1999 Forester - coolant doesn't fully empty back into radiator when car is cold. What's going on? Is it the head gasket?

Asked by May 05, 2017 at 05:07 PM about the 1999 Subaru Forester Base

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Please bear with me, as I don't know that much about cars.

I have a 1999 Forester.  As I understand it, when the car is hot, coolant should empty from the
radiator into the reservoir (big plastic bottle that you can fill), and when the car is cold, this
coolant should go back into the radiator.

I noticed recently that only some of the coolant is going back into the radiator when the car is
cold, leaving the plastic reservoir filled far past the "full" level.

What is going on here?  Is it the head gasket, or could it be something else?  The head gasket
was redone in 2012, and I was told that it shouldn't need to be done again for the life of the
car (I took that with a grain of salt).  

I'm about to take a cross country road trip.  My mechanic told me that it could be the head
gasket, and that I should bring a turkey baster to move back the coolant by hand when the car
is cold.  How worried should I be considering I'm about to drive 6,000+ miles?

Thank you in advance.

4 Answers

251,215

Hard to say what is going on. Was the coolant recently replaced? I would take the advise of your mechanic and draw the coolant down to the cold level. Then see how the level is for a week. Up to you if you want to use the vehicle for the trip. I'd take some coolant along, or rent a car.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
74,505

There is a high and low mark on the reservoir and the coolant should be near the appropriate mark. There always should be some fluid in the tank. If it is over filled it will eventually correct itself. If there is a small leak in the cooling system it could prevent suction from being created when the engine cools. Add some Subaru brand anti-leak to the radiator before your trip.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
26,545

when cool ...remove the rad. cap and see if its full...if so its ok to run/ have the over fill bottle at 2/3s full....also you can take the thermostate out and drill 2-3 small holes into it to bleed the system.

5,310

Is the top radiator hose collapsing overnight? Have your wrench check a hot motor for bubbling exhaust gases in the coolant (aka percolation). If so DO NOT take your 6k trip, as you'll most probably catastrophically overheat! If no sign of percolation check for obstruction in the bleeder hose, collapsed main hoses, etc. And leave the damned t-stat alone! Drilling holes in Subie stats NEVER works.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

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