1988 Toyota 4Runner Intermittent Radiator Problem
January 25, 2012 12:46 PM Subscribe
I need guidance from car-fixin' types before I take my truck to a mechanic, in order to prevent falling into a money pit of unnecessary repairs. I also need to know if this is a critical immediate fix or if I have time to collect a few paychecks before addressing it.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My truck drove like a charm all the way from Colorado to the Oregon coast and back. The radiator fluid level in the overflow well didn't move a millimeter below the full line, and I never once opened the radiator cap itself. When I purchased the truck, it had a slow leak coming out of the radiator itself that would stop and start with no apparent pattern. The truck has recently started burning rapidly through radiator fluid at times; frequently I will pour about a half gallon of 50/50 green antifreeze directly into the radiator after about 1-2 hours of highway driving, just enough to see the fluid line when the radiator cap is removed. The overflow well is sometimes empty after that amount of driving, and other times it's right where I left it. Sometimes I can smell radiator fluid burning when the temp guage looks normal. Recently the temp gauge on the dash started rising rapidly... I pulled over as soon as I could and saw a lot of white smoke coming from the back of the engine (the side closest to the windshield.) The overflow well was completely full and visibly boiling. I let the truck cool down for about 20 minutes and it was fine for the rest of the day. This has happened twice now and doesn't seem to be related to the length or style of driving. The oil level is also fine and I get regular oil changes.
I wonder if I'm doing something wrong here? The Haynes manual mentions only putting radiator fluid into the plastic well, not the radiator itself, but I started doing that too at the recommendation of a friend. He also said that even though the manual states not to fill the overflow well beyond the full line, that I should fill it up as much as I could. The full line is quite low on the bottle, and I wonder why that is. As long as I keep putting radiator fluid in and watching the temp guage closely, can I keep nursing this thing until I have a little extra money to afford a repair? Or am I looking at the death of the engine if I don't take this in soon? If I do take it in, what should I say to point the mechanic in the correct and most economical direction? How much should I be prepared to spend on this fix?
Thank you so much in advance to anyone who can give me some answers in this situation. I am in over my head, and Google isn't helping me as much as I hoped.