Reader Question: My son bought a 1997 Dodge Avenger from a person, used with 155,000 miles on it; “new” used motor with 55,000 miles on it.
We picked up the car on Saturday, checked the fluids and everything appeared fine, when he stopped to put gas in it, the car was turned off, I noticed a little smoke coming out of the tailpipe.
It was not much and I did not think much of it. We drove the 120 miles home, the car was fine, the next day he drove the car to college (22 miles) and when he was about there the temperature gauge started going up.
He pulled into the parking lot, let the car cool down, later went back, and opened the hood. The overfill tank for antifreeze was empty and you could tell there was spots of anti freeze where it had blown out.
He e-mailed the person he bought it from and he said he had not ever had a problem and that we should check the fluid levels (he put a new motor in it a few months earlier and said he had not driven it much since then).
So we filled the overfill tank with anti freeze and drove it home, it did not do anything and ran fine all the way home. So not being a mechanic, thought maybe it just had a small leak.
My son drove the car to school the next day and it did the same thing, so we let it set for a while, put anti freeze in it, and started driving it to the mechanics shop so they could find the leak.
He was almost to the mechanics shop when the car died, no warning lights or anything came on, it was not over heating, but now it will not start.
Do you have any ideas?
Hi there Diane,
My first thought is why did this guy replace the motor in the first place, did it mysteriously overheat and burn up? I have a feeling the radiator is restricted in this vehicle and the old motor overheated to the point it burnt up.
Since it seems to drive and not overheat during short distances I would assume the electric cooling fan motor up near the radiator is working properly. If the electric fan were not working properly, the engine would run hot at idle and slow speeds.
A restriction in the radiator will usually show itself during highway travel and over long distances, like what you mentioned in your email. Also, since the mechanic did not find a leak in the system it further enforces my hunch that the radiator is restricted and needs to be replaced.
With 155,000 miles on this vehicle, and possibly with the original radiator I would not be shocked to find rust and calcium deposits at the bottom of the radiator restricting flow of antifreeze to the engine.
Your mechanic might have a laser heat gun he can test the radiator and other parts of the cooling system for a restriction.