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#716739 - 05/19/12 07:15 PM Brown oily from coolant overflow?
olc Offline
journeyman

Registered: 01/31/07
Posts: 65
My check engine light went on in my Xterra. When I pulled into my driveway, there was some steam from under the hood. It looks like the relief cap on the coolant overflow tank released.
The weird part - the liquid dripping down is lightish brown that feels very oily.
????

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#716740 - 05/19/12 08:31 PM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: olc]
BillJeffy Offline
Don't Know Squat
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/02/06
Posts: 9314
Loc: USA
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Not a good sign....

Coupla issues...the tranny cooler in the radiator
has developed a leak, mixing trans fluid and coolant.

Or, even worse, head gasket blown, and engine oil mixing...

Check trans and engine dipstick for contamination...
Which dipstick will tell which problem frown

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_________________________
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Just Common Sense......
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err....I'm not a Doctor, but I'll take a LOOK ! !

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#716743 - 05/20/12 04:55 AM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: olc]
CabinConnection Offline
Bigfoot
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/20/04
Posts: 39339
Loc: The Indianhead's Left Nostril....
What's the coolant that's inside the recovery tank look like?

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#716749 - 05/20/12 06:42 AM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: CabinConnection]
Bob_Q Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/28/01
Posts: 14089
Loc: Albany area,New York
If the OP saw steam,that's a head gasket problem. Not good,as Bill said. Absolutely DON'T drive until a pro(one you can trust) looks at it and verifies our opinions.

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#716750 - 05/20/12 06:47 AM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: Bob_Q]
CabinConnection Offline
Bigfoot
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/20/04
Posts: 39339
Loc: The Indianhead's Left Nostril....
Originally Posted By: Bob_Q
If the OP saw steam,that's a head gasket problem.

"Steam" could be from all kinds of places, including a simple overheating or from the recovery tank coolant overflowing onto a hot component. Limited driving is certainly possible, depending on where the problem lies. But no question - the source of the "steam" needs to be determined, as well as the gunk in the coolant (if it's actually IN the coolant).

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#716759 - 05/20/12 07:44 AM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: BillJeffy]
Able_Dog Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 34793
Loc: N Georgia
Quote:
Or, even worse, head gasket blown, and engine oil mixing...


"Light brown", I had a plug of some kind relasese in the head of a Ford Courier I owned some years ago and it allowed the mix of engine oil, water and ethylene glycol. It formed an ugly light brown foamy substance that looked like it might not be of this world.

I was told that ethylene glycol will case metal parts to sieze.
Probably should be attended to pronto.

In my case with that plug gone (it was about 3/4 inch IIRC) it allowed everything to blend pretty quickly.

Checking the coolant as suggested is a good idea (and the engine oil)

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#716779 - 05/20/12 02:27 PM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: CabinConnection]
Bob_Q Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/28/01
Posts: 14089
Loc: Albany area,New York
Originally Posted By: CabinConnection
Originally Posted By: Bob_Q
If the OP saw steam,that's a head gasket problem.

"Steam" could be from all kinds of places, including a simple overheating or from the recovery tank coolant overflowing onto a hot component. Limited driving is certainly possible, depending on where the problem lies. But no question - the source of the "steam" needs to be determined, as well as the gunk in the coolant (if it's actually IN the coolant).


He said he saw steam,and in the last sentence mentioned brownish liquid dripping from I assume, the overflow tank. The only way tranny fluid is going to get there is from a crack in the rad,between the coolant area and the trans fluid reservoir,which is a very rare occurence. Hence my opinion it's a blown head gasket or God forbid,a cracked head or block.
Nissan Xterras aren't immune. Happens as often with them as any vehicle.
_________________________
Reporters no longer report the news. They make it.

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#716784 - 05/20/12 03:04 PM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: Bob_Q]
CabinConnection Offline
Bigfoot
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/20/04
Posts: 39339
Loc: The Indianhead's Left Nostril....
All the OP said was "steam under the hood". That's a lot of real estate...

Also a "brown oily" substance. Coolant has an oily feel to it, and I've seen cooling systems that were functionally OK (no leaks) but brown due to age of coolant.

I'm just saying that there's no reason to "panic" and assume the worst on that engine/cooling system. With an even minor understanding of the principles, the vehicle can likely be driven (limited) and monitored.

I don't know the specific vehicle's cooling system (only principles/theory), and wonder if the coolant recovery bottle is in fact normally pressurized. Most I think are open to atmosphere. (Somebody school me here please?) And if it IS open to atmosphere, then what the OP is describing is a normal "overheat" where the coolant rapidly vaporizes, and the causes for this are widespread. (Not necessarily a blown head gasket or cooler leak...) Somebody with credentials needs to look it over, and/or the OP needs to participate more with this thread and offer more detailed info.

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#716794 - 05/20/12 05:30 PM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: Bob_Q]
Able_Dog Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 34793
Loc: N Georgia
Originally Posted By: Bob_Q
If the OP saw steam,that's a head gasket problem. Not good,as Bill said. Absolutely DON'T drive until a pro(one you can trust) looks at it and verifies our opinions.


Steam from where he saw it is not necessarily indicative of a blown head gasket. Just had our Merc flushed (cooling system) it was brown and oily (way overdue) but not a gasket problem.

"When I pulled into my driveway, there was some steam from under the hood. It looks like the relief cap on the coolant overflow tank released.
The weird part - the liquid dripping down is lightish brown that feels very oily."

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#716808 - 05/20/12 11:19 PM Re: Brown oily from coolant overflow? [Re: Able_Dog]
morrisdancer Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/27/05
Posts: 8710
Loc: Michigan
FWIW..Daughter's car went for an oil change and that shop is wonderfully notorious for checking potential problems. They found oil in the radiator fluid and suggested to have the head gasket checked.
Wellll, we knew that the last radiator fluid change was done by our local dealer and they use recycled radiator fluid, (garage mechanic was former Dealer mechanic) and recycled radiator fluid sometimes contains oil (from customers with broken head gaskets) Something to ponder...But I must admit that a few months later, Daughters head gasket needed replacing. Dunno if just happenstance or wrong diagnosis, but again something to check out.

Liz
_________________________
Thanks, Chris and Ernie!

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