Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue - Honda Civic Forum



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Old 03-08-2015   #1
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Cool Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

So my radiator in my 98 civic (lx) is on the older side. It has a fair amount of rust built up on it but it seems to work along with the fan. It also always stays full, I don't even remember the last time I had to put coolant in it. The overflow reservoir on the other hand, seems to empty within about 3 days or so (less if the weather is hot consecutively.) So I'm really wondering where all that water is going from the overflow reservoir. The radiator is filled with radiator coolant, but the overflow reservoir I fill with just water. My uncle is an old mechanic and the overflow has had water in it since I got the car. Not sure why. I just don't understand where all the water from the overflow is going so fast. I know there's no leaks, I don't think the water is going into the engine block because the exhaust doesn't leak water, and the car doesn't overheat. Like I said, it's odd because the radiator never loses any coolant. I thought maybe it's just evaporating or something because I live in cali but it really hasn't been all that hot enough lately. If anyone has any ideas as so whats causing the overflow reservoir to empty out like that, please let me know! Should I just straight up buy a new radiator altogether? I'd like to figure out the issue before I start throwing money into the car though. Thank you in advance for any solutions! Much love.
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Old 03-08-2015   #2
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

first of all you shouldnt be putting water in it.....at all !

if its not leaking, it sounds like your engine is consuming coolant, as the engine consumes coolant, it will suck more coolant from the overflow bottle to replace it with, eventually the overflow will completely empty,
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Old 03-08-2015   #3
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

Are you filling the overflow reservoir to the top when you fill it?
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Old 03-09-2015   #4
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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Originally Posted by mikey1 View Post
first of all you shouldnt be putting water in it.....at all !

if its not leaking, it sounds like your engine is consuming coolant, as the engine consumes coolant, it will suck more coolant from the overflow bottle to replace it with, eventually the overflow will completely empty,

I know I shouldn't be putting water in it, but I see no point in filling it with coolant when I have to drain it when I replace the radiator.
Wouldn't there be some indication of too much coolant in the engine? How do I stop the engine from consuming that much coolant?
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Old 03-09-2015   #5
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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Are you filling the overflow reservoir to the top when you fill it?
Well duh..
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Old 03-09-2015   #6
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

You should pull your spark plugs and see what they have to say.
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Old 03-09-2015   #7
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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You should pull your spark plugs and see what they have to say.

I did that when I was replacing them along with the wires when I was giving the car a tune-up about a month or 2 ago. There was no sign of water inside the holes.
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

but what did the plugs themselves look like? If the theory right now is that coolant is being burnt off in the combustion chamber (especially at the rate your describing) then one (or more) of the plugs should either be steam cleaned or have white deposit on them. How long has coolant been disappearing?

I guess the burning theory would be that coolant is slipping in to the combustion chamber around the head gasket. Normal the opposite would be happening though where pressure from the engine would be pushing coolant into the overflow.

If it's not burning then it has to be leaking somewhere.
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Old 03-09-2015   #9
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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but what did the plugs themselves look like? If the theory right now is that coolant is being burnt off in the combustion chamber (especially at the rate your describing) then one (or more) of the plugs should either be steam cleaned or have white deposit on them. How long has coolant been disappearing?

I guess the burning theory would be that coolant is slipping in to the combustion chamber around the head gasket. Normal the opposite would be happening though where pressure from the engine would be pushing coolant into the overflow.

If it's not burning then it has to be leaking somewhere.
The plugs were black on the tips just like they normally are when they're burnt out. There was no sign of any white deposit. The coolant (and by coolant, I mean water because that's what I put in the overflow) has been disappearing every 3 or 4 days for awhile now, ever since I got the car about a year ago. It actually used to almost overheat because the water would drain so fast but luckily that stopped ever since I got a new thermostat about 4 or 5 months ago. It can't be leaking, it just can't be. I would definitely notice it leaking somewhere especially if it was leaking that much. If I replace the entire radiator and overflow tank, do you think the problem will subside?
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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Originally Posted by offtheheezay View Post
If I replace the entire radiator and overflow tank, do you think the problem will subside?
no....i think that would be a 100% waste of money

from what you are describing, neither of those items are the problem
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Old 03-09-2015   #11
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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Are you filling the overflow reservoir to the top when you fill it?
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Originally Posted by offtheheezay View Post
Well duh..
IF this answer was meant to say you HAVE BEEN filling it to the top, you're doing it wrong.

