How to Diagnose a Car Smell of Antifreeze

by Kimberly Johnson
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A sweet smell inside or outside of a car is a sure sign that the car is leaking antifreeze. The challenge is locating the part of the car in which the leak is located. Although all antifreeze leaks occur under the hood, you can diagnose the problem from inside and outside the vehicle. Antifreeze leaks can be caused by simple hose failures, or may be caused by a crack in the coolant container or heater block.

Step 1

Turn the car on and then turn the heater on high to determine if the antifreeze smell is coming from inside or outside the car. If the smell is coming from inside the car only when the heater is turned on, the problem is either with the heater core or the heater hose. If you only notice the smell outside the car, the leak is in the coolant compartment.

Step 2

Reach near the floor on the driver's side and pull the hood release.

Step 3

Move to the front of the car and run your hand underneath the hood to locate the latch. Slide the latch to the side to release the hood. Insert the hood prop pole into the hood to hold it open.

Step 4

Examine the entire length of the heater hose for leaks. Look for fluid that is leaking from any part of the hose as well as visible cracks or holes in the hose. Pay special attention to where the heater hose connects to the heater block to determine if that is the location of the leak.

Step 5

Examine the heater core for a leak. Leaks from the heater core usually result in the antifreeze running down the side of the heater or dripping onto the ground underneath the car.

Step 6

Locate the coolant compartment and examine it for leaks. The coolant compartment is a clear square container through which the coolant liquid can be seen. If the coolant level is well below the recommended fill line, it indicates a leak.

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