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Need Help Figuring Out What's Wrong With My Car!


NewGuy19
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The only way I can start to explain this problem it to write a little story so, hang in there with me because I really need some help on this.

I started my car up yesterday afternoon and headed down the street from my dorm. It sounded like I had something dragging under my car, so I decided I'd pull over as soon as I had a spot where I could. After about a block or two I noticed the sound went away but still pulled over to check, I didn't see anything out of the usual under the car. So I went on with my trip. On my way back home I had been driving down the interstate for about 10 miles and all the sudden my temperature gage started rapidly climbing, I slowed down to pull off the interstate and as soon as I did so the gauge went back to normal. So I didn't think anything of it and drove the 3 or so miles back to my dorm. When I got out my car smelled hot, so I started checking things out. I found some sort of fluid dripping off the oil pan underneath the car and it appears to have a little oil mixed with it. I checked the oil and it looks to be at normal levels and doesn’t look to have any water or anything in it. I checked the coolant and first noticed the cap seems to be damaged and I am not sure if it is sealing properly. I also noticed that the tank seems to be empty or nearly empty. I went back today to look at the car and apart from the empty tank everything seems to be normal.

So my questions are:

1. What would have caused the gauge to rapidly climb and then go back to normal like that?

2. How much coolant should be in the tank? I can't seem to find a line in the tank marking any level to fill it to.

3. If I need to fill the tank up what coolant do I need to use?

4. And finally, what do you think the liquid was dripping under the car? And what could cause it?

I can try checking things if you ask questions, but I am up at school and all of my tools are back at home. A friend of mine mentioned something about a head gasket when I told him it looked like oil mixed with something else dripping under the car.

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You might be having a water pump failure. They sometimes start leaking before failing completely and suddenly.

Use Toyota/Lexus premixed coolant. It can be purchased at any Toyota or Lexus dealer.

Get a coolant tank cap ASAP if yours is damaged. There are minimum and maximum marks on the coolant overflow tank but they may be hard to see if the tank is the original one.

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Thanks for the replies guys. I just bought this car in August and the timing belt was replaced right before I bought it. I currently live in Fargo, ND and the closest Lexus dealer is a little over 200 miles away. Is changing the water pump something any mechanic that know's their stuff can do? Can I purchase the tank cap and the premixed coolant at any auto parts store? Or would I have to go to the local toyota dealer to get them? Is there any problem with driving it right now if the pump might be going out? And do you think it would last long enough to make the 400 mile trip back home so I could have it fixed there?

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It is possible that the water pump was not changed at the time of the belt. If so then this causes more stress on the water pump and it fails. With the temp going up and down it almost sounds like a head gasket. When a head gasket blows the temp can fall and rise like that. Usually though you want see any water leaking from under the car with the head gasket. You said you checked your oil and didnt see any water. Double check and see if you see any water in your oil or oil in your water. Also check and see if you see any water coming out of your tail pipes. Any decent shop should be able to do a pressure check to see if it is a head gasket or maybe were the water is leaking. It could be as simple as you need a new cap and to top off with some coolant. I would try that first because it is cheap and you can get a cap at any auto supply store. If you need to top off and dont have any premix coolant I would use distilled water until you can get the right stuff or call Lexus and ask them what they would recommend.

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Thanks again for the help. I went out and checked the oil again today and did not see any water or coolant in the oil. I see now that the little coolant that was in the over flow tank is now gone, but it doesn't look like any more has dripped out on the cardboard I put down. Does that mean it could be evaporating? And keep in mind it was 24 degrees up here last night. I'm going to get a ride from a friend to the autoparts store when they open at noon, and pick up a cap and hopefully some distilled water or coolant. I was told before that you don't want to mix coolants because they can cause problems in the car. If this is true and I don't know what coolant they used last time, would it be best to just go with distilled water? I know from previous experiences you can sometimes hydrolock your motor if you try turning it over with a head gasket leak, what do you guys reccomend I do from here? Should I just call a tow truck and have it taken to a mechanic so he can do some tests and tell me exactly what's wrong?

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If the overflow is already empty, It can't leak. I think you might have a leaking overflow. Coolant from overflow also gets sucked back into radiator as engine cools back down.

Mixing coolants or just using plain water is ok in an emergency...You really need an honest mechanic.

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RT's responses are on target. To address your specific questions:

Is changing the water pump something any mechanic that know's their stuff can do?

Yes, though it will be an expensive repair. Probably in the $500 to $1000 range.

Can I purchase the tank cap and the premixed coolant at any auto parts store? Or would I have to go to the local toyota dealer to get them?

If you cannot get to a Toyota dealer for the coolant and the cap then, at a minimum, you need to get some distilled water from any grocery store. I would worry about the overnight temps in SD at this time of year. You can pick up a cap at most any auto parts store.

Is there any problem with driving it right now if the pump might be going out? And do you think it would last long enough to make the 400 mile trip back home so I could have it fixed there?

Yes, there is a problem with driving it with any cooling system failure. A 400 mile trip is out of the question until the issue is fixed. You will most likely ruin a very expensive engine.

As RT mentioned, it might be as simple as a radiator cap that is not holding pressure; therefore "boiling" out your coolant. On the other side of the spectrum is the failed HG which is a serious problem and an expensive fix if you take it to a repair shop. The loss of coolant could be from a number of different things between those 2 ends of the spectrum.... thermostat gasket, radiator hose, heater hose, leaking freeze plug, leaking radiator, leaking heater core, cracked engine block, etc....

The first thing you have to do is determine the cause of the coolant loss, then go from there. Post back what you find and we will be happy to help.

-B-

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There is nothing wrong with your water pump. Before you going tearing into the vehicle replacing it you should first replace your thermostat and reservoir cap before anything else. Water pump bearing failure will give you a constant noise while seal failure will start leaking consistently through the weep hole.

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Umm did you ever check your fan clutch to make sure it is engaging properly ? Have someone turn the car on for a minute and then have them turn it off while you look at the fan. If it stops spinning with the engine it is good if not the silicone inside is dead.

At high speeds it will over heat but at low rpms it will function fine. I would still change the rad cap.

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Thanks to everyone that helped me out with this problem. I just got it back from the mechanic today. Turned out to be the water pump as many of you said. He replaced the water pump, belt and flushed the system for me. I guess all in all it could have been a lot worse, so I got of a little lucky. He charged me $449 bucks to do the job, and had it done within a day after getting all the parts in finally. Glad I got my problem fixed and have my car back again. Life really does suck without it.

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Thanks to everyone that helped me out with this problem. I just got it back from the mechanic today. Turned out to be the water pump as many of you said. He replaced the water pump, belt and flushed the system for me. I guess all in all it could have been a lot worse, so I got of a little lucky. He charged me $449 bucks to do the job, and had it done within a day after getting all the parts in finally. Glad I got my problem fixed and have my car back again. Life really does suck without it.

$449 for the whole job? Or $449 labor? If the former, you got a STEAL!!!! If the latter, it's still a good deal.

Joe

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