Coolant Leak Symptoms

Coolant Leak Symptoms – Causes and Solutions

Failure to spot the antifreeze leaks can cause significant issues for your car.

If you do not locate your car’s antifreeze leak quickly, your car can be heavily damaged, and worse, you will be putting your safety at risk. Hence, we will be discussing some antifreeze leak symptoms and how to locate these leaks.

Read on to learn more about them.

How Do I Know I Have an Antifreeze/Coolant Leak?

When the antifreeze or, to be more specific, the coolant from your engine starts to leak, there will be quite a few clear symptoms. As we have said before, it is imperative for you to recognize any of these symptoms as soon as possible so without further ado, let’s go through the symptoms in detail below!

Look Out for Colored Puddles

Manufacturers of antifreeze make them brightly colored (lime green, red, pink, orange, and more), so in case of a leak, you can easily notice them. Moreover, since the antifreeze has a bright color, you can easily distinguish it from any other liquids in your car.

Coolant leak causes

Antifreeze leaks are very easy to identify by looking at these colored puddles. So, if you have any doubts about an antifreeze leak in your car, you can look out for an antifreeze puddle. These puddles take some time to form, which is why you have to check for them after your car is parked in one spot for a few hours at least.

You May Smell a Sweet Aroma

sweet smell in car

In case of an antifreeze leak, you might smell a sweet aroma if you stand outside your car. Additionally, this aroma is more potent around your wheels. Although this is not a strong indicator that your car has an antifreeze leak, but it is certainly a symptom you want to take note of.

Coolant Warning Light Lighting Up

Most cars come with a coolant warning light, so when the antifreeze level falls too much from its standard level, then it will light up. Keeping your engine at the right temperature is essential for it to operate properly, which is why the right amount of antifreeze should be in the engine’s radiator.

coolant warning light

If the car runs with a very low level of antifreeze, then your engine could be significantly damaged, which will cost you MUCH more than it would for fixing an antifreeze leak.

The coolant solution is actually very volatile, meaning it evaporates very easily. Therefore, in some cases, puddles are not formed as the liquid evaporates.

For such situations, the coolant warning light is very useful since it will always tell you if the coolant level decreases too much. Although most cars have coolant warning lights these days, if your car does not have one, we would suggest you try getting one installed just for extra safety measures.

Check If Your Expansion Tank Is Empty

In case you run out of antifreeze, your car has an expansion tank that contains some extra antifreeze. Often people forget about this expansion tank and do not check on it. What you must know is that this expansion tank may also have a leak which means you could have an antifreeze leak there.

Coolant reservoir low

Hence, you should check whether the antifreeze level in your expansion tank is getting too low. In order to avoid an antifreeze leak originating from your expansion tank, be sure to get it checked and maintain it properly.

Look for Bubbles in the Engine’s Radiator

When there is an antifreeze leak, combustion gases may enter your cooling system, and as these gases enter the radiator, they can be seen as bubbles. But seeing bubbles in your radiator does not always mean that there is an antifreeze leak. It can also mean that your car’s head gasket has leaked a different fluid.

bubbles in radiator

If you find bubbles in the radiator, then you should check for both antifreeze leaks and a different leak in the head gasket since both of these leaks need immediate attention before too much damage is done.

Your Engine Will Probably Overheat

Antifreeze is an integral part of the cooling system of your car, and as you can tell by the name of the system, its primary aim is to cool your engine. So, if there is an antifreeze leak and the coolant level drops below the standard amount, then the cooling system of your car will be greatly affected.

The antifreeze in the cooling system helps your car to push the heat out, so when there is insufficient antifreeze in the cooling system, the car will not be able to get rid of the heat properly, and this will result in temperature fluctuations.

Can low coolant cause overheating

One of the first things you should do if you feel like your car has an antifreeze leak is to check your temperature gauge. The temperature gauge can go up due to a multitude of reasons, but since an antifreeze leak could very well be one of them, you have to be careful.

Also, make sure that the temperature is not getting too high because if it is, the damage will be very difficult and not to mention extremely expensive to repair.

A simple indicator of your engine overheating is the temperature light that will light up. When the temperature lights up, you should stop your car and turn off the ignition as soon as possible.

Look Out for Spots of Discoloration and Rust on the Radiator

Antifreeze is quite capable of leaving an ugly discoloration on your engine’s radiator, and a leak may even produce rust stains on it. We all know that the engine’s radiator does get to pretty high temperatures, so when there is an antifreeze leak, the coolant liquid gets into contact with the heated surface of the radiator.

rust in radiator

The temperature is high enough to boil the coolant, which leaves a discolored spot or even rust stains.

When you are doing maintenance of your car, keep an eye out for these discolorations and rust spots. Also, follow the discoloration spots to trace the source of a potential antifreeze leak.

How to Locate a Leak?

To fix your issue, you will have to locate the antifreeze leak first. There are many places where antifreeze may leak from, so we will be showing how to locate it.

Use a Pressure Tester

You may be able to get a pressure testing kit from your local hardware store or at least an automobile hardware store to check for antifreeze leaks. The way this kit works is that it pumps pressure into the cooling system, and then by using the pressure gauge, you have to check where the pressure is low.

Universal Coolant Pressure Tester

If the pressure is much lower than 16 pounds per square inch at a specific place in the cooling system, then the chances are high that that is where the leak is located.

Check the Hoses

When hoses are in poor condition, antifreeze can easily leak from them, so you should take a close look at them. If they are in terrible condition, you should replace them before they cause you any more trouble.

Trace Discoloration or Stains

As the antifreeze liquid makes its way to the ground, it leaves a path behind. If you are able to spot the stain of this path, you can easily trace it back to the origin of the leak by simply using your eyes.

Examine the Radiator and Expansion Tank

Antifreeze leaks can originate from broken or worn-out radiators since that is where they are poured into. As we have said before, if you open your radiator and see the coolant level is low, then there is definitely a leak.

Since the expansion tank is often overlooked during maintenance, there might be antifreeze leaks from there as well.

Check All the Parts of Your Exhaust System

If you cannot find any external leaks, you will have to check your exhaust system for any internal leaks. A strong indicator that you may have an internal antifreeze leak is if your exhaust system produces excess amounts of white smoke.

And if you notice this white smoke, then you should check all the parts of the exhaust system that are prone to being the source of internal leaks. Some of these parts are the valves, engine block, turbos, and head gasket.

Can I Drive My Car If Antifreeze Is Leaking?

If you are in a position where you cannot stop your car, and you think you have an antifreeze leak, you will most likely be fine while you drive for a few minutes to find a spot where you can park your car.

Some people may go a few days driving their car when knowing they have an antifreeze leak. They just pour water into the cooling system instead of a 50-50 mixture of antifreeze and water, just to keep their car running for some extra time.

However, this is extremely dangerous and may actually ruin your car’s engine completely. So, we would suggest you get your leak repaired as soon as you locate it.

Are Coolant Leaks Expensive to Fix?

Coolant leaks are often very simple, and external leaks can be easily fixed, and they usually do not cost much unless you have to completely replace a part. On the other hand, internal leaks can be very complex to repair and, hence, they are quite expensive to fix.

If you are not experienced with repairing cars, we would highly recommend you to get help from an automobile expert.


Being safe on the road is very important, and so you have to always do proper maintenance of your car to ensure there are no antifreeze leaks. After reading this article, we hope you will be able to swiftly recognize the antifreeze leak symptoms if your car has one!

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