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Trans Fluid in the radiator (no milkshake)

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Trans Fluid in the radiator (no milkshake)

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    Trans Fluid in the radiator (no milkshake)

    I just bought (like yesterday) a Gen 3 Integra to replace my '91 GS. I flew from San Francisco to Burbank so I could buy the car and drive back up North. This new car (new to me) is a '97 LS , 58k with auto trans. I started to smell coolant from around the radiator when I gassed-up in Kettlemen City. The temperature never went up and I got back home ok.

    Jump to this morning. I drove the car to my friend's shop and it was there when I remembered to check on the coolant level. The coolant overflow bottle was empty and there was a little coolant on edges of the rad core. When I check the coolant level in the radiator, all I saw pure transmission fluid. I would think that if radiator failed and atf mixed with coolant that I would have a "milkshake" in the radiator.

    So the obvious is that I need to replace the radiator and flush the engine cooling system to remove the atf. Is this a DYI task or do I need to send the car to a shop with a machine to flush out the cooling system?

    BTW: I had the car towed home cause I didn't want to cause any further damage.

    #2
    yup replace ur radiator. then do an oil change..... and drain and fill ur transmission too. u might wanna consider replacing changing ur radiator hoses too while u are at it.

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      #3
      I would use a BG machine to flush out the cooling system. that way u can flush the block out completely and get all that ATF out.


      are u sure it was atf and not dex-cool?

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        #4
        Got the radiator out last night. I hate to say it but things are not looking good. Here is where it gets weird. What I thought was ATF, is not. I confirmed this by comparing the contaminated coolant against a mixture of new coolant and some of the ATF in the radiator. Side to side in containers, it's pretty clear that what was/is in my cooling system is not ATF. To add to the confusion; I'm not so sure that the petroleum product mixed with the coolant is oil from my engine. It (the contaminant) doesn't smell like engine oil and is lighter in color than the dirty oil in on the dipstick. BTW: Engine oil level is good; in fact it maybe 1/3 quart too high.

        Next step will be to drain the engine oil and mix it with some coolant to see if it remotely matches the mess from the radiator. I know there only a few ways to get oil in the coolant and if this oil IS from the engine I'm in for a bigger expense.

        I just bought this car on Friday. Maybe.....I really mean maybe, this kid I bought it from accidently put some engine oil in the radiator. I know it's a long shot, but it can happen. Unfortunatley, this guy hasn't returned my call. Ok....have to get back to work.

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          #5
          Just a thought but if someone filled the radiator with water that was not distilled water at one time, it would eventually discolor (especially with anti-freeze mixed). Not sure if that's what is goin on in your case, but I would keep it in mind. "If" that's the case, a good flush and you should be good.

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            #6
            just get a new radiator if that one looks old or beat up or whatever. or take it to a shop to have it tested or repaired (whichever is cheaper). so if a new radiator is cheaper, then just get it. get the new radiator hoses too. after that do an oil change, and drain the block of coolant too while u are at it. after all that see how it goes.

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              #7

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                #8
                Originally posted by thatblkguy View Post
                are u sure it was atf and not dex-cool?
                Hmmmm.....didn't think of Dex-cool. I have some Dex-cool from my Tahoe. I'll try mixing that up with the green coolant to see what that looks like.

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                  #9
                  I'm still not sure how you knew it was an oil in your cooling system. If it was, then you should be able to mix it with water, let it sit for a while, and see it be displaced by the water of a different density. Perhaps its just coolant with a lot of rust in it?

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                    #10
                    Well, whatever it (the mixture) is, it's lighter than water/coolant as it floats on the top and clings to the sides of the container I stored it in. It looks like oily residue.

                    UPDATE: I decided to act on a suggestion to flush out the radiator with simple green/water and then flush/backflush the cooling system on the car. It took about 1 hour+ to get the water to flow out clear. Interestingly, as the engine temp rose; the oily residue actually emulsified. I don't think I'll ever know what that stuff was, but I've been driving the car with pure water for most of the afternoon and the water is still clear . I ordered a new radiator cause some of the cooling fins on my raditator turned into dust when I touched them. 58k on this original radiator, but the car was from Santa Monica and salty residue will eat the cooling fins if you don't occasionally rinse them.

                    NOTE: A raditator shop suggested that my coolant; which I believe to be original, started to "breakdown". Kinda makes sense if the coolant was never serviced, but again who knows? I'm just stoked that it cleared up! Thanks to all for your inputs. I'll replace the radiator, hoses and thermostat tomorrow. I'll keep ya'll updated.

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                      #11
                      Originally posted by oldschoolponies View Post
                      Well, whatever it (the mixture) is, it's lighter than water/coolant as it floats on the top and clings to the sides of the container I stored it in. It looks like oily residue.

                      UPDATE: I decided to act on a suggestion to flush out the radiator with simple green/water and then flush/backflush the cooling system on the car. It took about 1 hour+ to get the water to flow out clear. Interestingly, as the engine temp rose; the oily residue actually emulsified. I don't think I'll ever know what that stuff was, but I've been driving the car with pure water for most of the afternoon and the water is still clear . I ordered a new radiator cause some of the cooling fins on my raditator turned into dust when I touched them. 58k on this original radiator, but the car was from Santa Monica and salty residue will eat the cooling fins if you don't occasionally rinse them.

                      NOTE: A raditator shop suggested that my coolant; which I believe to be original, started to "breakdown". Kinda makes sense if the coolant was never serviced, but again who knows? I'm just stoked that it cleared up! Thanks to all for your inputs. I'll replace the radiator, hoses and thermostat tomorrow. I'll keep ya'll updated.

                      see information/data like that is VERY HANDY. it would've been good to know whether it was serviced regularly or not. i've seen a car with UNDER 10K on the car, was original everything. problem is that the car sat for over 15 years, and so everything in it was old. old oil, coolant, fuel, etc. so the coolant was like rust, meant that block had water jackets that was basically covered in rust or calcium or whatever. did all the service stuff to it, new fluids n everything, but it was just so much non use and service to it, that the block cracked in like a month or so.

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                        #12
                        I know this is too late but perhaps the last owner decided to use Toyota 2 year antifreeze which is dark red in color? (I do...) Also, what ever the outcome, I hope that you either used pre mixed antifreeze or distilled water when mixing with the replacement coolant.

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by DNiceTheMighty View Post
                          I know this is too late but perhaps the last owner decided to use Toyota 2 year antifreeze which is dark red in color? (I do...) Also, what ever the outcome, I hope that you either used pre mixed antifreeze or distilled water when mixing with the replacement coolant.
                          yea distilled water is important and considering its on the instructions u'd think most ppl would follow that.

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