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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys,
It's been a while since I've been back on here and I have scoured the internet to the best of my ability to diagnose my problem.

Here goes:
2004 Base Impala
95k miles

This is the email I sent to my dad:
I wanted to know if maybe you know about this problem, and I've been researching it as well. For the first time today, I was driving 20 miles to drill and saw about 16 miles in that there was a message from the car on the dash reading "Hot Coolant Temp". I quickly pulled over, and checked oil (which I had gotten an oil change a few days prior) and it was still clean and didn't have a milkshake appearance (from what I can tell means coolant is mixing with the oil). The coolant reservoir did have fluid in it, but it was steaming. The coolant is Dex-Cool, but it looks brownish, when it should be red I think. I had another guy from my unit drive out and meet me, and the car had cooled down by this time. We proceeded to drive to a gas station and I bought antifreeze/coolant and poured it in. We ran the car after I poured it in and replaced the radiator cap. I turned the car off and then started it again. The guy took off the cap and the pressure of it blew coolant out and landed on his hand. The odd thing is that the coolant wasn't even hot. This was after we drove for about 10 minutes which I thought surely it should overheat. My buddy said it might be the water pump since it had hesitated to spin, but it did seem to spin properly after another power cycle (could have been because it was wet from the coolant. I went ahead and drive another mile and made it to drill.

I got to leave about an hour after I got there and decided to keep the heater on just in case to cool the engine down. The coolant temp gauge remained in the middle which is what it normally stays at and showed no signs of overheating. Later on in the day, I turned the car on and let it idle in Park, and the temperature slowly rised, appearing normal, but then it had climbed to almost the red zone. I ran the heater and all it did was blow cold air. I checked the coolant reservoir and it was empty with gurgling.

Now my question is, do you think it could be the water pump, thermostat, low coolant, or bad heater core?

My plan is to replace the thermostat and get a radiator flush. If that doesn't remedy it, what do you think it could be? I don't think it's a head gasket because I don't see a milkshake appearance when I check the oil. And after reading the above and researching, it seem to be the thermostat. But then again, what are the symptoms of a water pump failure? There are no leaks under the car and no odd noises from the engine.
I took it to Express Lune and the mechanic had filled up the coolant system with water and eventually the heater began to work again. He stated that there wasn't enough water getting to the heating core for it to work making it over heat. Makes sense because now it blows hot air.

I ran it today in idle for a good while and didn't have any overheating problems. I was on the verge of replacing the thermostat myself but I just wanted to test it and see if it would act up.

I do need to get a coolant flush because for as long as I've had the car I haven't had one.

Now I did notice this today:
-The coolant reservoir tank smells like gas after the car ran in idle, and it did steam a little :/
-You can see bubbles come up from the reservoir, but the amount of coolant left in it is low enough to just be right at the hose
-The oil does not have a milkshake appearance or have water on it.
-No white smoke blows from the muffler
-The car doesn't have leaks underneath (the only exception being the one you can see in the pic by the oil cap)
-The car was bled at Express Lube and I haven't seen it overheat yet but I haven;t test driven it all that much either)

Do you think it's early signs of a head gasket issue? And if so, is the car shot? It doesn't seem like a problem I've read about, or it could just be early problems I hope.
 

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8th Gen Antagonist
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Well, you could certainly use a flush from what I see in those pics. The problem could be a head gasket, the indicator being the gas smell in the reservoir. The only thing that would cause that, is combustion gasses getting into the cooling system. Oil and coolant mixing does not necessarily occur, and even when it does, it can be an intake gasket problem. Another possibility is that the coolant was low to start with, if its low, you will get air pockets in the engine which will cause it to overheat. Which would leave the question of where the coolant went, has it been leaking? Last but not least, do the fans run when you idle it? If not, that is probably your issue. Head gasket could also have failed as a result of overheating from another issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yes both fans work, and the left fan(when facing the windshield) kicks on when the AC turns on. Is it worth me replacing the thermostat and then taking it to get flushed? (They wanted me to spend $150 to do the tstat).

It's only red-lined twice (one which I pulled over immediately and the other when at the idle the other day). I don't believe I could have caused damage if any to the heads because both times I shut the car within 30 seconds of seeing it overheat.

The second time it got close to the red line, I didn't receive a Hot Coolant Temperature light, but the check engine light came on and was blinking, but I think went away.

Can I check my spark plugs to see if there is burnt coolant on it? Would that indicate head gasket problems?
 

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OEM LOL
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$150 to do the thermostat!?

Go buy it yourself and replace it your self takes 10min and costs $12.

Maybe try a lower degree thermostat when you replace them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I can do the work, and I almost did, I just need input based off what I wrote about the possibility of head gasket being bad.

I read up on Stephen's tutorial on a complete teardown but I'd like to think it's nothing too major right now.

What signs are prevalent of a blown head gasket? What causes the gas smell and what tests can I do to determine what parts are bad (radiator, water pump, etc.)?
 

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8th Gen Antagonist
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A bad head gasket will give you constant bubbling in the cooling system, which may or may not come with exhaust or fuel smell. May or may not cause cross contamination of oil and coolant. May or may not allow coolant into the cylinders, which may or may not come out the exhaust and may or may not plug the cat. Point being there are a lot of variables... Radiator failure is usually limited to leaks, but they can get clogged and block flow, but you would have hoses swelling from excess pressure. Thermostats typically fail open, but can fail closed, similar symptoms to clogged radiator. Water pump will either leak, or the veins can wear out and it will stop flowing properly.

If I were you, and you have tools and space, I would just go ahead and tear into it down to the head gaskets. Replace the thermostat, temp sensor, and water pump while you're in there, which is going to cost an extra $50 at most. Do a flush before you start to clear the heater core and radiator, you should cover all your bases. I really think its a head gasket.
 

