PepBoys replaced my radiator a week ago exactly, because it blew a hose a week before. It also had the following symptoms:. *spewing white smoke and fluid out the tail pipe. *radiator losing all its water or coolant way quicker than normal. *turning on the AC makes the needle move rapidly past the middle line,forcing me to stop and let it cool or turn off the engine at stop lights and such. *gurgling sound with billowing white smoke coming from under the hood where the reservoir is locate anytime I have to idle for more than a couple of minutes, like at a long light or a fast food line. * Main top radiator hose bursting suddenly spewing coolant all over the windshield.

I am beginning to think they may have known about the blown gasket at some point in the radiator replacement that cost me $400 last week. It took over an hour longer or more than estimated (3hrs) The manager explained that the mechanic working on my car ran into problems, but ignored my questions as to what the problems were. When I asked if that was what all the yelled I heard in the bays was about. He replied no ... just how children react - or something to that effect. He made himself busy when I tried to ask more questions, walking away to his office.

In my mind they have several opportunities to figure this out seeing my car was in their shop at two locations 5 times. I did my research and found this great video that tests 12 ways to detect a blown gasket; The sizzle test by dropping oil on the engine block or radiator cap when it's running hot. If it sizzles then there is water/coolant present. I learned this from a 2 part video testing on ways to test for a gasket problem ....it's kinda like the myth busters for car repair! :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwiIpTIrBaE at about 8 minutes in. The story on how he heard about the sizzle test is pretty kewl too and he's pretty surprised it worked even! :D

So far I've spent $800 dollars at PepBoys on my car. I would have never put in a new radiator if I'd known the real problem was the head gasket. They could have suggested a special radiator that cooled the engine better. I know there are ones like that.

Just feels like this info was not revealed in a timely manner and that the result is they have gotten a good amount of money out of me and I still have the same problem.

Not asking for my $400 back for the radiator. Just asking them to do the required prep work to use Blue Devil on the system and see if it seals up the blown gasket. It can't be that major as I can drive long distances all day without any problems except running out of coolant.

I'd need an oil change to get the water/coolant/oil mixture out of the system, the radiator flushed and replaced with just plain water per the Blue Devil instructions. I'd do the pouring cause they service guy there seemed to imply that Blue Devil could damage my radiator ... clog it up. My reasoning is, it's new, so why would that happen? If my old rusty radiation was still in here I could understand this worry. Just need time .. a few months to save up enough to repair my van. It needs a catalytic converter and muffler. Then I'd eventually get the gasket fixed on this old beater car. I can't afford a car note and keeps my insurance down to less than $100 a month.

I feel like my solution is reasonable and fair and they might get my van repair too. But not if they keep talking to me like the PepBoys guy did last night! He was down right ughly with me, getting in my face and sneering, yell-talking at me and couldn't hear a word I said. Otherwise I will drive 30 miles one way to Spring Grove PA where there is mechanic there I know is honest and trusted. He only works three days a week and is always busy. That's the sign of a man who knows what he's doing!

So ...

  1. Am I being unreasonable to suggest that since 4 different mechanics have worked on my car, that one of them should have seen the empty radiator the excessive pressure on the top hose that caused it to split, the tail pipe slewing and the white smoke billowing out of my reservoir and asked why?

Or ...

  1. Would this e a reasonable assumption for them to look at all those signs and say the radiator needs replaced and that it' fixed, even though they had a problem when they tested for leaks by doing a leak down compression test?

And ...

  1. Is my request for them to prep my car for Blue Devil per the products instructions for free unreasonable?

Thank you whomever answers. I do appreciate your opinion(s).

  • 1
    What type of car? Model year? How many miles on the Odometer? Is the vehicle used for towing? i.e. Is there a trailer hitch on the vehicle?
    – zipzit
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 17:05
  • 2
    Nation chain mechanics are parts replacer's, they are not technicians with experience in diagnosing anything.
    – Moab
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 22:09
  • ..I also would like to know what car is so tough as to withstand this sort of abuse for so long!
    – elrobis
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 16:26
  • 1
    In all fairness....it's possible your original overheating incident catalyzed the head gasket failure, which may not have occurred until after the radiator was replaced and the car was returned to you.
    – elrobis
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 16:31
  • "It can't be that major..." I would not assume that with a problem like this. First off water in your cylinders is bad bad, and it sounds like you have that from the white smoke, etc. Secondly, a bad headgasket can seem ok until something nasty happens from the continued abuse. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 20:03

2 Answers 2


I would not immediately assume the repair shop was out to get you. Its possible, but not likely. PepBoys is a national chain, and their best most profitable behavior is to quickly and efficiently repair customer's cars. Any national chain will also spot check the reliability of their individual repair centers. I'm not saying its impossible, it just doesn't make much sense.

There are a whole lot of radiator / cooling related topics on mechanics.stackexchange.com, so I'll let you read up on some of those.

And as for your head gasket thing. I would expect that as a result of poor engine cooling not something that caused the radiator hose to blow off in the first place. And mixing of coolant and oil is bad, but it's possible there is a crack in either the head or block.

My recommendation to you. If you seriously want to understand more about your vehicle, consider the purchase of a Haynes or Chilton's service manual. $30 at your local auto parts store. They have detailed troubleshooting guides. You can tell exactly how your car works.

And as for the Blue Devil thing. Er, yeah. I'm not really impressed with those sort of products. Yes, they are supposed to clean the interior of your coolant system. In my experience what messes up the interior of the coolant system is the use of tap water (and not distilled water) when adding coolant. That creates hard deposits on the inside of the radiator tubes. And no amount of Blue Devil will remove that stuff very well. It tends to be money wasted.

I'd be more inclined to look closely at:

  • your cooling fan,
  • the control system that drives the fan,
  • the sealing between the radiator and the front end of the vehicle,
  • the air flow into the radiator
  • the functioning of the overflow bottle.
  • the functioning of the radiator cap two way seals.

From where I'm sitting, this could have been a $15 radiator cap gone astray months ago causing all of these problems.

And I would like to know make model and year of vehicle. On later year vehicles, the manufacturers added overheat protections into the engine control computer (shut down X cylinders, limp home mode, etc...)


Your assumption is perfectly reasonable.

I will not comment on the capabilities or lack their of of the mechanic, I would say that in my view it is not a bad idea to invest some time building a relationship with a repair workshop (the same thing applies to barbers :) ). Most of us have to drive to get to work and we do that for years and years, we might as well invest some time and do things like above, even if they seem unnecessary till the time comes, it can save us money in the long term.

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