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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Let me backtrack to about 6000 miles ago on my truck's odometer before yesterday's issue.

The past:

My truck was having issues overheating ONLY at idle and the heater not blowing any heat until the engine is rev'd even though the coolant level APPEARED good. I was required to run the engine with the coolant caps removed... the coolant level DROPPED as soon as I took the caps off(air pockets in the coolant system released their pressure, coolant in the system took the air's place), I proceeded to fill the tank and the radiator until the tank stayed steady between low/high and the radiator would not accept anymore.

After that, all was perfect...

The present

Until yesterday



Yesterday I drove up to northern utah to take some photo's of my boss's house, (putting it on the internet for him). Once I arrived at his house, I got to the gate, left the truck running and proceeded to open the gate, just before I jumped back in the truck... the electric cooling fan came on, whaaat?... I did have the defrost turned on, it was maybe almost 38F outside, the coolant temperature was about an eighth below halfway...

Proceeded to drive into his driveway, seconds after I hit the gas, the fan turned off. I parked in the driveway, shut off the truck, popped the hood. In the external coolant tank, it was showing well above the "high" level... is this normal? .. on a cold morning it will show right between low/high.

I let the truck cool down while i was taking photos, several hours later, I came back. Coolant still showed too high on the level marker. I removed the radiator cap and.. the level dropped to the point of barely any coolant in the external tank, whahh?..

I had a bottle of coolant handy since 6000 miles ago, I started the truck, and added coolant directly to the radiator and the external tank until it stayed steady, recapped. All seems okay again.

Now, I'm really wondering what's the deal, where's my coolant going?

I haven't noticed any leaks or drips at all, I can't smell it, ever in the cap while idling or driving...

One think I have noticed: My exhaust seems to be a bit more cloudy than others I see around town.. no I haven't compared directly to another's frontier, but it does seem abnormal, is it possible that I'm burning my coolant ? eek. . . it also could be just a bad cat, it's rare that I see my p0420 code I use to get, but it still comes back on occasion, I do need to replace my exhaust, I hate this stock exhaust system, so sketchy.

Any suggestions?
 

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Overheating at idle, is more than likely that your fan isn't working, or your thermostat isn't working.

Otherwise, try and find a leak. Do you smell the antifreeze anywhere?

Do you see any crusty looking stuff anywhere in your engine bay?



Having read your post again, coolant itself expands as it gets heated. So, hot coolant will to into your overflow resevior. As it cools, generally, it goes back into the radiator.

With you saying that the radiator is low until you open the cap, it sounds like you need to have your coolant flushed out and filled and the air removed from the system...some systems are meant to be sealed, meaning you add coolant as needed to the overflow, and not through the radiator - as it adds air to the system, reducing it's effectiveness...

Burning coolant would mean bad headgasket. A compression test will indicate if that's a problem or not (or could indicate bad valves, or bad rings, but there's other ways to test that to rule them out...)

Coolant loss + bad compression = bad headgasket, for the most part.

If the idle rough? That could also indicate bad headgasket as that cylinder would more than likely also be missing.
 

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Did you check your transmission fluid as well?
 

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Did you check your transmission fluid as well?
There's no reason to check the tranny, rough-shifts are what show up if there was engine coolant in the transmission.

That, and his cooling system is just expanding and contracting, normal...I think...

I'm pretty sure you're supposed to add coolant if it's low, with the engine is running/warm and the truck on a level surface.

At least, it's that way with my bike...
 

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2019 Frontier SV4x4, CCLB, Pioneer DMH-1500NEX, Pro4X wheels, power rear-slider mod, Bambi-mode
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Sounds like a bad head gasket, unfortunately. Subaru 2.5 first generation is known for symptoms like this (intermittent overheating under only certain conditions, dropping coolant level, etc. - there can be more severe symptoms, but they can also be slight... for now...).

