Q: Iíve noticed
some spots on the driveway beneath my car that I believe are
antifreeze (orange). I have an intense schedule right now that will
make it difficult to have the car serviced. Is it acceptable to add
a container of stop-leak to fix the problem?
A: Melissa, I have
doubts this will help, and the consequences of possibly overheating
the engine are ugly. Before driving further, can you please check or
get the coolant level checked, and top off as necessary? Removing
the radiator or expansion tank cap is absolutely dangerous unless
the engine is cold, as the warm/hot coolant will be under pressure
and can cause serious burns if it suddenly escapes!
If coolant is needed
to bring the radiator and/or expansion tank or overflow bottle to
the correct level, tap water will do for a quick fix, until the
system is inspected and repaired (coolant will likely be renewed
upon repair). Even if the leakage rate is slight (a few drips here
and there) Iíd seek service as soon as possible!
There are many
reasons a cooling system may leak. Hoses can develop cracks or
splits, a hose clamp may be loose or improperly seated, a gasket
between mating engine components may be failing, the radiator or
heater core may be leaking, or the water pump seal may be leaking.
Stop leak products are sketchy at best, and would likely only be
helpful in the case of a tiny radiator or heater core leak, and the
fix often doesnít last very long. Iíd hesitate also adding
anything that could possibly contribute to passage clogging.
Itís impossible to
tell you what to expect for a repair. A leaky hose would be your
best-case scenario; a leaking heater core or corroded engine
component (occurs due to lack of cooling system service/coolant
replacement) would likely be the worst.
Promise me youíll
move on this as soon as possible. The consequences of an overheated
engine can be major and unpredictable.
Q: Iím trying to
teach my daughter, a new driver, the best ways to drive efficiently
so as to produce the least emissions. Do you have suggestions?
A: Reducing emissions
and maximizing fuel economy go hand in hand. Maintaining correct
tire pressure, performing appropriate vehicle maintenance and
practicing efficient driving habits can go a long way to improve
operating efficiency. Todayís cars and trucks are pretty good
about letting you know of performance faults via the Onboard
Diagnostics II systemís check engine/service engine soon light.
Virtually all faults or conditions that might result in increased
exhaust emissions (and reduced engine efficiency as a side benefit)
will result in an illuminated light and a stored diagnostic trouble
When it comes to
driving habits, minimizing the quantity of cold starts via trip
consolidation is huge, as emissions are much higher then.
Anticipating slowdowns ahead and easing up early on the throttle,
rather than braking, saves fuel. Brakes convert kinetic energy to
heat, which is about as wasteful a process as one can get!