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Old 12-29-2008, 10:10 AM   #1
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Unhappy Steam from exhaust during cold startup

Hi guys

I've done some research on this but want to check with everyone here to see if i've missed anything. Basically my coolant level has went down steadily during the last couple of months and i notice during a cold startup in the morning, a lot of steam would come out and it takes over 10 minutes for the car to warm up to near 180. Once it's warmed out, i don't see the steam and the temp is fine (stays near 180) even after driving around local streets and freeway for hours. It's a 2003 base manual with 60k+ miles and i checked the overflow plastic tank and it is not leaking there...

After researching this for the past week on this forum (great stuffz here guys!) a couple of possible scenarios came up:

1. Heat exchanger failure: a rare but known problem that can lead to the burning of coolant. Although when i check the dipstick, the texture of the oil does not seem "chocolate" like, and I don't know how to tell inspect the exchanger to see if it's failed or not.

2. Heat gasket failure: need to run a pressure test to gather more data. Btw how often should this be replaced?

3. Cracked head: a more extensive cylinder compression test would be needed. Not sure i'm ready to tackle this yet...

I'm having a strong gut feeling towards [1] - or at least it's something I can tackle myself first and rule out the other two (expensive jobs).

Any takers?

happy holidays

Max

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Old 12-29-2008, 08:11 PM   #2
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Everything is normal. I think you are just worried too much!

As for the drop in coolant level in 2 months...I think it's normal unless you noticed a leak somewhere? Check the bottom of your car if there's any coolant drops, or anything in the interior that smells like a coolant.
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Old 12-29-2008, 08:14 PM   #3
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if it was coolant, it would smell really sweet. I think the cold weather is making for condensation - when will burn off 10-20 after the car is started or driven.

Hope that helps....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxodus
Hi guys

I've done some research on this but want to check with everyone here to see if i've missed anything. Basically my coolant level has went down steadily during the last couple of months and i notice during a cold startup in the morning, a lot of steam would come out and it takes over 10 minutes for the car to warm up to near 180. Once it's warmed out, i don't see the steam and the temp is fine (stays near 180) even after driving around local streets and freeway for hours. It's a 2003 base manual with 60k+ miles and i checked the overflow plastic tank and it is not leaking there...

After researching this for the past week on this forum (great stuffz here guys!) a couple of possible scenarios came up:

1. Heat exchanger failure: a rare but known problem that can lead to the burning of coolant. Although when i check the dipstick, the texture of the oil does not seem "chocolate" like, and I don't know how to tell inspect the exchanger to see if it's failed or not.

2. Heat gasket failure: need to run a pressure test to gather more data. Btw how often should this be replaced?

3. Cracked head: a more extensive cylinder compression test would be needed. Not sure i'm ready to tackle this yet...

I'm having a strong gut feeling towards [1] - or at least it's something I can tackle myself first and rule out the other two (expensive jobs).

Any takers?

happy holidays

Max
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:09 AM   #4
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Missouri
Posts: 226
How much coolant have you lost?

Regarding the steam and condensation in the exhaust, that is normal for any non-warmed-up car in cold weather. The amount varies with humidity and temperature. The time for the coolant temp to reach 180 is also normal in cooler weather... mine takes 15-20 minutes to hit that mark on cold days.
What these cars really need is an oil temp gauge... coolant temp is pretty much meaningless when it comes to your engine being warmed up.

To check for coolant in your oil, look at the underside of the oil filler cap... if it is white and milky, you most likely have a oil/coolant mix somewhere. That said, it can also indicate an engine that does a lot of short trips where it doesn't get totally warm.

If you have a different type of coolant leak, keep your nose out for a maple syrup-like smell. That's the smell of burnt coolant.

Good luck!

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