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Published On: Tue, Apr 17th, 2018

How to know if your cooling system is leaking and what you can do

A leaking cooling system can be an issue for many reasons. Knowing the signs, how to perform a quick fix, and when you may need a tow, can be important in ensuring a minor issue doesn’t turn into a major headache. As we head into summer’s higher temperatures, now is the time to learn a few quick tricks.

photo/ ClkerFreeVectorImages via Pixabay

Visible signs

A vehicle check before you head out on a trip, or head home from a trip, is always a good idea. Beyond the usual tire check, looking under the vehicle to be sure there aren’t any puddles of fluid, wet spots, or even just droplets on the pavement is also a good idea. If you don’t relish the idea of crouching down for a check, just move your vehicle a few feet ahead or back to check the pavement for anything suspicious.

If you do see something but aren’t convinced it came from your vehicle, leave it to sit for a little while and then do another thorough check. Keep in mind that if you’re leaving the car for 10 or 15 minutes, rather than overnight, the evidence won’t be as significant so you’ll have to check thoroughly to be sure you don’t miss the signs.

Check under the hood

Even those who would say they don’t know one part of the engine from the next can benefit from a quick engine check, again looking for signs of something wet, levels that are low, or something not quite right. Believe me, if you check your engine regularly, even if you don’t know what you’re looking for or at, you’ll recognize if something is visibly wrong.

Understand that wetness usually dries up or evaporates quickly on a hot engine so if you’re seeing moisture after the car has been sitting for a while, you’re seeing an active leak that should be dealt with before you head off.

Early signs of trouble

If you’re lucky, you may see early signs before something actually becomes an issue. A hose that is dry or cracked, or that bulges, can indicate it is near the end of its life and needs to be replaced, or may point to another related issue. Either way, if it doesn’t look right, get someone who does know to check it out.

On the road

It’s also important to know your vehicle so if you are driving, and something is happening under the hood, you recognize the signs. Don’t ignore or dismiss noises that you don’t normally hear, don’t dismiss a feeling that the vehicle is not driving the way it usually does, and know where your engine’s temperature gauge normally runs so you know immediately if it starts to run warmer than is normal.

Know when it can wait

If you’re at home or in town and you realize there is something minor wrong, you may be okay to take it straight to a repair place to have it fixed. You may even be able to apply some duct tape to temporarily hold the leak until you can get it to where you need to do.

If, however, the leak is large, or the evidence you’re seeing on the pavement suggests you may have lost a lot of whatever liquid is involved, there is the potential that the vehicles safety may be compromised and a tow may be required. In this case, it’s best not to try to patch it since, despite what we may believe to be true, duct tape really can’t fix everything, at least not for the long term.

If you do need to call a towing service, be sure it is one you have vetted ahead of time, or that you have had a referral for. J&C Towing is one local company that I know can be relied on not to take advantage of a driver in trouble.

The bottom line here is that you don’t have to know engines to be able to tell if something is wrong. Take five minutes to check and save yourself a problem that could cost you hours.

Author: Anderson Lele

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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