It is not peculiar for drivers to notice their engines losing excess water despite no signs of a leak. If you observe this situation in your vehicle, there is a problem.
It could be due to uncontrolled evaporation, a fractured cylinder head, a blown head gasket, or damaged cylinder bores.
Regardless of your vehicle’s problem, there is a practical approach to solve it.
All cars can leak at some point and we’ll look into why your car may lose water without visible leaks.
Read on to understand why your unit loses water and other coolants without leaking.
4 Reasons Cars Lose Water without Leaking
Evaporation is among the most practical theories to explain why your vehicle might lose water without leaks.
Although you may not observe any leaks in your components, there is a possibility there could be a pinhole in one of your fittings.
If your cooling system is not optimized, your vehicle might lose water through evaporation.
If your vehicle experiences a slow leak, the water escaping might seep out of your compartments in liquid form.
Observing white streaks near the leaky region can identify such a situation.
Faulty Radiator Cap
Another reason why your vehicle may lose water without any leaks is if it has a faulty radiator cap. Evaporation also plays a significant role in this engine malfunction.
The defective radiator cap cannot seal properly, allowing the evaporating coolant to leak past the weak seals.
However, identifying a bad radiator cap is effortless to replace.
Before confirming if the overflow reservoir is pressurized, you can start by checking for any steam near the radiator cap.
See also this article with 11 reasons cars lose water.
Blown Head Gasket
The head gasket is another engine component that has a significant role in the running of your vehicle.
It is between the engine block and the cylinder head, and its primary function is regulating combustion gases and engine coolants.
An effective head gasket ensures your coolants remain in the water jackets and combustion gases in their respective chambers.
Possibly, your coolant leaks in the gas combustion chamber, burns off, and exits through the exhaust if your engine has a blown head gasket.
Internal head gasket leaks are almost impossible since no coolant is spotted on the ground. You can notice it either through white exhaust smoke or overheating.
We recommend replacing the head gasket with a more efficient replacement part to prevent coolant leaks and improve performance.
PS: Subaru’s fitted with the 2.5L 4-cylinder single overhead camshaft engine in the early 2000s are most susceptible to head gasket failures.
Blown Intake Manifold Gasket
Intake manifolds in modern engines have water jackets.
The intake manifold water jackets should not leak into the intake to prevent the coolant from being sucked into the combustion chamber.
If this were to happen, the symptoms would resemble an engine with a blown head gasket.
3 Steps to Identify Why a Car is Losing Water
#1 Check the Exhaust
You can effortlessly identify the coolant burning off by observing the color of your exhaust smoke.
It is among the easiest ways to spot the problem.
If you observe excessive white smoke from your exhaust pipe, your head gasket is blown down.
It would help to note that the white smoke should be excessive to conclude that you could be losing water.
You should also expect your vehicle to emit more smoke in colder periods than when the climate is warm.
#2 Check the Oil
Another practical approach to identifying where your engine could be losing water is checking the engine oil. You can check the oil status of your vehicle by pulling the dipstick and observing the oil level.
If the coolant found its way to the combustion chamber, you can find it in the oil pan since it does not completely burn.
Experienced mechanics can quickly tell if your oil section is contaminated by smelling and feeling the oil.
However, it would require you to keep an eye on the rising oil levels to identify potential performance issues.
If your oil pan is free from coolant, your vehicle needs further inspection at a repair shop.
Check the Engine Smoke
Regular engines do not smoke, so if you notice smoke coming from your machine, there is a problem.
You should check if the smoke is white to identify if it is a coolant-related problem.
It would help to first rule out any possible leaks by checking under the engine. Also, focus on the radiator cap and the top or sides of your machine for any signs of antifreeze.
Finding traces of coolant and water means you have identified the source of the problem.
3 Solutions to Your Car Losing Water Without Leaking
#1 Replacing Faulty Parts
The first step to reducing water loss in your car is identifying how you are losing water.
Several components can be associated with excessive water and coolant loss, and identifying them solves half your problem.
- the head gasket,
- radiator cap,
- intake manifold gasket,
- and other engine components.
Depending on the damage intensity, you can repair or replace the unit.
Replacement is only necessary for extremely damaged units to restore normal engine functioning.
It would be best if you considered a mechanic’s opinion for an ideal strategy to tackle the issue.
#2 Leak Down Test
You should consider a leak-down test to confirm no internal leaks in your engine. Performing this test on your car helps identify the leak’s source and where it is going.
The procedure involves measuring the air leaving the combustion chamber by hooking compressed air to each cylinder.
You should only be concerned if you observe excessive leakage in one or more cylinders.
#3 Radiator Pressure Test
You can expose the small leaks in your cooling system by conducting a radiator pressure test. The test helps pinhole leaks only be visible when the system is under pressure by simulating normal driving conditions.
It would help not to put excess pressure on the cooling system to avoid damaging it further.
If your system is 15 psi rated, you cannot exceed 35 psi without damaging something important.
Why Does My Coolant Evaporate?
An optimal engine is designed so that it does not lose anything necessary for optimal running. However, the water in your coolant may evaporate in a not-so-perfectly sealed unit.
It is two times more challenging to find the source of the leak if it happens slowly.
There is no immediate cause of concern if your engine loses a few drops of water every month.
It would always help to keep an eye on your fluid levels to ensure the leak does not get worse. It would be best to consider visiting your mechanic immediately after you start observing the coolant on the ground.
Is Regular Water an Effective Alternative to Engine Coolant?
Regular water can pass for an engine coolant in specific conditions and still prove effective. It would help to note that individuals experiencing extreme temperature conditions cannot use water only in their engines.
If you live in warm climates where the temperature is consistently above 32 degrees, water cannot freeze in the machine, making it practical.
An engine low on coolant is more exposed to damage because of overheating.
You must keep track of the fluid levels in your car to ensure your engine runs smoothly.
Ideally, water is not as adequate as antifreeze since it has a fixed boiling and freezing point.
Because of this attribute, the fluid cannot protect your vehicle’s engine. You can only use water in your coolant tank in emergencies where you do not have antifreeze and want to regulate engine temperature.
Can I Drive When the Car is Losing Water?
Your engine losing water does typically not result in complete engine failure.
However, it can affect performance and reliability since your engine becomes more susceptible to damage and unwarranted breakdowns.
Although you can still drive the car, it would help to avoid driving after you observe water loss, preventing your engine from overheating.
What Differentiates Water from a Coolant, Antifreeze, and Radiator Fluid
Apart from water, your engine requires several fluids to deliver the expected performance and reliability.
Some of these common fluids include radiator fluid, coolant, and antifreeze.
All these products refer to a mixture of antifreeze and water in the radiator and help manage temperature levels.
Water and air effectively transfer excess heat from your vehicle’s engine.
However, modern engines rely on mixing the water with antifreeze for improved efficiency. The primary role of antifreeze is to raise the boiling point and lower the freezing point of water to allow smooth operations in extreme temperatures.
Antifreeze, coolant, and radiator fluid are used interchangeably as they serve a common purpose when mixed with water.
Most engines require a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze to reduce the chances of water freezing inside.
It means that if your vehicle is losing water unexplainably, the coolant becomes less effective.
Most vehicles on the road lose water without their drivers knowing because there are no signs of leaks.
Only drivers who keep track of their engine fluids are more likely to identify water and coolant loss at the early stages and repair it.
Our article has everything you may need to know about engine leaks and how you can ensure optimal engine functioning.