Reader Question Our 1996 Jeep was leaking anti-freeze. Our mechanic determined the problem was the radiator and so we paid to have a new one put in. Now, a few weeks later, the car was leaking antifreeze again and on the way to the mechanic it overheated and needed to be towed.
The mechanic is looking at it and thinks it may be the head gasket, which he says will be a costly repair. Could this have blown because of him not doing the radiator repair correctly? I don’t want to pay $1500 if the problem could have resulted from his doing the $500 job inadequately.
Thanks for your help
That’s a touch question to answer. What needs to happen next is a cooling system pressure test to determine where the leak is. This is a simple test and should be done FIRST anytime there is a cooling system leak or overheating complaint. You should ask him just for grins if he did a pressure test on the last visit, if he did not, he is probably not a very competent mechanic.
Before you spend a time on a head gasket repair GET another opinion. I get scared when I hear mechanics say “well, it could be a blown head gasket” you don’t guess at that repair! The engine usually has to overheat a lot to due damage to the head gasket. People who continue to drive the vehicle when they know it is overheating …that is when a blown head gasket is likely.
Common signs of a blown head gasket
1. White smoke out the tailpipe when the engine is running
2. Water in the engine oil
3. Engine misfire/running bad because of water inside the cylinders
So, get the cooling system pressure test FIRST, if he says it’s a head gasket take the vehicle to another shop for a second opinion or call a mobile mechanic that can go to this shop and give a second opinion for you.
If the head gasket is really damaged you might want to try this cheap over the counter additive which I talk about in these articles
Since you live in NYC and you decide to try the additive….be careful not to let the engine freeze during the night. Take the radiator cap off and if possible keep the vehicle in the garage! If the water inside the engine freezes it will expand and cause something in the engine or radiator to break!