot but no hot air..if rad. is full of coolant, even if it is the head gasket you should still have hot air.... this is a lot cheaper than a head gasket..$100 verse $2000.. i know what sounds bettter to me..lol.. trust me...keith..