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Engine overheating, no coolant

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New User

Oct 22, 2012, 9:50 PM

Post #1 of 3 (2615 views)
post icon Engine overheating, no coolant Sign In

I have a 97 Dodge Caravan with a 3.3L V6 engine.

About a month ago it needed the water pump replaced... which a shade tree mechanic did for me for cheap. Everything was running fine for a month, them...

Today the engine overheated and a red warning light came on. I had turned on heating, maybe that had something to do with it, or maybe not. I don't know. Anyway, I immediately stopped and let the engine cool down. Then I looked at the coolant reservoir and it looked empty. I opened the radiator cap and didn't see any coolant inside.

OK, so after the engine had cooled down I drove to the nearest gas station (just a mile away). I refilled the radiator and the coolant reservoir with water. Looks like it required quite a bit of water. Then I drove home, a good 10 miles, and the engine temperature was normal. I didn't notice anything leaking.

What sort of stupidity did I do, I mean filling the thing with water? There is a label on the engine that says "special coolant only". I live in LA so I'm not too worried about the thing freezing. But does it really need some special coolant? Is water going to harm it?

What should I do next? And it has to be very cheap because I'm totally broke right now. I'm thinking about buying antifreeze at a local store, is that the "special coolant" needed? And what do I do with the water that's already in the system? How hard is it to drain that water out? I'm not mechanically inclined, nor do I have tools. If it's super easy, I may be able to do it. So please tell me it is super easy.


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
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Oct 23, 2012, 6:15 AM

Post #2 of 3 (2570 views)
Re: Engine overheating, no coolant Sign In

Engine overheated for any cause is unlikely to end at just the first cause and do more damage. Antifreeze makers mark their containers (at least ones I see) that they meet or exceed manufacturer's specs. Plain water has no anti corrosive properties so you can't do that no matter what climate you are in but a bit surprised at just one month being the whole reason - more is wrong almost certainly.

Just recently bought 2 gal of all inclusive antifreeze concentrated (to be mixed 50/50) for $18 which was a sale. If you can't afford that how do you afford gasoline?


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
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Oct 23, 2012, 8:39 AM

Post #3 of 3 (2555 views)
Re: Engine overheating, no coolant Sign In

The water itself didn't do any harm on the short term basis. Your big issue is the coolant leak and the overheating that you already put it through. Have the system pressure tested to find the leak and repair it, then refill with coolant. Then pray that you already haven't done internal damage by getting it too hot.


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