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8th Gen Antagonist
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Why on earth did you get an oil flush?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I don't know, the guy said it was sludgy. It probably held everything together heh. Still at 95k, i wouldn't think head gaskets would go bad.

Have to focus on this when finals are over.

I haven;t started the car though in two days because I don't have time to run tests. Will keep you guys updated though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Hadn't driven the car in about two weeks, and started it today. I got to where I was going with no overheating, but the car did shake and the CEL blinked a few times. I had a feeling that the car would straighten out and sure enough it did and the CEL went off.

I figured a misfire after reading the car manual.

Well I decided to go to AutoZone to see if the code was saved in the car's computer, and t was but I additionally got word of more codes the car had, having never seeing the CEL.

They're attached in the pictures, but the codes again are:
P0620
P1811
P0300
P0455

I could probably go out on a limb and say that the P0455 could be caused by the gas smell in the coolant reservoir, which would be a leak, but who knows?

I also won't be driving the car for the next year, but what are your thoughts? The car is gone, or is there a shot at repairs?

What I'm (for lack of a better term, "more") worried about is the P1811. The car's transmission hasn't given me any problems. Also, please shed light for me on the P0620.

Thanks!


*Oh, also my radio likes to stay on after the car is turned off and key is removed. Any reason why?
 

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Hi guys,
It's been a while since I've been back on here and I have scoured the internet to the best of my ability to diagnose my problem.

Here goes:
2004 Base Impala
95k miles

This is the email I sent to my dad:
I took it to Express Lune and the mechanic had filled up the coolant system with water and eventually the heater began to work again. He stated that there wasn't enough water getting to the heating core for it to work making it over heat. Makes sense because now it blows hot air.
I would not use water since it boils at 100C or 212F and would overheat quickly and water freeze at 32F so you could crack the engine block and or damage other things

most car engines run at 160 to 200 range

Fine if your running a steam engine.


*Oh, also my radio likes to stay on after the car is turned off and key is removed. Any reason why?
should turn off when your open the door



P0620 - Generator Control Circuit Malfunction
Possible causes
- Failed Generator/Belt
- Battery charge
- PCM controlled generator
- PCM failure
- Open or short generator circuit



P1811 - Transmission 4-Wheel Drive Low Indicator Short Circuit To Ground



P0300 - Cylinder Misfire Detected Random Cylinders
- Faulty spark plug (s)
- Faulty ignition coil (s)
- Clogged or faulty fuel injector (s)
- Intake air leak
- Fuel injectors harness is open or shorted
- Fuel Injectors circuit poor electrical connection
- Ignition coils harness is open or shorted
- Ignition coils circuit poor electrical connection
- Insufficient cylinders compression
- Incorrect fuel pressure


P0455 - Evaporative Emission Control System Leak Detected Gross Leak
Missing or loose fuel cap
- Incorrect fuel filler cap used
- Fuel filler cap remains open or fails to close
- Foreign matter caught in fuel filler cap
- EVAP canister or fuel tank leaks
- EVAP system hose leaking
- Fuel tank leaking
 

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Gas smell in coolant reservoir? That would point to a bad head gasket, which could also explain the misfire.
 

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I would make sure you have the air out of the coolant system by using the bleed valves on the engine, assure the coolant is full at the RADIATOR fill, and mark where the coolant level is in the bucket. I actually used part of an old upper radiator hose as a standpipe - sticking it in at the radiator cap- when bleeding the air bleeds as it gave more "head" , rather than the slow pour as it is so near the top level vs. bleed level. These are the 7mm (I think) screw things in the metal coolant tubes, one at the water pump housing, the other at the thermostat area, upper hose to radiator.

Just did it again last week with an upper hose replacement, works beautiful with no air pockets.

Once system is full, fill bucket to proper level, then, drive it, and monitor the bucket level after every trip, or before you start to drive off when cold.

No heat and pegged temp indication is often air in the system from lack of coolant, especially if heat and gauge return normal after revving the engine. It may be leaking somewhere, but see what happens. If you find a white residue on the oil fill cap on the valve cover when you remove it, you surely are getting coolant into the engine. Monitor this and the engine oil. I have found on a few of my GM cars, the residue appears on the rocker arms and oil fill cap before the oil degrades to the damaging coolant/oil/milkshake disaster. I suppose your indicators may vary!

Just trying to help verify if there is a leak in the system that needs repaired, or you simply have an air pocket.

And yes, thermostat is not a 15 minute job on the 3.4, but an hour or 2. I have had both issues on my 3.4.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Sorry to revive this, I finally got around to changing the spark plugs and putting in a new battery. Car started and at first the check engine light kept blinking, but then I started it again and it stays on. It didn't shake like I thought it would though after new plugs.

I read somewhere [have to find the link] that if multiple plugs look reddish [see pic], it could be an intake manifold gasket. If that's the case, is this different than a head? (I had thrown one plug into the dumpster so I only have these 5 old ones lol)

I won't lie, I neglected taking care of the maintenance so the Dexcool is sludgy and probably low and the heater is blowing cold air.

I have another vehicle so it's not a high priority but I'd like to get an idea of anything I can mess with since the semester is over.

Thanks guys and great being back!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hate to keep bumping the thread, but is it worth trying to fix if the car still only has 96k and it's an 04?
 

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So what exactly is going on with the car to date?

I will say the 3.4l has a very weak top end and is very common to have lower intake and head gasket failures.

If you are going to spend the time to do the lower intake gaskets you might as well do the head gaskets because they are likely going to go later on.
 
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