Hello! Log in or Register   |  Help  |  Donate  |  Buy Shirts  See all banner ads | Advertise on TheSamba.com  
TheSamba.com
 
URGENT Advice needed: safe to drive with coolant issue?
Forum Index -> Vanagon Share: Facebook Twitter
Reply to topic
Print View
Quick sort: Show newest posts on top | Show oldest posts on top View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
RaxAdam
Samba Member


Joined: September 03, 2011
Posts: 101
Location: Montreal
RaxAdam is offline 

PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:58 pm    Post subject: URGENT Advice needed: safe to drive with coolant issue? Reply with quote

Howdy -

I'm on the road in North Adams, MA & my '89 Vanagon Camper started smoking & the oil light went on: I appear to have a leak somewhere in the coolant system (topped it off, drove a bit & it was almost empty again).

I have booked an appointment with a nearby mechanic (thank god they could see me!) but they are 6.5mi away. I wanted to know if it was safe for me to drive the van there in short stings (drive until it starts getting warm, let it cool for an hour, "rinse & repeat")?

I can have it towed, but would rather not if not entirely necessary, but don't know enough to make the call myself. Any advice would be appreciated. Details on what happened below.

Thanks in advance!

Rax


The situation: I was driving early this morning & around 15mins into the trip, the oil light turned on & smoke started pouring out the back. Pulled over & the coolant tank was extremely low, but the overflow tank was completely full. I manually drained the overflow tank and put the fluid back in the main coolant tank, but that didn't fill it. Things settled down a bit, enough for me to make it to a store to buy more coolant. Topped off the tank, but the whole thing repeated: 10mins & it was smoking more than ever. When I pulled over this last time, fluid was freely leaking out the back & the main tank was back down to the nearly empty level at which it had been prior to filling. I just hope it's a simple leak & not something more serious. I check the other tubes with the engine running & they didn't go "hard" right away - so I don't think it is a pressure issue.

Any help appreciated enormously!



~ Uncomfortably warm in North Adams
_________________
'89 Vanagon (camper w/ 3-way fridge)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Classifieds Feedback
RaxAdam
Samba Member


Joined: September 03, 2011
Posts: 101
Location: Montreal
RaxAdam is offline 

PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know it hasn't been long since the post: but any thoughts?
_________________
'89 Vanagon (camper w/ 3-way fridge)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Classifieds Feedback
xoo00oox
Samba Member


Joined: February 11, 2010
Posts: 2180
Location: East Nassau, NY
xoo00oox is offline 

PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a VW shop in NY about an 45 min from North Adams, MA. I've got lots of Vanagon parts here.
Are you sure it was the oil light on and not the coolant light? When you say it was smoking, do you mean out the tailpipe or smoke off the engine? I have tons of new and used parts here and will be here today until 3 then closed Sun and Mon. 518.766.5654.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Gallery Classifieds Feedback
oasis
Samba Member


Joined: December 12, 2002
Posts: 2010

oasis is offline 

PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're not going to like my answer, but it's still my best advice. I wouldn't take a Vanagon to any-old mechanic; I'd take it to someone who knows VW's, and specifically Vanagon's. Furthermore, I would error on the side of caution and have the darn thing towed -- even 45 minutes.

If it were just something simple without a diagnosis needed (like a clutch), then I could see nursing it someplace close, and let them get and install the proper part. This is different, and Vanagon's are different.
_________________
Now: 2003 New Beetle Turbo S / 2014 Tiguan R-Line 4motion / 2013 Tiguan S / 2002 Golf GLS TDI
Past: 1974 Thing Acapulco / 2009 Eos Komfort / 1997 Jetta GT / 2002 Cabrio GLX / 2002 Passat GLS / 1971 Super Beetle / 1993 EuroVan MV Westfalia / 1981 Pickup LX / 1985 Vanagon / 1986 Jetta GLI
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Gallery Classifieds Feedback
Low67vdubinnocal
Samba Member


Joined: July 21, 2006
Posts: 840
Location: norcal
Low67vdubinnocal is offline 

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think if you ask to have your question moved over to the vanagon section you will get a lot more answers and help.
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewforum.php?f=20
Years ago my wife drove our 84 Vanagon leaking and it didnt last long before it was melted.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Gallery Classifieds Feedback
EverettB Premium Member
Administrator


Joined: April 11, 2000
Posts: 64130
Location: Phoenix, AZ
EverettB is offline 

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moved to Vanagon
_________________
How to Post Photos
Everett Barnes - [email protected] | My wanted ads
"Water is the only drink for a wise man" | "Communication prevents complaints"
Stop dead photo links! Post your photos to The Samba Gallery!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Facebook Instagram Gallery Classifieds Feedback
IdahoDoug
Samba Member


Joined: June 12, 2010
Posts: 9961
Location: N. Idaho
IdahoDoug is offline 

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Vanagon coolant system is one of the most make-specific aspects of its unique engine so I would be a little concerned about just any shop being able to competently help you. I'd go farther to a shop with knowledge.

