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Any Mechanics out there...?

thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
edited May 2013 in The hub
Whilst driving home, my car decides that 50mph is all I need to do on the motorway (which is fine for the average speed section), until it started slowing down even though my foot was firmly on the accelerator. Whack it into 4th, nope. 3rd and it coughs and speeds up again.
Typically, it decided to go again as I passed a "No Hard Shoulder for 600 Yards" sign :shock: Luckily I limped past it, pulled over and turned the engine off.

I think something's wrong with the radiator or something. The fans in the engine are on overdrive all the time, and I'm only getting cold air inside. I noticed the cold air thing on Friday, driving over the motorway, and that when I turned the engine off, I could hear the fans turn off and whir down.

So basically, I have a Vauxhall Astra, 1.7 CDI '54 Plate, it's only blowing cold air, the engine fans are on absolute overdrive, and whilst driving it loses power and coughs a bit back into life.

Anyone any ideas?
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  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    no water in the cooling system. your engine has been cooking.

    check the coolant before driving it anywhere. you may have killed it.
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  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    Oh fook. Really? When you say I may have killed it... do you mean like my engine may be dead? :?
    Dumb question, is it just normal tap water I put in the coolant then, or is it special water from Halfords I need?

    EDIT: Aha, just found my Haynes manual. Apparently I need to add 50/50 antifreeze and water. Is it just regular Antifreeze that i would mix into the windscreen wash?
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  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    no not screen wash.

    coolant anti freeze.

    but plain water will do for now as it is not worth putting money in until you have worked out if it is dead or going dead.
    "Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path, and Leave a Trail."
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  • mattvmattv Posts: 992
    And check the inside of the oil filler cap for oily white sludge like mayonnaise. This would imply head gasket or a crack somewhere allowing water and oil to mix.
  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    OK cheers, I'll check these out. if this car is dead, then I'm screwed royally :?
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  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    Ok, I added a litre of coolant I bought from Wilkos, and it barely scratched the surface (there was a tiny drop left in the reservoir before this). So, I drove to Halfords and back (risky, but I think the litre I added helped). I then drained the system completely, added a litre of water, and drained that, then added 5 litres of already mixed stuff from Halfords. I've run the engine to get rid of bubbles (with the reservoir cap off), and filled up with what was left.

    Looks like I'll need another litre to just top it up, but how do I find out if I've caused damage? Or is the fact is running ok now the answer? It's sounding a lot better, that's for sure. After 10 minutes of running and revving, the engine fans didn't even come on, so I'm taking that as a good thing...
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  • bambabamba Posts: 856
    take it for a drive,up a steady hill or some where were the engine will be loaded up,keep an eye on the temp gauge.
    As above, probably head gasket gone or cracked cylinder head,unless you've had some recent work on the cooling system and its not been bled properly.
    what was the temp gauge reading at the time ?
    Head gaskets have a few different failure modes, water mixing with oil, oil mixing with water (failed oil/water heat exchangers also do this), water leaking internally with combustion gases being pumped in causing air locks,usually in the heater matrix.
    most of the time a head gasket an head skim will sort it out,be prepared for a big bill,I have seen some engine driven to destruction after over heating where the owner has driven them until they stopped
  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    My car doesn't have a temp gauge, so I've no idea if it was overheating. The fact the fans in the engine were running at max suggests it was.

    When I looked in the coolant reservoir, there was only a tiny amount left, probably about 0.5l in the entire system. It was probably on the verge of giving up. I don't think it is the head gasket, that would have caused smoke out the back of the car, but there isn't any
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  • stubsstubs Posts: 5,258
    I wouldnt drive the car any further till you get someone who knows what they are doing to check it out. You might be lucky and only have a leak somewhere which could be fixed with some radweld or you could be on the verge of the engine turning into a big paperweight. CDTi engines can run major mileage if well looked after but if you seize it or the head warps you are looking at a bill of £1200 plus.
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  • stubsstubs Posts: 5,258
    I don't think it is the head gasket, that would have caused smoke out the back of the car, but there isn't any