As a question, right before this problem first occurred, was a coolant change performed? Sometimes, if the coolant system is not properly bled (each engine has a procedure that may be unique), an air pocket can be trapped which can lead to spot heating. This may not show up at the temperature gauge if the sender is somewhere else. It may show up if you use a scanner that shows realtime data, if the fan was running. This is because the fan may be using a different sender (the same one the computer uses) and IT may be seeing the hot spot. It is possible that if this scenario occurred, one of the heads warped slightly, allowing leakage at the gasket. It would not take much. Aluminum heads are not very forgiving of overheating.

What you can do to tell, in addition to a LEAKDOWN test (gives more information than compression) is to have the coolant tested for hydrocarbon's. Take a sample from the overflow. I would bet you that any Subaru shop can tell you where to get this done, or do it themselves.

Subaru also sells something called Coolant Conditioner, that they recommend be used with ALL of their 4 cylinder engines. You shake the bottle well, remove an equivalent amount of coolant from the radiator (not overflow...), add it all and you are done. It contains a corrosion inhibiting package and in addition, a substance that fixes small external leaks and they CLAIM, can also fix small INTERNAL leaks. Now, I can understand fixing a leak to external or an oil passage (I trust, by the way, that you checked your OIL for contamination, which would look whitish or brownish?), since these are low pressure differential's, but I seriously doubt it can fix a leak to a high pressure area such as the combustion chamber. But, they claim this. In any case, it is only about $6 and it sure can't hurt to try. One thing, though, is that they recommend using any GREEN antifreeze (ethylene glycol). If you have the really pale green stuff or the yellow stuff, I would ask at the counter or check online about compatibility.

Anyway, my 2 cents... Good luck and let us know what you did and found.

What he is describing is NOT normal expansion and contraction. The coolant is going SOMEWHERE and if the exhaust is whitish...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
quick replies, thanks guys..

Here's the whole reason why my coolant system had issues in the first place 6000 miles ago.. Nissan flushed the coolant system at Ken Garff Nissan in Orem, Ut. I live over two hours away, I wasn't going to drive it all the way back to them stubborn a-holes to have them look at it, so I looked at what the cause could be, found that others have had that issue with air being in the system, after I did that procedure at adding coolant and letting the air out, I never heard that fan come on, it only came on when it was real hot outside with the AC blasting just before winter rolled around... until now it seems that it might be doing it again, this time it didn't accept as much coolant, 6000 miles ago when it had issues it was over half a gallon it accepted until it would stay between low/high.

I've checked my transmission fluid, it looks good(real clear with a a purple-ish pink tint), smells like celery as it should.

Maybe 3500 miles ago I seen a little bit of a crack in the hose that goes to the throttle body from the coolant line coming out of the top of the radiator. I replaced that hose. Maybe the couple thousand miles I drove with that little cracked hose on the throttle body let just enough air in it to make more problems.

Maybe it's fixed for good now... It's been idling for quite a little while and all seems great, heater is hot, engine temp looks good, hmm..

EDIT: just read 2004Frontier's post. . . It very well could be a head gasket, I do have a hiss right at the top of the engine under all those fancy looking plastic covers, I've already posted about that in the past and others say it's normal and they can hear the same hiss, but i do accept that I could have a head gasket leak... which could be the real cause of my p0420 code I get sometimes. My was just changed, but before that, It was at a good level, was a bit brownish, but isn't brown pretty normal?.. In my rodeo, ever since I first got it, the oil appears a wee bit brown.
 

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if you had a head gasket problem you would have coolant in your oil or you would smell it burning in your exhaust or see it pooling somewhere on the motor or under it. you can always get a dye kit just to be sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
hmm, well my exhaust smells more like fuel than anything, i can't smell coolant what so ever... I let the truck run for a while, then I got in and revv'd it up. I then went to the back of the truck, stuck my hand under the exhaust outlet, leaned the pipe down to get some drops of water out, it's certainly crystal clear water that runs out of my exhaust from what I can tell, and it doesn have much of a smell, little bit like fuel.