As for your issue - I don't really understand it. Smoke is different from steam from a coolant leak. And an oil light coming on is different from a coolant light. Atop that, you have not mentioned any actual operating problems (like temp gauge getting hot, etc) so you seem to be simply driving around with a coolant leak and doing a good job of monitoring your coolant levels and ensuring your engine does not get low. So I suggest you clarify what's up.

DougM
_________________
1987 2WD Wolfsburg Vanagon Weekender "Mango", two fully locked 80 Series LandCruisers. 2016 Subaru Outback boxer. 1990 Audi 90 Quattro 20V with rear locking differential. 1988 Mitsubishi Van w/ dual spinny seats, mid engine and solid axle.1990 burgundy parts Vanagon. 1984 Porsche 944, 1992 Lexus LS400, 1988 Toyota Supra 5 speed targa project in pieces, 2002 BMW 325iX
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Gallery Classifieds Feedback
GBA 88West LA
Samba Member


Joined: September 04, 2008
Posts: 1278
Location: New Hampshire
GBA 88West LA is offline 

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dont drive it Shocked tow it
_________________
88 Westy GL Vanaru 07 2.5 EJ25/AA Trans/oiling plates, 1.14 3rd-.77-4th..solar powered cabin
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Gallery Classifieds Feedback
SteveVanB
Samba Member


Joined: June 01, 2008
Posts: 1643
Location: This side of Daytona
SteveVanB is offline 

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It sounds like a blown head gasket causing the coolant to push into the overflow res........Better tow that thing........
_________________
91 CARAT
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Gallery Classifieds Feedback
SL1
Samba Member


Joined: December 17, 2010
Posts: 251
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
SL1 is offline 

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

yep, get it towed before you cook your engine, the oil light is disconcerning enough, but your make-up tank getting filled up is also a bad sign, could be anything from a clogged up rad to bad heads/seals. don't take a chance by driving it. Shocked

and you also need a VW mech that knows about the waterboxers - anybody else will be taking an uneducated guess
_________________
Steve
1985 GL Westy - 'Bullwinkle'
1978 Super Beetle - 'Rocky'
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Classifieds Feedback
crazyvwvanman
Samba Member


Joined: January 28, 2008
Posts: 8682
Location: Orbiting San Diego
crazyvwvanman is offline 

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have found out more than once some people will say "oil light" when they mean the flashing led in the temp gauge. I have found more than once some people will say smoke when it is really steam. Hard to say what is going on without futher probing. Could be a simple leaking hose or leaky waterpump.

Mark


SL1 wrote:
yep, get it towed before you cook your engine, the oil light is disconcerning enough, but your make-up tank getting filled up is also a bad sign, could be anything from a clogged up rad to bad heads/seals. don't take a chance by driving it. Shocked

and you also need a VW mech that knows about the waterboxers - anybody else will be taking an uneducated guess
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Gallery Classifieds Feedback
molson88
Samba Member


Joined: April 28, 2004
Posts: 134
Location: Gabriola Island, BC
molson88 is offline 

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SteveVanB wrote:
It sounds like a blown head gasket causing the coolant to push into the overflow res........Better tow that thing........


Even a small leak in the head gasket can cause this problem. It happened to us on our first long trip in our Westy, but we were about a thousand kilometers from the nearest VW dealer. We just kept topping up the coolant and kept driving... and bleeding the radiator once a day or so. We ended up putting nearly 10,000 km on the van on that trip before we were able to get it fixed.

The same problem happened again the following summer, so we finally bit the bullet and went with a permanent fix (Subaru EJ22).
_________________
Cliff
99 Eurovan Camper (current)
88 Vanagon GL Camper with Subaru EJ22 (gone)
83 Vanagon Camper (best forgotten...)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website Classifieds Feedback
SL1
Samba Member


Joined: December 17, 2010
Posts: 251
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
SL1 is offline 

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

so there you go, some say drive it, some say tow it

the advice I got last year was exactly the same - I decided to take the easy way - drive it and top up the system. Only cost me $700 for the towing and 3K to have engine rebuilt. ( 250 mile tow, major top end rebuild)
my choice, my mistake, my fault, there is tons of good advice on this site
you've got to read these posts and decide for yourself - advice is always free, but sometimes the easiest way is not the best

good luck
_________________
Steve
1985 GL Westy - 'Bullwinkle'
1978 Super Beetle - 'Rocky'
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Classifieds Feedback
molson88
Samba Member


