This may be a bit of an overshare, but we’re all friends
here so I’ll just rip this little gem of an icebreaker off and cut to the
Now grocery shopping doesn’t do much for me at the best of
times. Until it becomes socially acceptable to swill complimentary Vodka Fire
Engines and sing karaoke in an inappropriate party dress and selfie-worthy
make-up, grocery shopping definitely doesn’t make the top 10 of Kim’s Fun Things to Do in Public list.
So it was somewhat out of the ordinary, and more than a
little embarrassing when I arrived at Coles a bit… umm.. hot under the
And by a bit, I mean ‘Brad Pitt in Fight Club without a
shirt’ hot (shout out to my over 35 sisters who just mentally fist bumped me
I was hoping my fellow carparkers wouldn’t notice anything
out of the ordinary and jumped out sporting my best chill Nothing-To-See-Here,
-People face (damned right it’s a thing or I’ve legitimately wasted a lot of
hours in the mirror).
It may have been my flushed cheeks and rapid breathing, but
I’m pretty sure the smoke-like vapour
out from under the hood gave it away.
People were noticing… staring… as if I was the first
woman in the free world to have gotten a little hot under the bonnet on the
drive to Coles. My four daughters all stared at me, all with differing and
mother-guilting spectrum of concern and embarrassment, I felt I couldn’t let
them look on as their mother became a smoking, hot spectacle of public
judgement, although the mental suggestion towards a scandalous and risque
element did mildly distract me. I may or may not have embraced the role by
flamboyantly fanning my face and hastily twisting my hair up into an I’ve-Got-This messy bun.
Unfortunately, my life is not a romance novel, and being sweaty
and flustered with mysterious steam pouring out from under my bonnet was far
from a fantasy of mine (at least in a G-rated sliver of literature like this
one). Not convinced? I drive a minivan. No romantic novel features a minivan
laden with 4 kids, 27 odd socks, three abandoned Maccas drinks, a ukelele
random bags, unopened bills and the echoes of too many sibling squabbles over
seating preferences. Anyone still care to question me? I didn’t think so.
Not bragging but working in the office of Townsville Mobile
Mechanic for nearly a year has taught me a thing or two about cars – mainly
that I know shamefully little about them. I asked myself ‘What would Sandro
do?’ and channelled my inner Mechanic who, as it turns out is quite elusive and
prone to outsourcing inquiries of the like and after an awkward moment of
tandem shoulder shrugging, suggested that Sandro would suggest we seek proper
We tossed a few ideas around over the phone. If we’re being
honest, Sandro discusses some possible causes and I just mumbled back some
terminology to appear engaged in the conversation. The universe has gifted me
with a talent for playing the piano, kicking arse in scrabble, and every now
and again I can be funny. Understanding the inner workings of a car engine,
though, to me is right up there with trying to learn quantum physics by osmosis
through a Japanese textbook. Words like
radiator hose, coolant and gasket were prominent as potential suspects. I
couldn’t pick a radiator out of a line-up if it was wearing a name tag that
said “I’m a radiator” but I’d worked in the office long enough to know it could
be an expensive car part to replace. Marvellous. Apparently, it could be as
simple as a coolant leak, but being a female for 34 years has taught me to
respect if not fear any leaking fluid. White smoke, Sandro. I guess it could be
steam. Tremendous. Yes, as a matter of fact the temperature gauge was sort of
skyrocketing during the last stretch to Coles. Best not to drive it until
diagnosed properly. That’s just splendid. I guess I’ll just trot my entourage
through grocery aisles then while I await the verdict, not even begrudging the
complete absence of complimentary alcoholic beverages that might potentially
boost my morale and lessen my dread towards the fate of my Funbus.
Woo up, Gee!! Now is not the time to judge me for naming my
My sarcasm was premature. Sheer luck had the Hero’s of the
Day in the vicinity, so a diagnosis was close at hand.
