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Discussion Starter #1
I own a 2006 Forester with about 87,000 miles on it. I have loved it since we have bought it and this is truly the first issue we have had with it. I am always fearful of any car problems since they tend to get very costly very quick!
I am currently visiting my hometown about 8 hours from where I now live. On Sunday, I will be needing to drive back home so I am needing this problem resolved or at least temporarily fixed before then (and as cheap as possible since funds are short just like everyone else!) I do have a mechanically minded dad around that is available to help too. I have some general auto knowledge but can follow directions well.

This is what has happened. Before making my initial 350 mile trip, I had the oil changed and tires balanced and rotated. The dealer did not make any mention of low levels, water in oil, etc While driving the 20 minutes home from the dealer where the work was done, I smelled something burning- assumed spilled oil from the change. Stopped halfway home to check on it, distinct smell, a little smoking from under the hood, but everything else appeared to be "normal". Fluid levels were good (just filled from the dealer).

Fast forward 5 days and about 400 miles... I was leaving my first leg of my trip to continue on the second leg and stopped at a gas station. While waiting there for my family w/ the car on, I saw what first seemed to be steam rising from the hood (cold rainy day). It got worse and the same smell from before began again. Lifted the hood, checked fluids and coolant was to the low point. Opinions from others said it smelled like coolant burning. Added about 20oz. of water which brought it to just about the full line. Drove about an hour, checked level and it had fallen to the full line. I have now driven about 500 miles since adding the water and the level was halfway in between the full and low lines. I added about a cup of water and it rose back to the full line. I have not noticed that smell again.
At no point has the temperature gauge varied from its normal location.

I have read some other threads and will be checking the radiator cap and parking it in a garage to check for any leaks tomorrow. My dad will also be looking at the hoses/ connections for any obvious defects.

My dilemma.... I don't want to take it to a dealer for them to name a zillion things wrong but maybe not even fix the problem. I would prefer to get it home and deal with it one solution at a time. My dad is questioning the water pump, but I failed to see any correlations to coolant leaks and water pumps in other threads.
I also wonder if there are any connections to it being recently serviced (and no its not under warranty).
Also wondering if the subaru coolant conditioner could work "miracles" to this problem. (also about how much is it?)
Would love to know if anyone else has any suggestions as to what else we could be looking for, we could do or what they might do in my situation.
 

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Premium Member
2004 Forester 4EAT
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5,462 Posts
If it's losing water, it's going somewhere. Check to make sure your oil is not milky. That is a worst case problem. Check to see if it's coming out the tail pipe. Also very bad. Get car up to temp and stand behind it. Does it smell sweet back there? Coolant coditioner may help, and it's cheap, about $4.00 at the dealer. If there is a dealer nearby, don't buy the garbage at the parts store. Otherwise look for external leaks and fix them. I doubt it's your water pump, but stranger things have happened.
 

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03X MT
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846 Posts
I would start with the radiator cap. Don't forget, the level in the plastic bottle will change with the temperature of the engine. Higher when hot lower when cool.
 

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2011 Forester X AT
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4,235 Posts
If you dont want to take it in, you need to find where it's leaking from.

Water pumps can leak from the impeller shaft or the housing gasket. I would really look for the obvious first, ie upper and lower rad hoses, the radiator itself, heater core, etc. IF you cant find it then you may have to start investigating internals.....

Mine leaked at the same rate, had a sweet smell under the hood, and it turned out to be external headgasket leaks. good luck.
 

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05 XTi FMIC
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2,564 Posts
My rad separated where the plastic top meets the aluminum. It started with the coolant smell with me under the hood going really!/where? Then one day, many Months later on the way to my son's soccer game, it shot all across the engine bay and on the down pipe. With the smoke screen I was laying down due to it soaking my DP wrap I thought for sure it was a head gasket. Nope. New rad from Carquest (cheapest I could find before the Koyo was out). Good luck.
 

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99 Forester
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205 Posts
I had a radiator on my Saturn fail at the plastic tank too. I temporarily fixed it by squeezing the crimps with a pair of vice grips so I could drive it until the new radiator came in. I had to remove the cooling fan to get access to the seam.

You really need to determine where your leak is from before we can be of much help. The Subaru coolant conditioner might help with a seeping head gasket but won't be of much help for a radiator tank seam leak.
 

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96 Legacy 250T
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4 Posts
Hi,
I only just joined but I have owned 4 Subs, 3 of which had coolant loss issues. I have just finished stripping the cylinder head today off my latest purchase,I bought it cheap with a known over heating proble. It turned out a corroded heater pipe on top of the motor under the intake on the passengers side (right hand drive car) was letting all the water go and the head gasket on that side had also failed. Looking at the degree of corrosion I dont think the previous owners been using a proper ratio of antifreeze. After a whole lof of cooling issues over the years with Subaru Legacys I can now tell instantly if a one has an issue with air in the system. You just start it up,turn up the temperature on the heater control and listen to the heater when you give it a rev.If you hear what sounds like a squirting noise you have air in your cooling system. Another thing to look for is a leaking heater. If it been wet weather while you have been travelling you might not have noticed the carpet getting damp.You can bypass the heater with a bit of pipe or even a tube socket of the right size and some sealant. Just use the hose clamps from the heater in/outlets. Another one to check for is your fans not kicking in when it gets warm.It might not seem to be much hotter but you can lose coolant if the cooling system cant keep the water temp in the normal range.Finally a faulty thermostat can cause issues if it doesnt open when it should.The really weird thing about your problem is that you say you are not getting an increase in temperature.Maybe you are but the gauge or sender unit on the motor is faulty. So you notice the smell but the gauge keeps reading normal.
 
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