Question about 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan

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Hi Expert, I have a 2001 dodge caravan 3.3L; 106,000 k,I noticed that i'm loosing coolant very often as well as the engine gets overheated, a mech. said it's the radiator that is leaking and he changed it!!!few days later i noticed that it's still leaking-a bit less than before-he said this is normal!!a month later i noticed the same problem is repeating itself again-worth to mention here that the coolant leaking is always COLD from the driver's side only to the right when facing the hood-This time he said it's the themostat,a minute later changed his mind to be the head gasket,when i mentioned the water pump; he said it needs to be changed along with the head gasket,no sign for blown gasket,coolent is not frothy or milky,oil check is almost normal, few droplets coming out of the end pipe,radiator cap is perfectly fixed, also when the engine gets overheated a noisy sound is heard, the engine sounds good when coolant is adequate what in your view this would be?

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It won't be possible to be sure without some extra testing, but your mechanic should be able to easily test these things.

First off, the location of the drip and the temperature of the fluid dripping won't always really tell you anything. The antifreeze may be dripping on something before it runs down via gravity to drip on the ground, and so it may leak somewhere far from where it drips. It also may travel by the frame or other cold steel, so it might not necessarily be hot when it drips to the ground.

I'll go over the other ideas one at a time:

a. Thermostat. This could for certain cause the overheating. If it were leaking from the thermostat, you would likely be able to see it.
b. Head gasket. This could also cause overheating, but if the head gasket is leaking you would either see it in the oil (you say you don't have signs of this) or it would be coming out the tailpipe. You say you don't have this sign either. It's possible you might not see it, but the mechanic should be able to pressurize the coolant system and push more coolant out than the leak would cause. You would then be able to see the white smoke from the exhaust.
c. Water pump. You would also probably be able to see a leak here.
d. Radiator cap. You say this is good.

The noise when overheated is not necessarily a good symptom, since the heat could be causing the noise. (Instead of the noise causing the overheating.)

One possibility you don't mention is the heater core. When heater cores leak, it's hard to see, and sometimes the antifreeze that leaks is cold, since unless the heater is running the fluid there may sit and cool off (no flow to circulate coolant).

So here's what to do:

1. Have the mechanic pressurize the coolant system to make sure it isn't the head gasket. You can also have them do an oil change so you can inspect the oil to make sure it has no coolant in it. This will help eliminate the head gasket as a possible cause.
2. Turn the heater on and see if the fluid that drips turns warm. If it does, the leak may be from the heater core or the hoses that go to it.
3. Get an inspection mirror and do a close inspection of the engine. If it's the water pump or thermostat, you should be able to see the drips show up on the mirror.

Keep me posted on what you find, and we'll go from there.

Posted on Oct 03, 2009

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