Coolant leaks can occur anywhere in the cooling system. Nine
out of ten times, coolant leaks are easy to find because the coolant can be
seen dripping, spraying, seeping or bubbling from the leaky component. The
first symptom of trouble is usually engine overheating. But your car may also
have a Low Coolant indicator lamp.
The most common places where coolant may be leaking are:
Water pump — A bad shaft seal will allow coolant to dribble
out of the vent hole just under the water pump pulley shaft. If the water pump
is a two-piece unit with a backing plate, the gasket between the housing and
back cover may be leaking. The gasket or o-ring that seals the pump to the
engine front cover on cover-mounted water pumps can also leak coolant. Look for
stains, discoloration or liquid coolant on the outside of the water pump or
Radiator — Radiators can develop leaks around upper or
loser hose connections as a result of vibration. The seams where the core is
mated to the end tanks is another place where leaks frequently develop,
especially on aluminium radiators with plastic end tanks. On copper/brass
radiators, leaks typically occur where the cooling tubes in the core are
connected or soldered to the core headers
Most cooling systems today are designed to operate at 8 to
14 psi. If the radiator can’t hold pressure, your engine will overheat and lose
Hoses — Cracks, pinholes or splits in a radiator hose or
heater hose will leak coolant. A hose leak will usually send a stream of hot
coolant spraying out of the hose. A corroded hose connection or a loose or
damaged hose clamp may also allow coolant to leak from the end of a hose.
Sometimes the leak may only occur once the hose gets hot and the pinhole or
Whelsh plugs — These are the casting plugs or expansion
plugs in the sides of the engine block and/or cylinder head. The flat steel
plugs corroded from the inside out and may develop leaks that are hard to see
because of the plug’s location behind the exhaust manifold, engine mount or
other engine accessories.
Heater Core — The heater core is located inside the heating
ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit under the dash. It is out of sight
so you cannot see a leak directly. But if the heater core is leaking (or a hose
connection to the heater core is leaking), coolant will be seeping out of the bottom
of the HVAC unit and dripping on the floor inside the passenger compartment.
Look for stains or wet spots on the bottom of the plastic HVAC case, or on the
passenger side floor.
Intake Manifold gasket — The gasket that seals the intake
manifold to the cylinder heads may leak and allow coolant to enter the intake
port, crankcase or dribble down the outside of the engine.
There are the worst kind of coolant leaks for two reasons.
One is that they are impossible to see because they are hidden inside the
engine. The other is that internal coolant leaks can be very expensive to
Bad head gasket –Internal coolant leaks are most often due
to a bad head gasket. The head gasket may leak coolant into a cylinder, or into
the crankcase. Coolant leaks into the crankcase dilute the oil and can damage
the bearings in your engine. A head gasket leaking coolant into a cylinder can
foul the spark plug and create a lot of white smoke in the exhaust. Adding
sealer to the cooling system may plug the leak if it is not too bad, but
eventually the head gasket will have to be replaced.
Cracked Head or Block — Internal coolant leaks can also
occur if the cylinder head or engine block has a crack in a cooling jacket. A
combustion chamber leak in the cylinder head or block will leak coolant into
A coolant leak into the crankcase is also bad news because
it can damage the bearings. Coolant leaking into the crankcase will make the
oil level on the dipstick appear to be higher than normal. The oil may also
appear frothy, muddy or discoloured because of the coolant contamination.
Leaky ATF oil cooler — Internal coolant leakage can also
occur in the automatic transmission fluid oil cooler inside the radiator. On
most vehicles with automatic transmissions, ATF is routed through an oil cooler
inside the radiator. If the tubing leaks, coolant can enter the transmission
lines, contaminate the fluid and ruin the transmission. Red or brown drops of
oil in the coolant would be a symptom of such a leak. Because the oil cooler is
inside the radiator, the radiator must be replaced to eliminate the problem.
The transmission fluid should also be changed.
One replacement radiator hose later and the Funbus is back
in the road and nestled once again inside my elite circle of trust.