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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I read several older epic threads about coolant smell. It took me days to read, inlcuding "summary of problems" but it is possible that I missed to read some newer updates. My case, 2013 1.4T, about 60k miles:

Smells outside and inside.

Dealer recently replaced the water pump finding a leak, which did not help, actually seemed to make worse in terms of smell (I did not complain about smell at that time, they replaced it under power train warranty after I reported what appeared to be an oil leak from the car, at which time they also replaced oil pan seal).

Tried new o-rings on the cap/relief valve including thicker one. Minimal improvements.

Tried another surge tank cap/valve (borrowed one from a friend Malibu, same 140PSI spec), no change.

There are no visible coolant leaks that I could see. Coolant level remains steady, or vanishes at a negligible rate.

I improvised that "diversion" system, put a hose on the coolant surge tank vent to bring vapors outside engine compartment (house sticks outside around drivers side headlight). This seemed to reduce smell inside, but makes it worse outside - the whole garage is now filled with smell when I park.

Where do I go from here? Should I possibly try new surge tank? I'm reluctant to go to the dealer as it does not look this issue is covered by power train warranty or a recall, so just to "diagnose" will be $100, with slim chances they will nail it down.

Thank you.
 

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have you checked the water distribution block on the drivers side of the motor? follow hoses from overflow jug to union block that has a bunch of lints going to it. attached to drivers side of head/intake. the wifes leaked there for months or more before we finally figured out where the smell was coming from. just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you sir. Under the HVAC you probably consider internal to cabin parts like heater core, ac coils, etc? Would any sort of HVAC leak, vapor or similar problem (lubricant issue) cause extensive outside odor - when I park in the garage, the whole room is usually filled with that terrible smell.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
thank you joes74 too, I have not checked that one yet. No noticeable leaks not coolant level is noticeably dropping (did not seem to change since the dealer replaced the pump 2 months ago) bu looks like I should take a closer look.
 

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The fact you can smell it outside points to it not being a HVAC problem at all. The water outlet is a high fail item so I'd check there.

I'm not clear on how your vent system is set up, but it seems clear that's made things worse. So either it's created a new problem or you've found where it's coming from.

Based on experiences with my prior cars, you might want to try this: Take your car for a drive and get it fully warmed up. Nothing drastic. Just a nice drive/errand/etc. Pull into your garage and pop the hood. Get yourself a nice cold one, keep an eye under the hood and wait. After about 10 minutes or so, the leak may show itself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you ChevyGuy. I tried to observe for a leak, but no luck. Will try again. However, one time, when I parked in the garage, I did observe a cloud of vapor (smoke looking thing) coming under the hood and smelling like coolant. That was before the dealer replaced the pump. I don't see clouds any more but smell is still there and seems getting worse. Smell intensity vary, but the largest occurrence of smell usually happen when: I drive from work to home, about 10km or so (I'm in Canada). This is enough for engine to reach normal operating temp. Then I stop by my mailbox to check mail, turn off the engine and restart it after about 30 seconds. Then, as soon as a restart it, I usually feel a surge of smell inside. I then drive into garage and stop engine again (50 yards away from the mailbox), and when I get out, it extensively smells outside.
 

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Do inspect that plastic "tree" (water outlet) where the upper radiator hose connects to the engine. But if there's no leak, then I have to think the problem is the system is simply not holding pressure. There's a pressure spike when the engine is shut down - the heat of driving is working it's way though the system, but the cooling air though the radiator has stopped.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I will check all hoses and Ts but if it turns out that the system does not hold the pressure, what could be done about it? I already tried another surge tank cap (relief valve) and also new O-rings (original thickness and also a thicker one) to no avail. Perhaps change the surge tank with the assumption that it is damaged? Or, possibility exists that for some reason the pressure gets abnormally high too often and that forces valve to work, while both valves and both O-rings I tried are just fine. In which case a cause for high pressure would have to be determined first?
 

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I had coolant smell outside of the car for a long time. then right before my power train warranty expired my water outlet starting leaking. got that replaced and bought a new coolant cap for the tank and my smells were gone. my water outlet was leaking where it attached to the head.

I think my water outlet was not on correctly from the factory and thus the smells but I didn't have a leak until the fourth year of ownership where it was actually making it to the ground. I think mine was always leaking there and getting burned off on the head so you never saw a leak but my coolant was always going down but not by much. Makes me wonder too if the water outlets are letting in air and possibly causing the water pump failures. They should replace the water outlets with the water pumps IMO. You got the coolant drained and it is pretty easy to get to so why not.

Anyway I hope this helps the water outlet is a cheap part so you might give that a try and get a new coolant cap too.
They are both cheap and couldn't hurt anyway.
 

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another crazy thought came to me as i re-read this post. since there are no easy marks to read that state max cold level we asked the dealer where the max full line was. we were getting the antifreeze smell after fixing that water block i spoke of earlier due to over filling the reservoir jug. according to the dealer the hot full mark is the top line on the jug. we had been filling that jug to the top line cold and it was pushing fluid out of the reservoir through a hard to notice weap hole in the reservoir jug (small plastic piece near the top that slides out to uncover the hole (this is a 2011 year car, i'm unsure if this has changed for other years or not). i didn't believe them when they told us this, but the antifreeze smell did go away after they sucked out the extra fluid!

i know i'm a little late to respond, but thought in case you were still getting the issue i'd pipe up again.
 

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Do inspect that plastic "tree" (water outlet) where the upper radiator hose connects to the engine. But if there's no leak, then I have to think the problem is the system is simply not holding pressure. There's a pressure spike when the engine is shut down - the heat of driving is working it's way though the system, but the cooling air though the radiator has stopped.
I just had my water outlet replaced today. It appeared dry but was leaking under pressure. Going to pick up my Cruze right now.
 
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