The reservoir has MAX and MIN marks, you are not supposed to fill it to the top EVER.
Excess liquid will be pushed out of the bottle as the coolant in the engine heats up and expands.

If you only fill to the MAX line when the engine is cold, there will be sufficient space in the bottle for normal expansion.
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Old 03-09-2015   #12
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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IF this answer was meant to say you HAVE BEEN filling it to the top, you're doing it wrong.

The reservoir has MAX and MIN marks, you are not supposed to fill it to the top EVER.
Excess liquid will be pushed out of the bottle as the coolant in the engine heats up and expands.

If you only fill to the MAX line when the engine is cold, there will be sufficient space in the bottle for normal expansion.
Okay, I think we have misinterpreted each other. I took "to the top" as to the max line. But even if I did actually fill it to the top it wouldn't matter, it would disappear with the other 3/4 the bottle in maybe 2 or 3 hours of driving while it's hot. I've never had an issue where there has been excess liquid. My problem is quite the opposite where is never seems to have enough.
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Old 03-09-2015   #13
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

You know, I had a problem with mine a couple years ago where the bottom hose clamp had rusted through. So when the car was hot and the system had pressure it would push past the rusted out bottom clamp. When it was cool/cooling it wouldn't leak. You should put some pressure on your cooling system and hold it for a while and see if anything leaks. I've seen the DIY solution this by taking a tire valve stem and epoxying it into a rubber stopper that fits the neck of the radiator and using something like a bicycle pump to add some pressure.
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Old 03-09-2015   #14
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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Originally Posted by offtheheezay View Post
The plugs were black on the tips just like they normally are when they're burnt out. There was no sign of any white deposit. The coolant (and by coolant, I mean water because that's what I put in the overflow) has been disappearing every 3 or 4 days for awhile now, ever since I got the car about a year ago. It actually used to almost overheat because the water would drain so fast but luckily that stopped ever since I got a new thermostat about 4 or 5 months ago. It can't be leaking, it just can't be. I would definitely notice it leaking somewhere especially if it was leaking that much. If I replace the entire radiator and overflow tank, do you think the problem will subside?
do these two cheap tests.
if it proves no combustion gases, check somewhere else.

how to test? cheap way 1: Thanks, Scotty!)
Quote:
Originally Posted by ezone View Post
Good numbers. Well under 10% variation too.

Stick the reservoir hose in a container of water set up where you can see it, watch for bubbles coming up while you let it run?
All you need is a way to see the coolant level change or air bubbles coming up through it. I mentioned the funnel because that is what I use, most convenient for me.

Some of them don't want to leak much until the engine has a load on it, and pressure in the radiator reduces how much gets past the head gasket.
It's like $32, and damn handy if you do any regular work on cars. http://www.amazon.com/Lisle-24610-Sp.../dp/B001A4EAV0
Too many will pass this test, yet still have a head gasket problem. Not reliable enough for me.
Correct.
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Originally Posted by scooty View Post
So blown head gasket it is then

I attached some rubber tubing to where the overflow reservoir hose attaches to the radiator filler neck and immersed the other end in an open container full of coolant. Please see attached video to the see the bubbles:

There are no bubbles at idle but you can clearly see a stream of bubbles when I rev it up.

Is this enough confirmation of a blown HG to warrant removing the head and replacing the gasket?

Cheap method 2: (Thanks, ezone!, including your "own style" comment :P)
Quote:
Originally Posted by ezone View Post
Compression test will not show you this problem.

I would stick a funnel-fill funnel on the radiator

and let it run, watch for an endless slow stream of bubbles coming up.
If the engine seems to never finish burping its air out, then my next step is to put shop air pressure on each cylinder to see and prove which one is leaking.
I'm darn lazy and I don't like pulling a head without definite proof, and that test is proof enough for me.

