What is my true problem?! Head gasket or heater core?

Asked by Jul 12, 2015 at 01:32 PM about the 2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

For background, I was traveling back from Vegas when I realized that I could faintly smell coolant coming from the A/C. It was a very faint scent though. However, at the time, I was 20 hours from home... Fast forward 7 weeks and the coolant smell has not dissipated.

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed a small puddle of odorless water right where my right foot rests as I drive and it has continuously gotten a little bigger.

2 weeks ago, I was in a drive-through and noticed that my A/C got hot. I checked the engine temp and the gauge was 3/4 high. I pulled over, turned the engine off, and checked the coolant--It was dry. I put coolant back in, waited for the engine to cool, and drove home. The next day, the car tried to run hot again while waiting for a red light to change. Again, I pulled over and checked my coolant--It was full. So at this point I am extremely confused. However, the car never ran hot again.

I took the car to my dealer so that they could diagnose it. ****(At this point, my car is 500 miles from the warranty running out)**** They told me that the issue was a resistor that prevented my radiator fan from switching on to hi-speed. They told me that they would order the part and contact me as soon as it came in... Well they never contacted me. I called and they said they part had arrived 4 days ago. I scheduled another appointment to get the car fixed and went on about my business.

Yesterday, hell broke loose.
I drove the car 1.5 hours straight--no problems. I get to my destination--everything is fine. I drive around town a little--no issues. I continue to drive and my engine temp jumps up to 3/4. I pulled over, checked the coolant, the level was fine. Waited for it to cool and began to drive again. I drove for 30 seconds and the same exact thing happened. At this point, my goal is to get the car to a safe parking lot, so that's what I did. On the way, my temp gauge stayed at 3/4.

I had my car towed to the nearest dealer but all service departments were closed, of course. Meanwhile, I am stranded. So my only option was to cautiously drive the car back home. So that's what I did.

All the way back home, my temperature gauge was having a field day but never went higher than 2 notches to topping out. Also, the puddle around my foot continued to get wetter. Since then, I have had the car parked. But my insurance will not give me a car, nor will my dealership, and I still have to get to work and summer school.

Can someone please give me an idea as to what is going on!? I take absolute care of my car. This is the very 1st issue it has had and I am just beyond frustrated and confused because I spend money on maintaining my car before anything else.

The car has 101k miles.

Thank you in advance.

2 Answers

Tom Demyan

Sounds like you have 2 issues, with the puddle in the car and smell, you definitely have a heater core leak. The other overheating issue is with the resistor as you told us, the fan isn't working. Driving the car to overheat is not a good idea or you will be replacing the head gasket sooner than later, worse care is cracking the engine block or waling a cylinder head, which is big $$$. Do not continue to drive it till you get a least the resistor replaced. (Maybe do it all in one day at the shop?) If not, then continue to check the coolant level with the heater core till you have time to have that replaced.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Thank you! Something tells me that with me being that close to my warranty lapping that my dealer didn't want to deal with the heater core issue because I told them that there was puddle in my floor and they said the resistor would fix it...

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

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