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1997 Dodge Stratus Base 4dr Sedan

1997 Dodge Stratus
Trim Info:
Front Wheel Drive, 4 Door Sedan Base, Mid-size
26 mpg city / 37 mpg hwy
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December 12, 2012, 11:47 am

Michael L

Question: Two different mechanics couldn't diagnose a problem, and now my head gasket is blown. What should I

I took my car to 2 separate shops. The first shop did not fix the underlying coolant issue. They refunded half our money back by AAA's request. The second shop fixed a lot of car issues. We paid in full for the repairs the day we picked up the car. However, they never mentioned coolant issues on the bill. (As far as they could tell, there wasn't anything wrong with it and therefore did nothing to it.) The next day, we asked about the coolant issue again because it was still there. They couldn't find anything wrong. Then, just the other day, the car died. We towed it to them yesterday and today we were told the head gasket blew. The repair will be 1200-1500. We believe this was preventable had they addressed the overheating coolant problem to begin with. Who would you say is at fault?

The issue with the coolant:
The coolant was rapidly boiling.
No one could figure it out.
The first shop fixed the coolant fan, but it didn't fix it.
Then second shop had no idea (twice).
Since the coolant kept boiling off, we had to fill the reservoir repeatedly.
Each time it was driven the engine would shake.
We drove it rarely, but one night there was some kind of smoke or moisture billowing across the hood.
The coolant may have boiled off which caused the smoke or moisture, we thought. (But looking back on it, I suspect that is when the head gasket blew)
At the time we didn't know it, and refilled the reservoir again.
When we drove to pick up some Christmas presents and groceries several days later the car was fine, but when we came back out to the car it wouldn't start.
I think it may have hydro-locked.

If the coolant reservoir was empty, due to the issue, could that have blown the head gasket?
Then, during the next time, it sucked the coolant up inside hydro-locking it? After researching this, I believe that is what happened. Am I correct, or would it have blown for some other reason that I am not aware of?

December 15, 2012, 12:34 pm

Ron W
Expert Mechanic

I can't say who is at fault.

But what I will say is if it was out of coolant and driven, that would overheat the engine and cause the head gasket to fail.

Also, if a shop can't find an issue, they can't make a repair. If they did, it would just be guessing and throwing parts at the vehicle which may or may not correct the problem.

If you had the cap off the coolant reservoir and the coolant was "boiling", I suspect the gasket was already blown as it may have been combustion gasses leaking into the cooling system and bubbling up. If that was the case, most shops should have been able to identify the issue. So again, without seeing the vehicle, I can't say what happened.

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