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Old 12-02-2009, 08:02 PM #1
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Unhappy Coolant leak, whining noise, vacuum leak, alternator, starter, battery issues

Hi, I am new on these forums and it seems that this week I have had the perfect storm of difficult to diagnose problems, so here is what I am dealing with, any help would be appreciated.

I have a 1997 4runner v6 4 speed auto 4x4 with 131K, I did an oil change and replaced the air filter about 300 miles ago, and at 120K the timing belt, water pump, and spark plugs were apparently done. (I did not own the car at this point but I do have a receipt)

So I'll start from the beginning, I bought the car in august, and I had it checked out by a mechanic, the valve covers were leaking a little oil and the rear brake shoes had 10% life on them, but other then that it appeared to be in pristine condition, so I had them replace the shoes and neglected the valve covers as there really wasn't that much oil leaking.

The Brakes.
After they replaced the shoes i noticed a heavy vibration, and an odd smell driving around town, so I felt the drums and burned my hands, it took two trips back in to the mechanic for them to resurface the drums and get it right, however every once in a while I will have one of the shoes drag seemingly randomly. Lately when it has been cold I will start the car and let it idle for about 30 seconds, then depress the breaks and put it in gear and turn around, when I go to stop to put it in reverse to complete my turn the petal is hard and I almost hit the curb because the car was so difficult to stop. Also sometimes when I apply the breaks there is a hissing noise.

The Disappearing Coolant
Last week i noticed my coolant was a little low so I topped the reservoir off, today I looked under the hood and it was half empty (Insert pun about my pessimism here.) After the car warms up it doesn't blow white smoke,(It has been about 15-25F when I start the car in the morning so there is some water in the exhaust.) And that is all I can say about the coolant.

Starter Motor, Battery, Alternator
About a month ago when I would go to start the car every once in a while It would just turn over once, or click the first time I tried to start it, and then It would start normally, but after driving around town at night last weekend all I got was the starter solenoid clicking, so I got a jump and I was on my way. The battery is about 4 years old and it was cold that night.

Whining Noise
I start the car to go to school today and let it warm up, (no starting problems this morning), then I almost hit the curb because of the brake booster again, and then I set off, and there is this fairly loud high pitched whining noise, and I cant tell If it is a whistle or a mechanical whine, the intensity and pitch matches the engine RPMs, and it is nearly silent at idle, by the time I made it 2 miles the noise had almost disappeared. It almost sounded like a turbo.

So that's my story, all of the noises and starting issues seem to go away as the car warms up and seem to be made worse by the cold weather lately. I drive the car 2 miles to school and then 2 miles back during the week, and usually do longer trips over the weekend with my friends. I am going to get out my camera and try to replicate the problems later so you guys can hear and see what is going on. I am trying to do more maintenance and repairs myself lately and i have a Chilton's manual, so any advice is welcome.

Thanks
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Old 12-02-2009, 09:11 PM #2
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For the whining check the power steering fluid, mine did the same crap when it was low. It may go away when the engine is warm.

For the no white smoke at startup, not every car will have it, its not uncommon to start the car in cold weather and not have smoke.

Have the mechanics check the front rotors they may need to be turned/replaced, and change your brake fluid too.

The battery doing that in cold weather is a sign of it going bad, you have to replace the battery, and even if its only 4 years old it could sit on the self for a while.

The coolant is a no brainer you have a leak.
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Last edited by JohnsD90; 12-02-2009 at 09:17 PM.
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Old 12-02-2009, 09:27 PM #3
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The fact that a jump start got you going after it wouldn't start means that you definitely have a weak battery. You can always have your battery tested just to make sure though. The low coolant could just be low coolant in the radiator. The radiator will suck in coolant from the reservoir when the level is low. Check the fluid level in the radiator when the engine is cold and see if it is at the top. To fully fill the radiator, remove the cap when the engine is cold and then start the engine. Once the engine has warmed up, the t-stat will open and suck in coolant which may allow you to add more into the radiator. If you have to keep adding coolant and the reservoir keeps running dry, then you have a leak somewhere. The brakes should be looked at ASAP. If the shop you took it to can't figure it out, you should bring it somewhere else. I would start with the air filter for the whining noise you described. Hope this helps!

Edit: The power steering John mentioned above would fit the whining symptom and would also explain why it goes away when warmed up. See if turning the wheel back and forth changes the whining sound at all. If it's more of a whistle then that makes me think airflow

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Old 12-02-2009, 09:46 PM #4
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Thanks for the ideas guys.

I never thought to check the power steering fluid. I'll check tomorrow.

The Coolant is definitely leaking somewhere, I'm just not sure where, i guess i'll just have to track it down.

Yea, it looks like a new battery is in order.

I guess I'll have to take it in for the brakes, I just don't really have the time to find a new mechanic and bring it in soon, but i guess it's better than getting in an accident.
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Old 12-03-2009, 10:31 AM #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max O View Post
Thanks for the ideas guys.

I never thought to check the power steering fluid. I'll check tomorrow.

The Coolant is definitely leaking somewhere, I'm just not sure where, i guess i'll just have to track it down.

Yea, it looks like a new battery is in order.

I guess I'll have to take it in for the brakes, I just don't really have the time to find a new mechanic and bring it in soon, but i guess it's better than getting in an accident.
Yo the first thing you need to do is the Brakes (like today), I'd rather the engine overheat and the block crank than not having brakes, the parts can be replaced you can't.

The brakes also sound like the vacumm isnt working, its like when you pump the brakes when the car is off and they get really hard to push, that is what it sounds like is happening to you, thats dangerous and should be check out the next time you drive.
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Last edited by JohnsD90; 12-03-2009 at 10:34 AM.
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