    No it wouldnt, stop running the engine and get it looked at you sound like you have zero idea what your doing.
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  • levolonlevolon Posts: 78
    stubs wrote:
    I wouldnt drive the car any further till you get someone who knows what they are doing to check it out. You might be lucky and only have a leak somewhere which could be fixed with some radweld or you could be on the verge of the engine turning into a big paperweight. CDTi engines can run major mileage if well looked after but if you seize it or the head warps you are looking at a bill of £1200 plus.


    couldn't agree more :wink:
  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    In fairness, I don't, but I'm just saying what other people are saying, and you're just another person saying something else.
    To be honest, I trust Nicklouse on this, straight away he said the coolant, and upon checking it, he's right, the coolant was practically empty. I'll open up the oil cap and have a look (it'll be cool enough now) for any white residue. If there is any, I'll call the RAC or someone.
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  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    Ok, just checked the oil cap. It's beautiful, smooth black gold in there. The Americans will come and invade my Astra if they saw it!
    Also ran it down to a shop and back, decent hill to test it on, probably 3/4 mile in total. Seems fine, no leakage of coolant noticeable yet, I'm keeping an eye on the measurement at the moment. I think I've fixed the problem, I don't think the head gasket has gone.
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  • bambabamba Posts: 856
    all of the symptoms you first described sujest a head gasket/cracked head failure,I would say 99% of any good vehicle mechanics would say the same until a proper diagnosis is carried out,
    As i said head gaskets have a few failure modes,the dont all contaminant the oil,a coolant leak between cylinders with combustion gas being pumped in is what you probably have of some severity,with out a temp gauge you have no idea whats going on until its too late. 3/4 of a mile is too short a test.
    You have fixed the symptom, not the problem
  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    We'll have to see is all. I can't argue with you, as I don't profess to know anything about cars other than how to drive them.
    Out of curiosity, what's your background (not accusing or anything, just interested). I know Nicklouse's which is why I listened to him.
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  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    errr so when is it booked in at a garage?

    they can do some tests to see what is fubared.

    if it is a head gasket get it sorted now before it gets very costly.

    oh you did check the oil level as well as the colour?
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  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    Yeah, oil level is fine. Not booked a garage, it'll have to wait until the weekend, I can't get it in before then
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  • stubsstubs Posts: 5,258
    We'll have to see is all. I can't argue with you, as I don't profess to know anything about cars other than how to drive them.
    Out of curiosity, what's your background (not accusing or anything, just interested). I know Nicklouse's which is why I listened to him.

    You know nothing about cars but when your given sensible advice you ignore it. Its your money we are trying to save :roll:

    If your head gasket has gone your looking at a fair chunk of money to fix it about £400 to 500 with labour. Around £80 to £100 for a head skim and rebuild, plus a new gasket, cam belt kit, alternator belt kit, possibly a new waterpump and new glow plugs.

    If you carry on driving without getting it checked out and you blow the engine up. Well 1.7 diesel engines with decent mileage are going for around the £650 mark plus a garage will book you 10 hours at least for the job at around £50 per hour for a grease monkey garage to £75 for a Vaux main dealer. On top of that you will also need going by experience around another £100 to 200 of parts to do the job properly.

    Me having been there seen it and got the oily T shirt doing the rebuilds I would take it to a garage and get it looked at it might be a split hose and cost you £20 it might not be.
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  • cameraukcamerauk Posts: 998
    As said before get it checked out, the coolant will not just have vanished by itself unless it has leaked somewhere
    it could be anything from a split hose, leaking radiator, leaking heater matrix, or head gasket but get it to a garage and get the cooling system pressure tested before you do any more harm and end up with a major bill.
    at the very least check the coolant level before you setoff to drive anywhere (Make sure the engine is cool)
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  • tarbot18tarbot18 Posts: 531
    More importantly have you never checked your water level !!!!!!! do you check your oil ? Tyres ?
    if none of the above ask someone how to do it otherwise your a danger to yourself and others on the road .

