How to Troubleshoot a Volvo 850 Engine Antifreeze Leakby David McGuffin
Antifreeze can leak from many parts of a Volvo 850's engine; however, there are a few common components to check right away when you notice a lower coolant level than usual. As a side note, use distilled water as an alternative for coolant if you are stuck on the side of the road with an overheating car and do not have any coolant on hand. Knowing how to spot some of the basic coolant leaks, in addition to ones that are specific to 850 models, can help to keep your car on the road for the long run.
Check your expansion bottle seals for leaks, which is a common problem for some 850 models. The flared or barbed male end of the nipple-to-hose attachment on the expansion tank where coolant is circulated to the thermostat can become brittle with age and wear out. Although the permanent solution is to order a new expansion bottle, a short term fix may include using automotive silicone to re-barb the nipple or use heat shrink tubing and a lighter to increase the ability of the hose to attach to the tank.
Turn on your engine and check behind the car for excessive or white smoke coming out of the tailpipe, which indicates a blown head gasket. If the head gasket continues to leak coolant into the piston chambers, not only will your timing lose efficiency, but coolant may also leak into the oil system, causing complete engine meltdown. Blown head gaskets should be replaced as soon as possible on your 850 before the engine freezes. Check the oil dipstick to see if the oil has mixed with the coolant, producing a milk-chocolate appearance. If this has happened, then the oil needs to be replaced immediately as well.
Check the two heater hoses leading into the firewall where coolant is also known to leak on Volvo 850's. If they are leaking while the car is in park, use a kit purchased from an automotive repair store to replace the O-rings and washers on the hose connections with the firewall. Make sure the engine is cool before handling coolant hoses. Use a catch pan to contain any coolant that falls from the hoses.
Check for other common coolant leaks. If the radiator cover cap is squirting out coolant, replace it with a new cap rated for the same pressure. Also check for cracked or dilapidated coolant hoses that might be leaking coolant when the engine is on and the coolant system is under pressure. Check the water pump's weep hole, which will leak small amounts of coolant once the bearings begin to wear out. The water pump is located underneath the expansion tank and the radiator shroud and fan assembly.
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