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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I just started to get the oil/antifreeze/burning stench in my Cruze about 2 weeks ago. I see there is a million posts about this problem but I don't see where anyone found the fix, I just see everyone complaining about the same issue I have. Based on my reading it sounds like it could be the coolant reservoir, heater core or even maybe the turbo? Has anyone found the resolution to this issue before I start throwing parts at this thing?
 

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There are multiple sources depending on the production date of the car. Some have had a leaky heater core, coolant expansion tanks are very common, leaky water pumps can be smelled through the air intake, and sometimes, the issue is from the glycol grease that the climate control system/dampers were assembled with.

For starters, sniff around the coolant tank on a hot engine for starters. If you smell coolant vapors there, replace the O-ring on the cap. If you are running your tank near or over the top line the arrow is pointing to, some have found that reducing the coolant level slightly helps alleviate some of the smell/venting as well.
 

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Pressure test and eyes quickly show the source of the leak. 50 year old coolant pressure tester was worthless, no radiator cap, so purchased a plastic cap, drilled an tapped a 1/4" NPT and expoxied in a quick coupler. Followed by a pressure gauge. a regulator with a shut off valve to my air compressor. Hit it with 25 psi, closed the valve, expect the gauge to remain steady.

Really don't have to add a dye to it, Dexcool already has a dye, but I keep my engines clean, if covered with oil and grease, could add a florescent die to it and use a black light. Drips under the right side of the dash show a heater core leak. Wouldn't even think about driving this thing until its repaired, that sweet smelling coolant is deadly causing severe kidney damage.


A long painful death. Learned GM has over 167 heater core vendors, also a high number of water pump vendors in China, some are great, others not so, pump has a 150K warranty, not aware of any for the heater core. Shop labor for the core is about an hour, takes me that long to remember where I left my car keys. Cooling system has to be drained first. My 2012 was already past the 5 year stage because it came out in September of 2011.

New Delco heater core from rockauto.com is 44 bucks, good to get the OE kit, need all that other stuff that comes with it, not just the core if you plan on doing this yourself.

 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Sounds like i need to check a few things before I get too carried away. I'm hoping its just the heater core. At least they made them easy to change on these cars. Some cars you have to pull the whole dash out. My car has been salvaged from a previous rear end accident so there is no dealer warranty.
 

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The starting point is to see if the smell is on the outside and just coming inside via the air ducts, or if it's just inside.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It does smell like antifreeze around the coolant tank somewhat. When I was looking at the coolant tank I noticed there was a piece that was broken off the tank where you can see a hole that goes directly into the tank. It also looks like something is sprayed on the underside hood right where the tank sits. Check out these pictures and let me know if you think this is a problem.
Auto part Hood Electric blue Vehicle door Automotive exterior Glass
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Maybe ill just pick up a whole new reservoir?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
So I am still chasing down this horrible stench problem when it gets up to operating temp. I have replaced the cap and nothing has changed. I also notice when I have the defrost just pointed on the windshield I don't smell it. I only smell that stench when I have the heat coming out on the floor. I have not replaced the coolant reservoir yet. I have also noticed that the smell is not as bad after I have been driving the car for a while. It is very strong once it first reaches operating temp and after I have been driving for 20 mins after the coolant temp has peaked, the smell is hardly noticeable. Wondering if these clues could help you steer me in the right direction.
 

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So I am still chasing down this horrible stench problem when it gets up to operating temp. I have replaced the cap and nothing has changed. I also notice when I have the defrost just pointed on the windshield I don't smell it. I only smell that stench when I have the heat coming out on the floor. I have not replaced the coolant reservoir yet. I have also noticed that the smell is not as bad after I have been driving the car for a while. It is very strong once it first reaches operating temp and after I have been driving for 20 mins after the coolant temp has peaked, the smell is hardly noticeable. Wondering if these clues could help you steer me in the right direction.
At it's worst, can you smell it outside the car? If not, then it may not be coolant. (If it is, then it's heater core related.) From what you've said, I'm thinking you may be a victim of the grease they used on some cars. It smells like coolant when hot. Unfortunately, the fix is to replace significant parts of the HVAC system. Pretty involved.

I'm guessing you're outside the B2B warranty at this point. However, it might still be worth talking to GM since if it is the grease, it would seem to me a manufacturing defect. Not "old age" or "normal wear and tear".
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I can smell it outside. The thing is, it smells like burning oil, not coolant.
 
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