Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: Engine started exhibiting sputter noise. 2003 Suzuki Vitara

asked by on

After a trip of 1700 miles, the engine started a putter sound like an old lawn mower. On the trip, the car did fine the first 850 miles, but then there was no coolant in the reservoir and I filled it up to full (did not overfill it). It drove fine the trip back home. It was two days later when the engine started the putter noise. When this happened, I released the gas pedal and then did not hear anything. I coasted home for 5 blocks, not accelerating. When looking under that hood, I saw coolant sprayed along the backside of the engine by the firewall. The coolant reservoir was completely empty. I did not hear any knocking noises, but I thought the engine might be blown. I have never heard this type of sound come from an engine before. I’m thinking it might be a head gasket. What is your assessment and diagnosis of the problem?

A: Hello there. This is an uncommon issue on t...

Hello there. This is an uncommon issue on the 2003 Suzuki Vitara. With coolant leaks such as you have had, the biggest concern is overheating of the vehicle. If the problem is detected and resolved before the engine overheats then there are usually no issues. If the engine overheats, then it is possible to damage the cooling system or head gasket. You did not state whether the car has overheated at all or if the temperature gauge is reading high at all.

When the head gasket is damaged or failing it allows the coolant and oil to mix together. The result is the oil becoming chunky and thick and the coolant can turn a brownish color. It is possible that the head gasket is damaged, but I can't say one way or the other without a visual inspection. There are tests that can be performed by qualified technician in order to diagnose the sputtering noise you've observed and let you know how this can be corrected.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Save up to 30%

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Truck is knocking why

This is commonly associated with a worn main bearing or rod bearing. These are bearings that support the movement of your truck's crankshaft and pistons and involves dropping down the oil pan and removing main caps and rod caps to...

Q: There's a problem with the fuel system I'm thinking but not sure

Hello. P1193 is the code for a faulty inlet air temperature sensor, also known as the intake air temperature sensor. It may be possible that there is an issue with the intake air temperature sensor or with the sensor circuit....

Q: Car makes loud noises and shakes while turning. How do i fix this?

You could have a bad motor mount on that motor. I have the same vehicle and have replaced two of the three motor mounts on it and it has finally quitted. The front hydraulic motor mount is more than likely...

Related articles

How Do Power Car Windows Increase Passenger Safety?
Power windows are responsible for approximately 2,000 emergency room visits every year. When a power window closes, it exerts enough force to bruise or break bones, crush fingers, or restrict an airway. Though...
What Causes Hoses to Leak?
While the largest part of your engine is mechanical, hydraulics plays a significant role. You’ll find fluids at work in a number of different areas. Your car's fluids include: Engine oil Transmission...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...