Important Shortcuts for Auto Service and Repairs

4 Signs There's a Problem with Your Coolant Reservoir

by Emilia Latvala

Your engine can reach extreme temperatures as fuel is burnt to power your vehicle. As such, that temperature must be controlled by the cooling system – a failing cooling system will eventually lead to overheating, which will itself eventually lead to a complete breakdown. This system runs on coolant fluid, and that fluid is held in the coolant reservoir.

If there is a leak in the reservoir, your car won't be able to properly control its temperature, so you need to understand what signs indicate that there is a problem. Here are four common red flags.

1. Leaks

Coolant reservoirs may develop cracks or other signs of damage over time. This will cause coolant to leak out and drop down beneath your vehicle. It is unlikely that you will leave a noticeable trail of coolant unless the leak is severe, but you may notice a small pool of liquid collecting under your car after it has been parked for a while. Coolant will look quite sticky, and is usually brightly coloured. If you do see any, make sure you completely clean it up – coolant is extremely toxic to both people and pets.

2. Sweet, Rich Odour  

Coolant can't just be distinguished from other fluids thanks to its bright colour – you'll also be able to distinguish it thanks to its rich, sweet smell. If the leaked fluid is sweet-smelling, it's probably coolant. The smell is actually quite strong, so it can also penetrate the interior of the vehicle while you're driving. Should you notice such a smell when you're behind the wheel, even if there aren't any discernible drips beneath the vehicle, consider it a strong warning sign.

3. Steam Rising from Engine

The coolant reservoir is quite close to other vital vehicle systems, and any small leaks can see coolant flowing along the engine's component surfaces. When this occurs while the engine is hot, steam may be produced. You're unlikely to see billowing clouds of it flooding out of the hood, but a small amount of steam is certainly something that you need to worry about.

4. Coolant Levels Are Falling

One of the problems with measuring the level of coolant in your reservoir is that the temperature of the engine tends to make changes to that level. However, you can still get a good idea of whether your reservoir is leaking if noticeable drops are seen. Try filling your car with coolant in the morning when the car has been inactive during the night, then measure it at the same time in a few days.

For assistance with car repairs, talk to a mechanic.