You have read threads where I talk more about this method, right?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ezone View Post

Half of the bad head gaskets I see on this engine will pass every test you guys have mentioned. These almost never leak externally. These almost always leak from the combustion chamber into the cooling system, and that's it. That's all.

My procedure:
Start with a hot engine, pull out plugs and rad cap:
Pressurize each cylinder (@TDC, one at a time) with shop air line pressure 170+ PSI. Watch for the coolant level to rise when you get to the bad one. (sometimes this is a slow process)
If no results, then wait for the engine to cool down and repeat this same procedure on each cylinder.

If it passes this test, then it's probably ok right now.
source:
https://www.civicforums.com/forums/3...reference.html
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Old 03-09-2015   #15
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

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Originally Posted by sdaidoji View Post
do these two cheap tests.
if it proves no combustion gases, check somewhere else.

how to test? cheap way 1: Thanks, Scotty!)



2003 Civic Head Gasket Test - YouTube

Cheap method 2: (Thanks, ezone!, including your "own style" comment :P)

So I did the first test, and there was a few bubbles that kept popping up. So what does that mean? Where do I go from here?




source:
https://www.civicforums.com/forums/3...reference.html
So I did the first test, and there was a few bubbles that kept popping up. So what does that mean? Where do I go from here?
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

ow... bad prospects...

BTW, did you read the link i posted, under the "source:" ?

you probably have the most common cause - as others have been trying to tell you all along, your head gasket is leaking and letting the combustion gases flow from the cylinder to the coolant, which pushes the coolant out of your reservoir. It mostly happens when engine is under load, so while driving.

do the test number two, if confirmed, you need a head gasket job.
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Old 03-10-2015   #17
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

So I was checking out my car again today and the stream of bubbles doesn't go away. It's about 1 bubble every sec. I also checked the oil cap and the attached pics are what it looks like. The dipstick HOWEVER, seemed to not show any signs of milkiness or abnormal coloring, only the oil CAP. I just had the oil changed maybe 2 months ago. So this confirms that there is water in the oil and that it's definitely a blown head gasket right? It doesn't seem like coolant (or water in my case) is overflowing, I just never see any leaks or excess water in on or around the car which is weird, but I guess it still could be. I was thinking about buying a combusted gas tester that you put in the overflow reservoir on pay day. Think I should give it a go and see if the testing liquid turns yellow just to be sure?
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Old 03-10-2015   #18
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Re: Overflow Reservoir/Radiator Issue

Quote:
So I was checking out my car again today and the stream of bubbles doesn't go away. It's about 1 bubble every sec.
Probably head gasket.

Quote:
I also checked the oil cap and the attached pics are what it looks like. The dipstick HOWEVER, seemed to not show any signs of milkiness or abnormal coloring, only the oil CAP.
I see the milky stuff in oil caps all the time, I don't immediately consider it a problem. The oil cap is in a cooler area of the engine so it doesn't get heated up as much as the rest of the internals.
In my area of the country, it's usually simple condensation...I notice it a lot more in the winter especially on cars that do mostly short in town trips. If one could get out on the highway and keep the engine heated up for a couple hours at a time, it can evaporate much of the condensation.

Quote:
So this confirms that there is water in the oil and that it's definitely a blown head gasket right?
No.

If you have a bunch of antifreeze in the oil, the oil would look like a chocolate milkshake. If there are only traces, you might not be able to see any clues at all.

If you have a coolant consumption problem then what you see in the oil cap COULD be the result of antifreeze.... but that's not a definite answer at all.

If you dare to taste it (DANGEROUS) you might be able to tell more, or send an oil sample out for analysis (SAFER) if you are really concerned.......but I think your steady stream of bubbles may be the giveaway.

Next in my book is pressure testing each of the cylinders to isolate which cylinder(s) are the problem (very likely to prove the problem).
Or pressurize the radiator to see if coolant enters any of the cylinders (less likely to reveal the problem).
Or both.


HTH
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