Joined: April 28, 2004
Posts: 134
Location: Gabriola Island, BC
molson88 is offline 

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SL1 wrote:
so there you go, some say drive it, some say tow it

the advice I got last year was exactly the same - I decided to take the easy way - drive it and top up the system. Only cost me $700 for the towing and 3K to have engine rebuilt. ( 250 mile tow, major top end rebuild)
my choice, my mistake, my fault, there is tons of good advice on this site
you've got to read these posts and decide for yourself - advice is always free, but sometimes the easiest way is not the best

good luck


Just for clarification, I was referring to my experience with a specific symptom (leaking combustion gases pressuring up the cooling system causing a gradual loss of coolant).

The OP hasn't given enough information regarding his situation... such as what is the temperature gauge reading, what is the condition and level of the engine oil?
_________________
Cliff
99 Eurovan Camper (current)
88 Vanagon GL Camper with Subaru EJ22 (gone)
83 Vanagon Camper (best forgotten...)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website Classifieds Feedback
J Charlton Premium Member
Samba Member


Joined: August 24, 2007
Posts: 1475
Location: The True North Strong and Free
J Charlton is offline 

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:01 am    Post subject: coolant leak Reply with quote

Unless you KNOW that its a small leak and you can safely proactively fill the system to enable you to drive it a few km, don't drive it. Find the leak and fix it, even a temporary fix or get it towed.
Here is a Montreal contact for you Shop Atelier Mecanique Eric 514 830 8350
[email protected] good guy, very knowledgeable in Montreal
_________________
NAHT hightop availability October 2020 - distribution October
Distribution plan 2020: Springfield Mass 3 tops 1 available Staunton Va 4(3available), Florida4(2 available), Colorado 6 (4 available), SLC 6 (5 available), Bend Oregon (for Oregon, California- 8 - 5 available), Kennewick Wa 8, GTA (Toronto) TBD
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Gallery Classifieds Feedback
RaxAdam
Samba Member


Joined: September 03, 2011
Posts: 101
Location: Montreal
RaxAdam is offline 

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear All,

First - THANK YOU all for your responses: I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

This post is pretty long, so I've titled the paragraphs for quick navigation, splitting it into three parts: i) how things played out; ii) for the benefit of those in a similar situation in the future; iii) present woes.

How things played out
I had to make a decision that day & had, it seems, posted in the wrong forum (still getting oriented): turns out there was a crack in the threading of the coolant system sensor. Unfortunately this took the mechanic ~6h to sort out (after replacing many of the old coolant hoses that did not exactly inspire confidence and removing the tank twice). Fortunately, he was kind enough to only charge me for half of those hours (still price).

And yes: I was mistaken, what I called the "oil light" was the red light in the temperature gauge.

However, it turned out this wasn't the end of my troubles: the resistor at the front of the van that is (somehow) a part of the radiator system had burnt out and I'm not entirely sure what else was giving grief, but the coolant started spilling over again a few days later [nearly resulting in my having a mental breakdown: I slept that night at a "Foodmaster", with a meeting with a Harvard professor hanging over my head first thing that next morning and no clear way of getting there in time - what a night!].

I ended up making it to a mechanic in Natick, MA (Greg's VW): he took one look at the coolant tank and diagnosed the issue. He replaced the tank itself as well as the sensor (again); a few hoses & connectors specific to the VW as well as the resistor at the front of the van*. Things have been working okay since then.

I say "okay" because the coolant light keeps turning on, but I don't know why: the levels are fine. I initially felt that the temperature gauge was also reading higher than it had before (I thought it had usually been just above the top of the lightbulb - i.e. roughly 2/3 up - and now it was closer to 3/4 of the way to the "max" line). I had the mechanic look over the system again, but he reported that everything seemed to be responding well: heating up until the rad fans kicked in & the cooling off. In the weeks that followed, I found that the temperature gauge normalized at a lower point during highway driving, but would go up to the 3/4 point (and threaten to go higher) when I was in the city (i.e. start & stop).

For the benefit of anyone who has a similar question in the future: I ended up letting the van cool, topping off the coolant and driving, slowly the 6mi/10km to the local mechanic, watching the temp gauge the whole time. This decision was based on my having seen that it was a leak in the vicinity of the coolant tank and having been previously informed that the smoke was, as others pointed out, actually steam and probably okay to drive the short distance. If I had not had that confidence, I'd've had it towed.

Present situation:
I've put a few thousand miles on the van since: both city and highway driving (the majority being highway, of course). The coolant light has persisted in blinking: sometimes turning off if I turn off the engine and start up again; sometimes coming and going - the levels had been fine until recently.

