What To Do When You Smell Antifreeze: You May Have a Leak

What to do when you smell antifreeze

Antifreeze prevents the engine from overheating by flowing outside air through your radiator, as well as preventing the cooling system’s water from freezing in the winter. Failure to use antifreeze or a similar coolant can lead to costly repairs including a cracked head gasket or warped cylinders. Though it should always be present within your vehicle, you should not be able to smell it. If you can pick up on the distinctly sweet scent coming through the heating vents, it may mean you have a leak. 


What to do if you suspect you have an antifreeze leak


Numerous issues can cause an antifreeze leak. Some problems are minor—like a loose clamp—so you can fix them yourself . However, other causes are more complex, meaning you may have to replace a defective part. If you suspect you have an antifreeze leak, it’s best that you take your vehicle to a trusted service center to be diagnosed by professionals. 


Common signs of an antifreeze leak: 


  • The vehicle's coolant level in your  vehicle's coolant-recovery tank is suspiciously low despite having been recent refilled. 

  • The car overheats despite the recent refilling of antifreeze. Many vehicles have an engine temperature warning light on the dashboard that looks like a thermometer with wavy lines next to it or a box with wavy lines inside of it.


  • The detection of an unusual, sweet smell coming forth from the vents or while outside the vehicle. 


  • Splashes of liquid on the pavement beneath your car or truck. It will be brightly colored green, orange, pink, and turquoise. 


  • Your heater fails to work properly. 


  • Your radiator shows signs of rust. This would be caused by the fluid landing on hot pipes to quickly burn off, leaving discoloration behind. 


To find the source of the possible antifreeze leak:


  • Drive the car until it’s warmed up before parking on clean pavement.  Wait twenty minutes before checking under your car or truck for new fluid drippage on the ground and/or dampness underneath your car or truck. Even if there’s no puddle, you’re not necessarily in the clear. Pause to see if you detect the smell.


  • Turn off the vehicle and let it fully cool. Then, open the hood and search for discoloration around the recovery-tank cap, radiator cap, and nearby hoses. 


  • Feel around the hose and clamps for moisture (once again, make sure the vehicle is fully cooled). Make sure they’re firmly attached and keep an eye out for rips. 


  • Follow your nose! If the smell of antifreeze is more prominent on the inside than outside, it’s likely that the source of the leak comes from inside the engine. 


The easiest problems to fix will involve the hose and its clamps. An experienced car owner familiar with basic mechanics may be able to tighten a lax clamp or replace a torn hose. However, as mentioned above, the culprit can be much less obvious and potentially much more damaging. For example, the head gasket could be leaking into the engine cylinders where it’s being burned as fuel. This can lead to engine failure, leaving you stranded by the side of the road. 


If you are unsure how to fix the leak or need assistance, go to a service center immediately. Bo Beuckman’s well-reviewed specialists can diagnose and fix the issue. Our sizable parts inventory means that we’re likely to have your vehicle in top driving condition as soon as possible. 


Give us a call at 636-242-1409 or click here to schedule an appointment. 




Categories: Parts, Body Shop
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