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amodoko 01-04-2013 06:11 PM

1995 Honda Odyssey Coolant in Reservoir very dark
Don't know much about cars, just the basics. Was checking a family member's car the other day because it wasn't getting any heat in this cold weather. Saw that the coolant temperature gauge wasn't working. Checked the coolant levels and they were very low. No coolant in the reservoir and the radiator coolant level was low too. Coolant looked to be typical green coolant in the radiator (was hard to tell since it was dark, but pretty sure it was green) and the manual didn't specify anything except to use honda coolant but I didn't have any honda coolant so I used Peak long life coolant that is meant to compatible with all makes and models and all coolant colors

I added the coolant to the reservoir and to the radiator itself, and then turned on the car... heat finally worked and the coolant temperature gauge worked again. My family member was happy to be warm during the winter.

One month later, I come back to visit, see the coolant in the reservoir is no longer clean looking, it has turned to a very dark green color. My first thought was maybe it is just dirt and corrosion particles that accumulated inside the coolant channels in the engine and radiator where the coolant was low or nonexistent before I filled it up, and then after adding coolant it was able to collect all those particles finally and dirty up the coolant in the reservoir. My other thought is that it could be oil, maybe from a head gasket leak since the engine could have overheated from being low on coolant for so long.

Do you think it is just corrosion/rust particles from the coolant system being low for so long? Or do you think it is oil mixed in? Or could it be something else?

I don't have any pictures as of now, but wanted to get some information/advice as to what I should do next to assess and fix this situation. I am going to visit them again on the 7th and will try to do what I can to figure out what the issue is and hopefully fix it. Any advice is greatly appreciated, thank you.

Bigplanz 01-04-2013 07:46 PM

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Do you know when the coolant was last changed? How many miles are on it? One owner? Do you know of it has always had Honda coolant in it?

Me, I'd drain it, replace it with fresh and clean the reservoir tank. Refill according to Honda specs to avoid air bubbles.

ukrkoz 01-04-2013 07:59 PM

Oil in coolant in reservoir looks like a frappe, due to water pump impeller action.
Likely simply pulled sediments from the system into it. Relative likely drove for quite a while with low level, and it accelerated rusting inside.
Do what Big says. Yes, I know it's winter.

amodoko 01-05-2013 02:29 AM

Thanks guys, I will do the coolant flush then and refill and see if that fixes the issue. I am leaning towards it just being rust/sediments due to accelerated rusting as well. Hopefully the coolant will stay clean after I flush the system and refill. Thanks a bunch

Oh, and to answer Big's questions, I don't know when the coolant was last changed. I'm leaning towards it being something they may not have changed for years, if not more. It has about 130,000 miles on it and they are the original owner (so one owner). I couldn't tell if it has always had honda coolant in it since I don't even know what color honda coolant was in 95 (I think honda changed its color to blue recently, I may be wrong) but I think the coolant was green before I refilled the radiator (it was dark outside and hard to tell what color it was).

Anyways, I will have to drain the system and refill to see if the problem arises again. Thank you again for your replies.

ukrkoz 01-05-2013 09:44 AM

Listen less to what Honda or any other maker says. They mind their profit. Coolants now sold in parts stores are compatible with any make and model. And a bit cheaper. Just read where it says on the bottle - compatible with any make. One I use even has 6 or so flags on it. Truly, the only coolant that gave owners grief was Dexcool, GM, but even that is not a problem anymore, aftermarket caught with all this.

ukrkoz 01-05-2013 09:45 AM

And you have to drain - FLUSH - and then refill.

joecaption 01-05-2013 09:50 AM

I'd also take it to a shop and have them do a pressure test. For it to have lost that much water there's a leak someplace, better to fix the real problum not just keep adding water.
With those small engines it does not take much to cause it to over heat and warp the heads.

rusty baker 01-05-2013 12:39 PM


Originally Posted by joecaption (Post 1086746)
I'd also take it to a shop and have them do a pressure test. For it to have lost that much water there's a leak someplace, better to fix the real problum not just keep adding water.
With those small engines it does not take much to cause it to over heat and warp the heads.

You are probably right Joe, or they had never checked it and it finally just used that much. My inlaws gave us a 1985 Ford van a few years ago with 50,000 actual miles.(they bought it new) They had never had the antifreeze, trans fluid, spark plugs or wires changed. They couldn't remember when the oil was last changed. All the fluids were low. Luckily, after I took care of the maintence it still runs great.

Bigplanz 01-05-2013 01:57 PM

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Honda sure is finicky about AT fluid! Don't know about coolant though. Never mix anything with a GM Dexcool system!

amodoko 01-05-2013 03:35 PM

Urkoz, I am actually going to use generic coolant again that is compatible with all makes and models instead of buying Honda coolant. I'm assuming the honda coolant is way more expensive, and I want to make sure the coolant doesn't get dirty again. I'd be kind of annoyed if I just bought a bunch of honda coolant just to see it get dirty again from the remaining corrosion in the cooling system... but generic coolant is so cheap I wouldn't care.

And I would normally be worried about a leak in the system as others have mentioned here, but my relatives don't know anything about cars and I wouldn't be surprised if the remaining coolant in their system (before I topped it off) was the original from 1995! But I'm hoping they at least had it flushed and refilled once, but I don't know for sure.

I will drain it, possibly do a coolant flush (it's damn cold outside), and refill and then see how the coolant looks in a few weeks.

ukrkoz 01-06-2013 10:45 AM

It's amazing how much some folks are ignorant on their cars. Never change any fluids, do zero maintenance. Surprise, some of those run well into 200 000 miles "as is". Oh well.
OEM coolant is not that much more expensive, but there's no real need to go there, as aftermarket has coolants that work with anything. Well, it's half the price, actually
Antifreeze/Coolant O'Reilly - Engine Coolant / Anti-Freeze

Part Number: 87221
Line: AFZ
  • manufacturer's defect warranty
  • UPC: 797496872210
  • Universal 50/50
  • Gallon

Detailed Description

Features a Long Life coolant technology that is compatible for use in all automobiles and light-duty trucks, regardless of make, model, year or original antifreeze color. Its inhibitors provide maximum cooling system protection against damaging rust and corrosion.

But you do have to flush the system. It's kinda fun project, but requires some technical skill, as flush adapter needs to be installed. T-stat has to be removed, or it will keep closing on you, as you run cold water through the system. And thereafter adapter has to be removed and hose replaced, as it WILL start leaking around adapter. So it's it's not that simple. You likely don't even have radiator cap, it's probably sealed system? Maybe not, for 95. Just sticking radiator hose into the radiator and running water through does not do much to the engine.
Personally, I wouldn't be worried about pressure testing. Just flush and refill, and keep eye on it. 19 yo vehicle WILL take some oil and some coolant. Freaking over it and rebuilding everything is simply not feasible. She got so far without major problem, let her be.

amodoko 01-06-2013 03:50 PM

Okay, you convinced me:) I will do the flush, I know I should be anyways, but was just feeling lazy since it's so cold outside. I was just going to to stick a hose into the cooling system with the thermostat removed without an adapter since I don't have one. I think I should be able to get a decent flush that way, although an adapter would be better of course. Thank you for your help, I now know exactly what I need to do:)

Bigplanz 01-06-2013 07:23 PM

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If it isn't overheating and the heater works, I would just wait until spring. It won't hurt anything and it's a lot easier to do when it's 60 rather than 6 outside.

Top it off, keep it full, worry about it in 4 months. :)

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