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2002 SE with 145,xxx miles. New coolant overflow bottle, new water pump, new thermostat all within the last 2000 miles.

I get what used to be a small "puff" of steam noticeable when I stop ...might be happening all the time while driving but only notice it when not moving. No noticeable loss in coolant level. Have had it pressure tested MANY times by the local shop that does my work. Car has the infamous heater core blockage (little/ no heat.) Local shop perhaps seems to have unblocked some obstruction at the hose-to-core connection points as some coolant does get through to provide "warm" air...

...but, this puff of coolant steam is the mystery. The shop pressure testing of the system shows no pressure drop and no leak source. the puff comes from the front of the grill and seems to point to coolant components at that location but there is no evidence of any thing.

It seems to be more prevalent in winter conditions. I do not know if it is present all the time during the year and steam only shows up in the winter cold in order that it is seen.

Any ideas or comments?
Thanks.
 

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Theres a flush you can do on the heater core to get that to work. There is a specific name for it, but it alludes me at the moment. One of the other members can chime in with its specific name.

As far as the "puff" goes. I had the same problem on my Envoy recently. It was a micro pin hole leak in the radiator. It took me 7 months to find it, and I would lose about 1 gallon of anti-freeze every 3 months. You couldnt see it, you couldnt find any trace of it, the rad held pressure, everything. It wasnt until I drained the coolant, and did a pressure test empty that I located it, because it started whistling. Damndest thing I ever saw. This may or may not be the same problem you are having thou.
 

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Pin hole makes sense. But can one pressure test an empty system? Fluid is not compressible whereas air in closed chamber is. Do you get the pressure up enough to show evidence? Perhaps it depends on the size of the hole.



I have watched the many vids on the flush. Might tackle it this summer. If there is a pinhole in the rad i do not know if I will do anything about it. Temp gauge reads fine, no excessive loss of coolant. The car runs strong, does not look pretty... it is local runner whereas the (new to me) 2010 SEL is the main vehicle.


Thanks.
 

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UV dye test is the way to go. You will find leaks and seepage easily in any of the component's. Pressure test is now old school obsolete.
 

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I get "puffs of steam" at stop signs due to road moisture vaporizing off the hot radiator. I never smell coolant just steam. I pulled over the first few times and looked but found nothing. It's been happening for years in the winter.
 

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Automender's description is so very similar to what I seem to experience with one exception: It is extremely dry where I live and there is virtually no road moisture... especially in the winter when it is exceptionally dry and this is generally the condition in which I experience the puff.

I have been driving it this way with no problems (temp gauge OK, coolant level OK, etc.) for a couple of years and I have 2 backup vehicles and I will most likely drive this one into the ground... I am just more curious about it since there is no tell-tale evidence and intermittent at best. Still a very good, strong running car!

Thanks for the opinions and conversation.
 

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The other issue I had with my 2006 was when the radiator two speed fans dropping resistor was rubbing the radiator core. It wore a microscopic hole in one of the radiator core tubes and it would mist out coolant a high heat conditions. The whole situation occurred as a result of a broken radiator core mount. This dropping resistor in on the passenger side of the fan shroud a few inches below the top of radiator between the fan and radiator end. It is held in place by a few push pins. But I smelled coolant when that leaked.
 

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I get "puffs of steam" at stop signs due to road moisture vaporizing off the hot radiator. I never smell coolant just steam. I pulled over the first few times and looked but found nothing. It's been happening for years in the winter.
This is the issue. It happens to any vehicle. The radiator gets hot when the thermostat opens and any moisture on it evaporates or in case of winter snow or ice. If it's cold outside you will see steam. I've had it happen on real foggy days also. Nothing to be concerned about.
 

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This is the issue. It happens to any vehicle. The radiator gets hot when the thermostat opens and any moisture on it evaporates or in case of winter snow or ice. If it's cold outside you will see steam. I've had it happen on real foggy days also. Nothing to be concerned about.
Vulcans are subject to this, DOHC are not.
Sudden rush of hot coolant to the rad happens with open/shut stat in Vulcan.
DOHC uses a blending stat and you get blended hot/cold through the rad on warm up cycle. Pic of blending stat. It requires 3 hoses and on Bulls is not in the engine but in separate box/hose Tee.


-chart-
 

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On a 2000 Vulcan engine, I get the same steam off the front grill after it's warmed up a bit. I think it is just water or snow evaporating off the rad when it heats up.

But if you are LOSING NO COOLANT - then there is no indication of any leak or loss or consumption of coolant.

Not much to worry about on that.

But the mention of a pin hole in a RAD, by an earlier post, is good information for me.
And that the pin hole was found with a pressure test when the system was empty - is also good information for me.

I have been chasing and fixing various coolant system leaks - in my 2000 Vulcan, old and high mileage (285,000 km now) - for quite some time now.

It has been quite a challenge to find them and fix them (mostly myself).

Coolant bottle (a few times) / front engine cover and water pump gaskets (twice) / lower intake manifold gasket (once) / hoses and rubber elbows to heater core and crimps and steel tubes on the firewall that feed the heater core (removed and replaced now).

I may continue to have some small amount of consumption through the engine, probably via the head gasket.

Coolant was getting into the oil earlier (very concerning) probably via the lower intake gasket and also front engine cover / water pump gasket area. ( I suspect that has stopped now / I fixed those internal leaks now I think ).

But ya, that is interesting - another possibility is the rad leaks a little somewhere (pin hole etc. or something else, like at a seam).
And it is hard to see the actual RAD with all the plastic shrouds etc. on my vehicle.

Yes - it would have been very helpful to use the U.V. dye and U.V. light and U.V. glasses to find those leaks.

The pressure test was done on my vehicle, and it held pressure, so the pressure test was little or no help.

Also, it seems my vehicle leaks and consumes when HOT and Running / and under pressure mostly.

Mechanic suggested: head gasket opens up a little when hot and running - so you are consuming a little / burning through the engine.

Old car. Many miles. Head gasket on mine may be letting a little coolant by into a cylinder- but only when HOT and RUNNING and Under pressure.

Hard to justify doing a HEAD GASKET job for me - until it literally blows up one day. Can not even be sure it IS the head gasket at this time.

I continue to monitor consumption, add coolant as necessary, and look for / find and fix - any obvious leaks.

I have a long THREAD on my adventures - with coolant leaks and consumption. Fixed other things along the way.
 

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UV dye test is the way to go. You will find leaks and seepage easily in any of the component's. Pressure test is now old school obsolete.

+1 on the UV dye test. I was having trouble locating a leak on one of my DOHC cars. I could smell it and over time I had to add small amounts of coolant but I could never find where it was leaking. Finally got a UV dye kit with light and tinted glasses and it showed up right away. Turned out it was seeping out of the upper hose where it's clamped to the top of the engine and evaporating right away so it always looked dry.


That said, it sounds like you've never had to add coolant so I'm doubting it's a coolant leak. I agree with all the other comments about it probably being humidity or outside moisture evaporating off your radiator but are you sure it's steam and not smoke from a slow oil drip getting on an exhaust manifold or down pipe? Does it have any odor associated with it? Both coolant and burning oil have distinctive smells that can help you diagnose.
 
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