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Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my post.

I have a 1993 Toyota 4runner with about 170k miles on it. I recently got the brake fluid drained and replaced, a new battery, and the radiator cap replaced and topped off the fluids on it. Recently we have had two issues:

  1. the car is having a tough time starting in the morning. I hear a clicking when I turn the key. Sometimes the engine starts to chug, but it takes a few goes to get it to actually start.

  2. The last time I was driving, which was for about 40 minutes, white smoke started coming out from under the hood when I stopped at a stoplight. The smoke smells a little sweet but also burnt. I was close to home, so I drove home. It was about 5 more minutes of driving. When I got home, I turned off the engine and smoke was still coming out from under the hood. White smoke. I opened the hood and the smoke seemed to be coming from somewhere behind the engine, or, between the engine and where the driver would sit. I started to hear liquid falling so I looked under the car and there was quite a bit of yellow/green neon colored liquid falling to the ground.

First of all, I don't know a lot about cars but I'm not completely mechanically challenged (I did have a huge K'Nex set as a kid). I would like to know if this is something you think I could fix myself or if it is something that I should take into a shop. I am tentative to take it into a shop because I just took it into Firestone for this problem. I spent 400 dollars. They charged me 125 dollars just to look at the car. I don't really want to do that again. At the end of the day I got a lot of stuff but they didn't actually fix the problem.

What is the problem?

How do I fix it?

If I do need to take it in somewhere, can I drive it without damaging the engine?

Thank you for your time

Nate

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It's hard to say exactly what's going on, but you are definitely leaking anti-freeze. Since it is coming from the back of the engine, it could be a bad freeze plug, busted heater hose, or cracked coolant fitting. I'm doubting it would be your coolant pump as that should be at the front of the engine. I highly doubt this is a head gasket leak.

Unless you can accurately diagnose where the antifreeze is coming from, I would doubt you are going to be fixing this yourself. Even if you can find it, I think the odds are probably about 50/50 you can fix it. The cracked fitting/busted pipe scenarios wouldn't be too tough to fix. Fixing a leaking freeze plug would not be easy for the uninitiated.

I'd get a couple of estimates on how much it's going to cost to get it fixed. Ask your friends who they'd take their car to and follow their advice. I usually find the national chains to leave you wanting with second rate tire changers trying to do the repairs for you. You never know what you're going to get (or get charged, for that matter).

  • Thank you for your quick response. Is the car safe to drive? I don't know how ill get it to a mechanic if I cant drive it. – Nate4436271 Dec 10 '15 at 1:10
  • @Nate4436271 - Nobody can tell you for sure, but would think if you double check your radiator to ensure its full (check cold, of course), then not drive over a few miles to ensure you are not fully hot, it probably wouldn't be an issue. There are no guarantees though. If you see the temp gauge climbing past where it normally runs at, pull over right away and shut it down. Let it cool down quite a bit, then get it to a shop. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 10 '15 at 1:20
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If you have the 3vze/V6 engine, those are highly prone to headgasket failure to the point there was a factory recall, so that is a possible candidate. The exhaust cross-over tube behind the engine tends to overheat the rear cylinders, so that is typically where the headgasket failure occurs.

You may be able to keep it limping along for a while but ultimately, if your headgasket is leaking, it may cause serious damage. Driving it further could be very risky. Depending on what part of the gasket breaks, coolant can mix with oil circulation, leak into the cylinders themselves, or just leak to the outside of the engine. In any case you probably want a professional mechanic to look into it. Also you might check with the Toyota dealer to see if your vehicle is eligible for the recall and/or if that has already been done, if you do have the V6.

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