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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have have started searching this forum for cars with similar issues and will continue to do so, but thought I would post my situation here in the event someone has some suggestion. WARNING: my description is likely to be long!

Location: Ontario, Canada
Vehicle: 2015 Santa Fe XL Limited (AWD)
Engine: 3.3l GDI
Mileage: 183,000km

Story:
Wife had car up at cottage for weekend doing art studio tour. Called me that it was overheating. Coolant was low, she added water and got it back to cottage. Next day drove it home. Drove for 1hour 40minutes, no issues, then it overheated (15minutes from home). She pulled over. She hobbled it home over the next hour, pulling over (too impatient to wait for it to fully cool down!)

I figured take to dealer for coolant flush. They flushed it and I had them do transmission while it was there. When got home, notice it was leaking so took it back next day. They said it was just over-spill on the plastic pan and that they could not find any leaks. On my drive home on second day I noticed that heater didnt work. Cold air blowing. Later in the day I took car for a longer drive, heater blew hot, then cooled off, then hot again. Engine did NOT overheat. Back to the dealer.

Dealer claimed there was an air lock in the heater and that was the problem. Claimed they sorted that out. The next day I drove it 15km, no issues. Car sat for 90mins. Drove it back. At the 13km the engine overheated! Pulled over. Sat for 10mins, it cooled down and I drove it home. heater was cold! Called the dealer again. They couldn't take car for a week.

Took car to mechanic I have been using for 7+ years. He is great, does good work and is fair price. I trust him. Only issue is that English is not his first language sometimes difficult to understand him when we get into technical discussions. But he has fixed numerous cars.

I figured it was thermostat. Figured sticky or stuck partially open so I bought one and took with me. He brought car into shop. It ran for 15mins+. He brought revs up. Car never over-heated, stayed at constant operating temperature. He went back and forth from engine to car. Played around with heating controls (this model has NAV so is the fully integrated radio with HVAC etc - sidebar: annoying since no Apple CarPlay and no easy aftermarket solution).

His diagnosis was that it is NOT the thermostat (all hose temperatures were suitably hot). Not rad fan as that was working normally. His conclusion was that there was air in the system. He said that there was air in the system. It was a major problem and going to be expensive.

He is a small 1-man shop, so he wasn't going to tackle the fix.

But, because of the language barrier I could not into a more technical discussion. So I could not figure out a) how air was getting into the system or b) why the heater was blowing cold and not partially warm or c) what exactly the fix was.

So I drove it home (5km away). At 4km mark the engine temp tipped past the half-way mark and looked like it was heading to overheat. I let off the gas to prepare to pull over and temp went back to normal. I drove another 500m and temps rose again and the engine light came on. heather still blowing cold. I pulled over. Rad fan stayed on for several minutes before it turned off. Then I drove home the last 250m. Car has been sitting in driveway several days now.

I have tried to google to figure out what potential problem is. The lambda engine seems pretty reliable. There was no coolant leaking onto the driveway, nor was any leaking at dealer during their checks or at my mechanics. I am not home at moment so will check driveway later today when I get home. But I am trying to figure out possible causes so I can determine next steps. Certainly not a fan of going back to the dealer. Not a lot of trust issues there for me.

Every option that comes up on a search for overheating engine etc, (thermostat, intake manifold, head gasket, cracked block) doesnt seem to fully explain this situation.

My next course of action is to call a friend's mechanic (who speaks English) and talk to him to see if he has any thoughts/ideas. His shop is 25km away so I'd likely tow it there, but I'd like to have an idea of what issue could be before I get it down there.

Appreciate any comments/suggestions from those on this board. Meanwhile I will continue my internet sleuthing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
i would purchase a coolant test kit to see whether exhaust gases are entering the coolant. At least that would eliminate a cracked head gasket.
Thanks for the Tip. My continued research is implicating the head gasket. in fact, just found a video posted last week by Chris Fix that talked about that exact test kit you are referencing! so I think that is the next logical step. (although in the video is a warped block and not a bad gasket.
 

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I wonder if your original mechanic when he said air in system it's going to be expensive was trying to say the head gasket was leaking and exhaust gases were entering the system? I can't make sense how air in the system makes it expensive of how it just appears.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I wonder if your original mechanic when he said air in system it's going to be expensive was trying to say the head gasket was leaking and exhaust gases were entering the system? I can't make sense how air in the system makes it expensive of how it just appears.
I think you are correct. He mentioned the piston. I checked the oil cap when I got home and there was a little milky substance there. The dipstick was fine though. My thought is there is a small leak at the gasket and some anti-freeze is getting in and burning during combustion. At the same time, some exhaust gas was entering the coolant. I will try to pick up that test kit. And then try some stop leak to try and seal it.
 