    As above if the water level has gone that low its affected the running of the engine there is a good chance youve screwed the engine.
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  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    :lol: I'm not that inept at cars. I check the oil and tyres quite regularly, as I drive on the motorway, so tyre pressure affects my mpg, and oil is just something I know to check. Coolant, as said previously, doesn't just vanish, so I don't really check it.

    I'll be checking the water coolant level tonight, and going for a slightly longer drive on Thursday (with a top up bottle if needed) to see if I'm losing it quickly or slowly.

    Thanks for all the advice though everyone, it is appreciated!
    It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.
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  • levolonlevolon Posts: 78
    had similar water loss on a mazda 323 years ago.

    it was a hairline crack in the exhaust port so only tell tale sign was a bit of steam from the pipe and water disappearing over time.
    the car was fortunately under warranty and needed a replacement head ..

    you may be lucky as said and simply have a lose hose that leaks, but as you dont seem to have water under the car im thinking its internal issue "most likely" so it may be worth looking at a part ex deal while you still can!! as its a 9-10 yr old vaux that will be worth nothing with a knackered engine and not that much with a good one.. sorry but old cars are worthless these days.
    trader will most likely auction it off cheap and then someone else can have the prob :wink:
  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    lon 456 wrote:
    had similar water loss on a mazda 323 years ago.
    Wow! That's a long time ago! ;)

    Yeah, I went on a mission last night, about 40mile round trip. Mostly motorway and stuck at 50mph. Checked the coolant before, during and after and it seemed fine.

    I've taken all your points on board, and really do appreciate it. I'm taking it to a garage tomorrow and asking them if they can find the fault. As you said, lon 456, if there is a bigger problem, then I'm looking at getting rid of it, as an old, knackered car isn't worth anything.
    To be honest, I've been expecting something to go wrong, as I recently passed the 100,000 mile mark and with it being a Vauxhall, knew that every mile past that was a blessing. I'm hoping to trade it in for a brand new car, as there are some fantastic offers on at the moment.

    Cheers all!
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  • 97th choice97th choice Posts: 2,305
    Coolant doesn't disappear by accident, get it to a garage.
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  • supermikesupermike Posts: 33
    bamba wrote:
    all of the symptoms you first described sujest a head gasket/cracked head failure,I would say 99% of any good vehicle mechanics would say the same until a proper diagnosis is carried out,
    As i said head gaskets have a few failure modes,the dont all contaminant the oil,a coolant leak between cylinders with combustion gas being pumped in is what you probably have of some severity,with out a temp gauge you have no idea whats going on until its too late. 3/4 of a mile is too short a test.
    You have fixed the symptom, not the problem


    I am a mechanic with 10 years experience and I agree 100% with this. If you keep trying to get around the problem by topping coolant up etc you will end up with a bigger bill at the end when the crack/blown head gasket really goes and your engine goes into melt down. Get it fixed now and it will be cheaper.
  • supermikesupermike Posts: 33
    +cold air out the heater is always a bad sign typicl of BHG.
  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    I took it to a mechanic, he doesn't think the head gasket has gone, he thinks that a water pipe is leaking is all. I'm going to go to another mechanics though to see what they can do, mainly because I couldn't get the car in due to them being busy.
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  • thekickingmulethekickingmule Posts: 7,957
    The car has now been in the garage. Turned out it needed a new radiator.
    They had to take the bumper off, then the intercooler, just so they could access the bolts for the radiator. They found that it had completely corroded due to the leak just above it, so it took them about 4 hours to replace in all.

    Final bill was £320 (inc. VAT). Pay day is on Friday. Great!
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  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    supermike wrote:
    +cold air out the heater is always a bad sign typicl of BHG.
    Nope it is just a sign of low water level.

    Mule. Good to hear it is fixed. Could have been worse.

    Car need TLC and more of it the older they are.
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  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,904
    Or a fubared thermostat, defaults open so the water just circulates and never gets hot enough.
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