1998 Honda Accord Antifreeze Leaking From Engine

Reader Question Hello Austin,

First let me say that I really appreciate your site….it has been wonderful in helping understand the workings of cars. Okay, so my story is long, but you are going to get the EXTREMELY short version.

I have a 1998 Honda Accord LX 4 cylinder Sedan…I recently put a used transmission in and more recently had a used engine put in. Basically, the dealer misdiagnosed my vehicle and caused my engine to be in a more severe state than it needed to be and they put another engine in with no labor cost and 50% off the engine price…but now, my antifreeze is being exhausted at a very high rate.

The fluid level is dropping from the max(imum) to the min(imum) line in less than three days. I found a towel where the air filter should be and I don’t know what is going on? Did they temporarily fix my vehicle. They gave me 100% warranty on the internal parts of the engine, but not in the event that an external part caused the problem.

If my antifreeze is leaking somehow, can it cause the engine to fail. Also, my check engine light is on, and the code is for a failed catalytic converter. But they said that is because some engine oil residue is still going through the exhaust system and should burn off, but it has been nearly a month and the light is still on. Where is my antifreeze going? Can you help me? Thank you if you can……

Just some facts:

1. the valve cover gasket and intake gasket were new parts transfered from previous engine

2. the catalytic converter is a new part put on 2 days before new engine was installed

3. they said all the external parts associated with the engine (water pump, etc.) were in good order…no need to be replaced

4. they had my vehicle for 4 weeks and said they basically ran every test known and there were no problems with the vehicle anywhere

5. the new engine started out with 65,000 miles on it and I have put just under a 1,000 on it in one months time

6. the transmission had less than 50,000 miles on it

7. my car has 212,000 miles on it

8. I can smell antifreeze when I shut the car off and clear smoke is coming from under the hood (look like heat waves) but the stick on the dashboard has not moved towards the little red flag (sorry, I don’t know what that is called)

I hope I gave you all the information you need to help me….Thanks Austin

Hello there

This poor poor car…and a Honda Accord at that, one of my most trusted and reliable vehicles! I would bet that this Honda was made in America. You can check the VIN # (Vehicle Identification Number) on the little metal plate located in the driver corner of the dash board as you face the driver seat from the outside of the vehicle.

I bet strongly that the first letter in the VIN is a “1”, which means it was made in America. Japanese vehicles that are made in Japan start with a “J” and in my opinion are much better made.

Just for your future reference, I personally would not want a Japanese vehicle with a “1” starting the VIN number. For some reason the Japanese versions just hold up much better, and their resale value is higher too.

OK, off my soap box for now.

I want you to do two things.

1. Go to another dealership or better yet find a TRUSTED and well established independent auto repair shop and get them to give this car a thorough check out.

2. Get a cooling system pressure test, this will tell you where your coolant leak is

Once you have done these two items you should have enough information to go back to the dealership and get them to properly make the needed repairs.

Hopefully the repairs will be inexpensive and relatively minor and you will just pay this new repair shop to correct the problems the other shop left for you. Sometimes it is better to cut your losses and move on to greener pastures, and it sounds like that dealership is hoping you will do so.


Austin Davis

Reader Follow up

Austin Thank You So Much for responding…

….so I took your advice and got the cooling system pressure test and the mechanic told me I need a new radiator!!!! Is that possible, I mean I know it’s possible but does it seem like the correct diagnoses for my coolant leak.

I have been on your other site, My Honest Mechanic and I was reading your responses to other peoples leakage problems and not once did I see you refer to the leak as the ACTUAL radiator being faulty…you said a hose or a water pump or a gasket but not the raidator itself. They quoted me a total price of $300 parts/labor/taxes.

Oh yeah, how long was the test supposed to last because it seems like they only had my vehicle back there for five minutes before he came out and told me it was the radiator. Does this seem like the realistic way to go since I just had a new (new to me) engine put in? The engine has about 68,000 miles on it…the engine was used, so could it actual be an engine problem, again?

Any response would be appreciated…I know your busy but I really can not afford (WHO CAN?) to continue to put money into the vehicle. I am scheduled to get the radiator replaced tomorrow morning….I hope you can contact me before then…I really should have sent you this email earlier….

Thanx Austin…You are the absolute BEST…Oh yeah, please note that the vehicle has never actually overheated although I do see smoke coming from under the hood at times and there is a green residue on the engine. Would a broken radiator make antifreeze leak on the engine?…Thanks

Hello Again

Yes, the cooling system pressure test should only have taken a minute or so, and yes, your radiator COULD be the culprit…unfortunately.

I also would say that $300 for a new radiator is very competitive price. Let me know how things turn out.


Austin Davis

Posted in: Over Heating

7 Comments on "1998 Honda Accord Antifreeze Leaking From Engine"

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  1. Lowell says:

    .I’m trying to to find things to enhance my web site!I assume its adequate to use a few of your ideas!!

  2. james says:

    One more question: Can I drive the car in this condition to a mechanic say about 3.5 miles away? would it be ok to stop the car when the temperature gauge goes up high and let it cool down and then drive again. It should take me 10 minutes to drive 3.5 miles to where the mechanics are. thanks so much. appreciate your help. this has me worried.

  3. james says:

    I have a 1990 Honda accord EX 4 door. I saw light greenish liquid at the bottom of the car. I paid not much attention until today when the car began to emit fumes and I noticed that my temperature gauge had shot up to maximum. I stopped the car at a car repair shop and the worker there poured water into my coolant white box directly. Then I stopped the car for an hour or so for an errand and that cooled the car and than I drove straight to a parts store and the guy there put water into my radiator cap. I started the car and after 5-7 minutes or so one of the hoses was pouring out liquid. I than drove home. What should I do? Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Sorry for my delay, have been on a Caribbean cruise 🙂 get a cooling system pressure test!!!! You have a leak somewhere and that will help pinpoint the leak

  4. ted says:

    I too, have a 1998 Honda with a coolant ‘situation’. It is a Civic LX though. I bought it used eight days ago. Today it wouldn’t start. It cranks and after one feeble turn, goes silent. I popped the hood and found coolant blasted all over the engine compartment. The coolant reservoir is nearly empty. This is going to end up with a mechanic. Any ideas though? I hate to take it in knowing nothing. The fact that it won’t even turn over makes me think it’s more than just a radiator problem. Last time I used it was low speed local, maybe 1 mile with no opportunity for it to overheat. It ran fine. Now it won’t start. Makes me think it’s more than just a radiator problem. Impressed with this sight. Any help appreciated – thanks in advance. Ted

    • admin says:

      Ted, antifreeze on the outside of the engine is better than antifreeze inside the engine like from a head gasket or crack in the engine itself. You might have a starter or battery problem for the engine not turning over problem. Start with the basics, pressure test the cooling system for antifreeze leaks, then check the battery, battery connections and starter motor for the no cranking over issue. Hopefully its a leaky radiator hose and a loose battery connection or something quick and simple like that.

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