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The reason i suggested this is that i had a built VW motor that required a dual radiator setup with flexible coolant lines. i had a $5 clamp loosen about 5 minutes from my house, and noticed my coolant temp gauge go to nothing (was mounted at the top of the radiator so i knew that coolant was no longer touching that sender. Decided to chance it and drive it home that last 1/2 mile. After that the car drove just fine but i noticed coolant was a bit lower every time. Still i drove it a bunch of times. Finally bought a test kit and found that indeed combustion gases were impinging into the cylinder. Pulled the head and the cylinder had score marks from burning coolant. Trashed the block. After i pulled the head i found the crack. Very tiny.

i would not drive it until you get the kit and eliminate a cracked gasket. You don't want the bores of one of the cylinders where the cracked gasket is being scored, which then trashes your block like mine was.

What i used was a BT-500 combustion leak test kit. The fluid changes colors then you know.

PS: i just realized i had a photo of it from years ago. Hopefully this is not your issue. But at least you will know.

Wood Helmet Tints and shades Circle Metal


I think you are correct. He mentioned the piston. I checked the oil cap when I got home and there was a little milky substance there. The dipstick was fine though. My thought is there is a small leak at the gasket and some anti-freeze is getting in and burning during combustion. At the same time, some exhaust gas was entering the coolant. I will try to pick up that test kit. And then try some stop leak to try and seal it.
 

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anyone know for certain if there is a valve in the coolant system that closes off coolant flow to the heater core? or is it an open system.
It's open, heater core should have full flow and flap door on HVAC routes the air to produce heat. Have you tried pulling the heater core hoses off and put water through and see if it's blocked?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It's open, heater core should have full flow and flap door on HVAC routes the air to produce heat. Have you tried pulling the heater core hoses off and put water through and see if it's blocked?
No. that is going beyond my interest and time. I did try and exhaust leak test with one of those kits and the blue liquid. Nothing. Mind you I was doing it on the reservoir, but I had a pump going (as opposed to those round hand pumps that some use.). So I took it for a drive last night. it overheated again and I definitely have a fair amount of coolant in the engine oil. this is NOT a good situation.
 

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... Finally bought a test kit and found that indeed combustion gases were impinging into the cylinder. Pulled the head and the cylinder had score marks from burning coolant. Trashed the block. After i pulled the head i found the crack. Very tiny.

i would not drive it until you get the kit and eliminate a cracked gasket. You don't want the bores of one of the cylinders where the cracked gasket is being scored, which then trashes your block like mine was.
Burning coolant doesnt score the cylinders. I've had several toyotas pop their head gaskets and never had it destroy the bore. One of my toyotas i purposely burn wiper fluid (turbo) and again, bores are fine.

No. that is going beyond my interest and time. I did try and exhaust leak test with one of those kits and the blue liquid. Nothing. Mind you I was doing it on the reservoir, but I had a pump going (as opposed to those round hand pumps that some use.). So I took it for a drive last night. it overheated again and I definitely have a fair amount of coolant in the engine oil. this is NOT a good situation.
What do you mean you have a good amount of coolant in the oil? did it look like a milkshake?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Burning coolant doesnt score the cylinders. I've had several toyotas pop their head gaskets and never had it destroy the bore. One of my toyotas i purposely burn wiper fluid (turbo) and again, bores are fine.


What do you mean you have a good amount of coolant in the oil? did it look like a milkshake?
yes. it looked ugly when I got home from he drive and hours after the engine had cooled. engine oil cap looked frothy on the cap itself and on the threads themselves (I had wiped it clean previously), and the dipstick was frothy too. after it cooled the dipstick level was above full. Interestingly enough I just checked the dipstick this morning, 36hours after last drive and engine oil was normal in appearance and level wasn't significantly above high mark. obviously it has all settled and I guess coolant and oil have naturally separated.

I am now wondering if instead of an gasket leak, it is the head bolts have loosen which also seems to be a problem with these engines.

anyway a friend of mine is a mechanic and is going to try to come over to the house this weekend to have a look and do some diagnosis. while he specializes in German cars, he does own a Santa Fe with the 2.4l engine. his other suggestion during our text exchange was possible oil cooler problem, but symptoms smell more related to head gasket (air in coolant, coolant in oil).

I'm not hopeful that this thing is salvageable without great expense. I see that in order to really get the heads off the engine pretty much needs to come out of the car. very labour intensive. fine for a DIY but expensive to have someone else do it.

Shame, as car has been damn reliable for almost 6 years and 180,000km.

I'll provide an update over the weekend.
 
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