At one point, 2 weeks ago there were a few drops of coolant that spewed from somewhere and caused a bit of steam, but the issue was minor and didn't persist and I was too terrified to face the possibility that I'd have to take it in again, so lived in practical denial (not the best solution, granted: but I had been living out of the van for 2.5 months at that point, on business, no less, so was too worn down to be proactive).

On my trip home [sweet, sweet, sweet, home], some new rumblings started storing up from both the back and front of the van and the temp gauge climbed high for a bit. I eased off the speed a bit every time the noise came up and it slowly died down to an occasional grumble: something like a fan at the front passenger side (though not the "jet engine" noise of the radiator in '2nd gear').

Upon arriving home, I checked the oil and was surprised to find it was way below the min. (shouldn't the oil light turn on for this?!). I also noticed that the expansion tank for the coolant system was bone dry, when it had been topped up not long ago (2 weeks). Finally, the transmission fluid also seemed low (having also been topped up not long ago).

I've added oil, and have the transmission fluid, but [the confession:] I'm a real bookish guy and this is my first vehicle (let alone Vanagon!), and wasn't able to find the place for adding transmission fluid. Lastly, I don't have coolant on me, so have to pick some up before topping off the expansion tank.

I have an appointment with a friendly mechanic next Monday, but it is a 2h drive away - so I guess I'm ending this post by asking the original question again: safe to drive it? How can I sort it out?

Being at home again, I can (& will) respond to the thread quickly.

Thanks to all for their help - it is very much appreciated.

All the best,

Rax

ps. please also consider this a general call for advice on maintenance and care for a VW: i've struggled so far to find material that is accessible to me. I had hoped to find an owners group where I could learn from others in person, but have yet to find such a thing: any & all advice warmly welcome.


* he mentioned that the manufacturer for these ceramic resistors has stopped producing them and that it was merely good luck for me that he happened to have one of the last ones in stock: is it true that these can no longer be sourced?
_________________
'89 Vanagon (camper w/ 3-way fridge)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Classifieds Feedback
r39o
Samba Polizei


Joined: May 18, 2005
Posts: 9689
Location: San Diego
r39o is offline 

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Read the Coolant Temperature Gauge threads from the FAQ......
_________________
"Use the SEARCH, Luke" But first visit the Vanagon FAQ!

1990 Multivan EJ 22, Rancho trans 0.82 4th, Small Car front AC, CLKs w/ 215/65-16, homemade big brakes 303mm, Konis, Recaros, etc....

Click to see my ads for Cup holders, Subaru clutch fix and CLK wheels (no wheels currently)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Gallery Classifieds Feedback
buildyourown
Samba Member


Joined: March 01, 2009
Posts: 1667
Location: Seattle
buildyourown is offline 

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have foudn your place to learn about proper care for these vehicles. There si no dumb question and people here are very knowledgable about vans and vehicles in general. Welcome.

I wouldn't put too much energy into diagnosing a blinking coolant light. The higher temp gauge is concerning and I would investigate that. First guess: Air bubble in coolant system. Search and do a proper bleed and see if that settles things down.
Maybe I'm being niave about the light but mine has been flashing intermittenely for months with no other symptoms or predictability. I go off the gauge and the coolant level.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Instagram Gallery Classifieds Feedback
elsyr
Samba Member


Joined: May 06, 2008
Posts: 270
Location: North Florida
elsyr is offline 

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe the fan resistors are now available again. I tend to buy stuff from Van Cafe most often (I like the cookies), but Bus Depot and/or Go Westy or others might also have them.

EDIT - just checked Van Cafe and they appear to be out of stock again.

As mentioned, there are lots of ways the coolant level sensor/indicator can go funny, and there's a good thread on it. An air bubble in the coolant system can also, as mentioned, cause all sorts of wierd behavior. Learning to bleed the system properly should be one of the first things you master. If I can manage it - anyone can.

In my case, fixing the blinking was a matter of replacing the sensor (which was bad and obviously so - there was liquid wicking up into the sensor itself), and then working a little on the connector to get a better connection (the female connectors needed to be removed from the connector shell and adjusted for a tighter fit on the male contacts).

Doug
_________________
'89 Carat "Brunhilde"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Classifieds Feedback
Display posts from previous:   
Reply to topic    Forum Index -> Vanagon All times are Mountain Standard Time/Pacific Daylight Savings Time
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

About | Help! | Advertise | Donate | Premium Membership | Privacy/Terms of Use | Contact Us | Site Map
Copyright © 1996-2020, Everett Barnes. All Rights Reserved.
Not affiliated with or sponsored by Volkswagen of America | Forum powered by phpBB