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john -aka eauto
john -aka eauto, The Car Guy
Category: Saturn
Satisfied Customers: 16007
Experience:  ase tech 15 + years foreign domestic & european
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Saturn Vue 2003 - Car over heated. Reservoir overflowed.

Customer Question

Saturn Vue 2003 - Car over heated. Reservoir overflowed. Greenish muck. Refilled with water to get it home - a few miles. Heated up on the way. Mechanic (whom does not work on Saturns) said the following:
1. There was oil in the water.
2. There may be a crack in the oil cooler.
3. The thermostat may be the problem.
4. Transmission fluid may be involved but not did say how that was possible.
5. GM brand coolant may be the problem.
Some facts:
1. The vehicle was scheduled for a replacement of the intake manifold gasket before the overheating.
2. No issues with overheating prior.
3. The car did make an engine noise before it overheated but I was not driving it at the time so I cannot describe the sound.
4. The car was only driven a few miles before the overheating took place.
5. The car drove fine. No issues, no noise, to and from the repair shops (2 miles apart) but the temp was rising over the half way point.
Do you know what the problem is? Any troubleshooting ideas so we make a better determination of what is going here?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Saturn
Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

sounds like a blown head gasket o a warped or cracked cylinder head, teardown of the motor would be required to find out the extent of damage

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
John,Tear down the motor? The signs don't really support your assumption. Coolant is not externally leaking from the head gasket, there is no smoke or any color coming from the exhaust, the engine runs fine, the oil looks fine, and there are no air bubbles in the radiator or overflow tank. How much experience do you have with Saturn and the this particular model?Thanks.
Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

the coolant is leaking internal..the cylinder heads need to be pulled 100 percent supports my answer

Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

a block leak test would help support this

Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

It is quite a bad occurrence when the two mix and usually means that the gasket has failed to function as required, creating an internal leakage which could easily damage the engine. Some of the reasons why engine oil mixes with the coolant are: A broken/damaged head gasket.

Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

you still there?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Not real happy with your answers, John.
Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

did the shop do any diagnosis? Did they do a leak down test? why does the shop say it overheated? is the fan working? did he confirm the thermostat is working and the water is circulating?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No tests run yet.
Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

basic testing will find the root cause or pinpoint the concern... If oil is mixed with coolant it supports my theory. A block leak test and or a leak down test will help uncover if its a head gasket issue... The fans should be checked for operation and the t stat should be checked to see if it opens... It over heats for a reason like bad tstat, fans inop, failed water pump or head or head gasket issue

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Shop says they can't do a block leak test to determine if we have head gasket issue because it's an "open system" What is that supposed to mean? He wants to approach the manifold gasket replacement, something I already knew about and stated in my question here, and then check the thermostat and oil cooler since they will be accessible at that point. With regard to the head gasket leaking, he used the words "It's a gamble" if it turns out to be a head gasket. You know this Saturn, why would you recommend a block leak or leak down test if it is not possible? If it is possible, what is getting in the way of testing for a head gasket leak? There is no point in paying for the manifold work and possibly replacement of the thermostat and/or oil cooler to find we have a head gasket issue.
Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

the oil cooler wont cause a over heat, and a block leak test will work because it basically is a liquid test that detects exhaust gas in the antifreeze... But he could pull the plugs and look for coolant wash... It over heated for a reason...It did not overheat due to the oil cooler... I would find a different shop..sounds like you have a parts changer not a tech

Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

my money is on a head or head gasket issue,,, but basic testing will lead us in the right direction..

Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 1 year ago.

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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
John,Not the head gasket or warped or cracked cylinder head. It was the oil cooler and corroded cooling water pump outlet pipe. The thermostat was changed while the mechanic was in there and system flushed of all Dex-cool sludge.Jeff