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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Radiator may have rust/salt deposits inside, if that is case its cheaper and better to change the radiator. Also for future don't use normal tap water in radiator, use a coolant + ph balanced water meant for radiators to reduce salt buildup inside radiator.
Also check the radiator fan is working ok and rotating in the right direction, sucking cool air inside not blowing out hot engine air to the radiator. Some electric fans can have wires mixed up so they start in the wrong direction. (make sure fan is sucking cool air outside towards the engine).
In some cars, radiator fan has a top cover that stops hot engine air getting sucked by the fan, if your car has it, make sure it is fitted properly and is in good order.
Some cars have a fan fitted on the AC condenser, make sure this fan is working as well.
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?
The heater core would not cause you needing a quart or two of coolant to fill it up. And the water pump would not affect this either. Something is blocking the system, it could be something in the radiator or something in one of the hoses. You might try taking the top hose off and filling the engine with the radiator blocked off. Or fill the radiator with the engine blocked.
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..