How to Check for Cooling System Leaks in a VW Beetle

Written by ehow cars editor
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To keep your VW Beetle operating properly, there are periodic inspections to perform, including checking the cooling system for leaks. Forgoing these inspections could result in severe long-term damage to the cooling system and your engine. If, however, your VW Beetle is a 1997 model or earlier, it has an open-air engine cooling system and cooling leaks are impossible, as there is no radiator or coolant present. These directions pertain to the "new" Beetle only.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Coolant
  • Flashlight
  • Gloves
  • Long-sleeved shirt

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  1. 1

    Move the VW Beetle from its regular parking place and inspect the area underneath. Usually if there's a leak, the coolant will flow onto the ground. Engine coolant is bright in color, usually green or orange, so it's easy to spot on the ground.

  2. 2

    Open the hood of the VW Beetle and check the radiator hoses for any cracks, bulges or splits. These hoses are made mostly of rubber, making them especially prone to leaks. Usually leaks from the hoses are noticeable as you can see the leaks or the damage to the hoses. However, sometimes there are pinholes and pinch leaks that only appear when the hoses become warm and expand during operation of the car.

  3. 3

    Check the water pump, which is behind the radiator and attached to the front of the engine, for any signs of leakage. Check the gasket or o-ring that connects the water pump to the engine. If there's any leakage around the water pump, there will be discoloration, corrosion or visible coolant present.

  4. 4

    Inspect all visible areas of the radiator with a flashlight. Be sure to check the upper and lower radiator hoses for a secure connection. Sometimes these hoses can loosen due to engine vibration. The underside of the radiator can also have damage from stones and road debris that hit beneath the radiator.

  5. 5

    Twist the radiator cap one full turn and step back. Then, completely remove the radiator cap. Add more coolant until the radiator is about to overflow.

  6. 6

    Start the engine of the VW Beetle and set the heater to high. Allow it to run like this for about 15 minutes.

  7. 7

    Switch off the engine and check the auto parts from the previous steps for leakage. If you still don't find any leaks, but your coolant level went down, the leak may be internal. In this case, you need to take the car to a cooling system specialist for further inspection and diagnosis.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt whenever you work with a cooling system to protect your skin from damage.
  • Be very careful when working with coolant, as it's very toxic to both people and animals. If you get coolant on your skin, rinse the area off immediately.
  • Be extremely cautious when you remove the radiator cap, as internal pressure can cause the coolant to erupt and severely burn anyone in the area.

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