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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! Our 2005 Elise, for the first time in 17 years, appears to be losing coolant; however, where it is going is currently a mystery. There is no indication of coolant visible in the engine compartment, under the car (including the ground) or anywhere else I can see with a flashlight. As far as I can tell there is not yet a noticeable impact on normal engine temperatures.

I first noticed the low coolant after a two-day road trip; coolant was only present at the very bottom of the reservoir. Since, I've topped the coolant off three times and its level falls at least an inch in the reservoir during short drives (20 miles), or, running for about an hour in the garage (to try to find the source).

I'm wary of driving it a distance until the mystery is solved. Any ideas? I've read through some coolant threads and could not find a matching scenario.

Thank you,
David
 

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OEM radiator?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you, gents. Yes, OEM radiator. Would there be common secondary indications of a "blown head gasket"? The vehicle is running normal in all other regards other than losing coolant (from what I can observe).
 

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This is exactly what mine did when the radiator went. Thankfully it was slow and not a quick dump and leave me stranded.
Pop out one of your turn signals in the front clam. If you have coolant in the crash structure it's time for a new radiator.
One last place to check would be the u tube above the oil filter in the back of the car. This completes the circuit where the Toyota oil cooler was. It was executed very poorly and can fail over time.
 
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This is exactly what mine did when the radiator went. Thankfully it was slow and not a quick dump and leave me stranded.
Pop out one of your turn signals in the front clam. If you have coolant in the crash structure it's time for a new radiator.
One last place to check would be the u tube above the oil filter in the back of the car. This completes the circuit where the Toyota oil cooler was. It was executed very poorly and can fail over time.
Youd see U tube coolant on the ground 99% of the time, but great advice for how to look in the channels.


The head gasket you can test with a kit at home https://www.amazon.com/Block-Tester...805985&sprefix=coolant+test+ki,aps,191&sr=8-2
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
It sounds like I'll be delicately opening up some parts of our Elise! I hope I can find a video on how to remove the turn signals, to start! What a fantastic, trouble-free car this has been thus far.
 

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Remove oil filler cap and check the bottom of it. If there is a white slimy film, that is an indication of a blown head gasket (water in the oil causes the milky film residue).

Once I had missing coolant (non-Lotus), could not figure it out until I eventually found a pinhole leak in a coolant hose. Did not leak when car off, but when running emitted a very fine spray.
 

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Remove oil filler cap and check the bottom of it. If there is a white slimy film, that is an indication of a blown head gasket (water in the oil causes the milky film residue).

Once I had missing coolant (non-Lotus), could not figure it out until I eventually found a pinhole leak in a coolant hose. Did not leak when car off, but when running emitted a very fine spray.
Also check your oil on the dipstick. If it's showing the same milky slime and is higher than the full mark, it may be a head gasket as above. Pull the spark plugs and check each one. Look down into the spark plug holes. If the top of the piston is clean, that's where the leak may be coming from. Check the smell of the exhaust, it may smell like antifreeze.

Try sniffing around the radiator to see if you can smell antifreeze when the engine is warm. Remove the access panels and the grills to see if there are signs of seepage between the radiator core and the side tanks. A cooling system pressure tester can also tell you if you have a tiny leak somewhere. Leave it pressured up overnight, check for puddles on the floor.
 

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I had a bleed valve o ring crack and was bleeding coolant very slowly under pressure. Never any drips though. No signs until it got worse 4 months later.
Also note that the oil fill cap can be milky from condensation if it is not fully to operating temp. Don’t assume the worse if that is the case. The test kit is the more foolproof way.
 

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I hope I can find a video on how to remove the turn signals,
There is a hole in the grille area slightly inboard of the turn signal. You place a long skinny screwdriver in there and give it a push. You will likely break the tab off when you remove the turn signal. @RapidLotus sold me a repair kit, I'm not sure if he still sells them, they work well. Just make sure you get the clip to fully seat or you will have the turn signal pop out on a good bump.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
So I got to taking the turn signals out (thankfully did not break the clips) and inspected. I found faint signs of a leak when peering into the holes behind the left turn signal (blurry pic attached but some "pinkness" can be noticed) and verified the fluid with a paper towel probe.

Skin Leg Human body Textile Pink


Tire Wheel Automotive tire Tread Wood


Thus it seems the good news is this is likely a 17-year-old stock radiator issue. Now the decision is to do the fix by my amateur self (with spousal clam lift support), or, pay the bucks. Once a new radiator is installed, how difficult is replenishment of fluid? Are any special tools required? (Of course I will look for best videos on these topics)

I also inspected the oil cap and oil probe; no signs of white.

Thanks again for the spot-on help; grateful so far it appears to be radiator and not engine-compartment related.

David
 
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