I know that if the catalytic converters are having issues, the o2 sensors read bad values, the ECM will not know the correct fuel/air ratio to give the engine, thus my truck may be running rich which is causing my cloudy exhaust.

I just called the dealership and asked them to schedule me a catalytic converter service, since the truck is covered under an 8 year 80,000 mile exhaust component warranty.


Anyone know a quick way I can tell if my head gasket's got issues? Nissan will charge me up the a** the best they can if I left it up to them... I'm quite sure my powertrain warranty is up, I'll have to double check tho.
 

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Sounds like a head gasket to me, too. Look inside your oil fill cap. If you're getting a little water in your oil you'll see it here first. Look like a deposit of bacon grease. Leak down and compression tests might still be in order. Keep us posted.
My '01 SC is shut down for the winter due to a blown head gasket(s). I plan on pulling the heads, taking them to a machine shop to be checked out, and reinstalling. Just have to make sure my old Mitsubishi Sport is ready to fill in for the Nissan for a while. I'll never buy a Nissan again. Nothing but expensive parts and problems.
 

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If your still adding coolant, its possible you may still have airpockets in your cooling system. Whenever you are topping up or changing coolant, make sure you turn the heater on full, since your heating system is tied into the cooling system. Also, the rise of coolant in the resevoir tank is normal. Its there to collect the coolent that overflows due to heat build up. If your not seeing any leaks or puddles, pull your plugs and see if they have a white residue (I believe its white, correct me if I'm wrong please). If you do, you most likely have a head gasket leak. Also, rough idling can be caused by worn out plugs. If you haven't done it recently, maybe try replacing all the plugs and wires.

I had both problems myself recently.
 

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It depends on where a head gasket is gamaged as to symptoms of it showing. If it is between an exhaust port and water jacket, you could start your engine when it's cold, remove the rad cap and look for tiny bubbles coming thru the coolant. That would mean the exhaust is leaking into the coolant and over pressurizing the system, and discolored coolant. But if it is a small crack or hole, it can seal back up again once the engine warms and everything expands. If the damage is between the intake and water jacket, you will get a white smoke out of the exhaust and a fouled plug on the cylinder it is leaking into. It as well can re-seal once the vehicle warms up, but as it cools, coolant can seep into the cylinder and create a hydraulic lock the next time you start it (if it is really bad)
Best thing to do is monitor the level, sometimes it takes awhile to get all the air locks out, and check your plugs for any one of them looking out of the ordinary compared to the others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
thanks for all of the help guys..

I will check my plugs here soon and see if something's up... I don't get any misfire codes or any flashing SES light because of unburnt fuel, just my P0420 that comes and goes, I have a bluetooth OBD adapter plugged in that I always monitor with my netbook with PCMSCAN/ScanXL

I have an appointment with a different nissan dealership closer to salt lake city this coming tuesday to get my exhaust worked on..

we'll see if I still get cloudy exhaust after that. It does seem to stop puffing white clouds COMPLETELY after about 4 miles on the highway, it doesn't just gradually stop smoking, it STOPS all at once at a random moment while warming up. So maybe it's not a gasket issue, seems if it were a gasket issue it would gradually stop smoking as the engine/gaskets expand and close the gap. ... bah.. I just hope it's all good. I'll keep an eye on my coolant, it may just have had some extra air in the system from 6000 miles ago. I don't want to have nissan do a flush(again), I've read too many posts from others about problems after a flush (same problems I've got now).

Boo.. this truck. sheeesh.. still love it tho..
 

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I noticed this coolant leak under the throttle body in my 2006 today. (The intake air inlet is removed.) Do I have a leaky hose that needs to be replaced or is there more to this problem than meets the eye? If I replace the hose, I will introduce air into the system, right? :-( Thank you.

 
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