What To Do About An Antifreeze Leak

Also known simply as engine coolant, the antifreeze in your car keeps the engine cool as it runs. After all, a running car engine will develop a lot of heat. The antifreeze flows through the engine absorbing heat, before flowing to the radiator and exchanging that heat with the outside air. If your vehicle is leaking antifreeze, you can expect problems to develop! So, get the help of the factory-trained technicians at the Capitol Subaru service center. Below, we'll tell you what signs you should look for to identify a coolant leak on your vehicle.

If the temperature gauge in the dashboard starts to run high, the cooling system on your car may need service 

5. Monitor The Engine Temperature

The biggest risk of a coolant leak is that the engine cooling system won't be able to do its job -- allowing the engine to overheat, which can lead to catastrophic damage! So, if you suspect your car is leaking antifreeze, be sure to keep an eye on the temperature gauge in the dashboard. And keep an eye out for warning lights such as an oil temperature warning light or check engine light. If the engine begins to overheat, you should pull over and let the engine cool as soon as possible. If the engine overheats for too long, it can be completely destroyed by the excess heat!

This vehicle indicates a low coolant level with a dedicated warning in the dashboard 

4. Check For Big Leaks

Minor coolant leaks might not be noticeable from a visual inspection, as the coolant can drip onto lower engine components where it simply evaporates, or even leak internally and get burned up during combustion. However, major leaks can create a real puddle beneath your car, and a big leak is likely to cause big problems. So, after parking for a while, peer under your car and look for leaks if you suspect your car is losing coolant.

There are a variety of fluids that may leak from your car. On modern cars, coolant is usually bright green, pink, orange or blue -- making it easier to identify. If you spot this fluid forming in a puddle underneath your car, you might need a tow to our service center.

3. Check The Level Of Coolant In The Radiator

If you're willing to get your hands a little bit dirty, pop the hood and consider peering inside the radiator. But take care to let the engine cool down first! Let the car sit for an hour or so after driving before taking off the radiator cap. If the engine is hot, the cooling system may still be under pressure, and could cause scalding hot coolant to geyser up from the radiator, potentially causing burns.

Once you've taken off the radiator cap, take a look inside. Coolant should come up nearly to the top of the opening. If you can look inside and the coolant level is low, or too low to see, then you're likely low on coolant. This is probably due to a small leak, or due to an internal leak allowing the engine to burn the coolant inside.

A technician adds fresh, bright-green antifreeze to this vehicle's cooling system 

2. Check The Exhaust

If your vehicle has a leaky head gasket, coolant can get into the engine's cylinders, and get burned up with the gasoline. This is known as coolant consumption, and it's not uncommon in older cars. To detect this problem, monitor the exhaust coming from your car. Unless it's particularly cold out, your car shouldn't make any visible tailpipe emissions once the engine has warmed up. But, if you see white or grey exhaust coming from the tailpipe as you drive, that can indicate coolant burning up inside your engine.

In order to fix an engine that's burning coolant, you'll probably need a new head gasket installed -- that is, unless the engine block or cylinder head themselves are cracked, which might mean that you need an entirely new engine, or that it's time for a new vehicle altogether.

1. Check The Cabin Heater

One more thing that may stop working if your vehicle doesn't have enough coolant is the heater. To heat the cabin, coolant that has absorbed heat from the engine flows to the heater core, which transfers that heat to the cabin HVAC system. If the cabin heater isn't working, that can indicate it's time to get your vehicle's engine cooling system inspected by a professional.

Because the cooling system is such an important part of your car, be sure to have these problems examined right away by an expert technician at Capitol Subaru.

More Tips From The Capitol Subaru Service Center

Schedule service online at Capitol Subaru
Order parts online at Capitol Subaru

Capitol Subaru of Salem

920 Auto Group Ave NE
Directions Salem, OR 97301

  • Sales: 503-587-5500
  • Service: 503-587-5500
  • Parts: 503-587-5500


  • Monday 7:00am - 6:00pm
  • Tuesday 7:00am - 6:00pm
  • Wednesday 7:00am - 6:00pm
  • Thursday 7:00am - 6:00pm
  • Friday 7:00am - 6:00pm
  • Saturday 8:00am- 5:00pm
  • Sunday Closed