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Q: Engine running hot with heater issues

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I let my dad borrow my car yesterday so he can go to Reno for the day. We live in Sacramento, CA so it was a total of about 230 miles round trip. When he got back last night I could smell anti-freeze. It didnt appear to be overheating or leaking at all and he said he hadnt had any issues. So I didnt think much of it. Later when I left though, I could tell something wasnt right. Theres a slight jerk and/or a engine bogging noise for a split second when I first give it gas or let off the gas. My first thought was a bad engine or tranny mount, but that doesnt explajn the bogging noise. Then I noticed the engine running hot and heater issues. Its not overheating but if I turn the windshield defrost on it just blows cold air and my temp guage goes a little over 3/4. If i aim the air anywhere else like the feet, face, etc. the temp guage will go down to 1/2 but the air barely gets warm. Before yesterday the engine ran smoothe, heater got hot, and temp guage never went above 1/2. Any advice?

My car has 95000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

A: Hello. There is obviously an issue with the...

Hello. There is obviously an issue with the cooling system causing the overheating. A number of cooling components can cause these issues, and it is a process of elimination to find the culprit. The first thing to check is the level of the coolant in the radiator and in the overflow tank. Do this while the engine is cold. If it is low, the engine is either leaking, or consuming the coolant. If you are smelling the coolant burning then there is very likely a leak. You will want to look for it carefully and may not see leaking on the ground because its only leaking when its running and burning off on the hot engine. If there is no visible leak then you may have a failed head gasket. The gasket is allowing the coolant to enter the engine and is being consumed there. If the fluid is not low, then there is a circulation issue. This can be caused by a bad thermostat, a bad water pump, or a clog just to name the most common problems. Inspect the issue a little further and go from there.

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