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Cooling System Pressure Test Cost

Know what price you should pay to get your vehicle fixed.

The average cost for a cooling system pressure test is between $26 and $34. Labor costs are estimated between $26 and $34. Estimate does not include taxes and fees.
Note about price: This service is typically done as part of a bigger, more expensive repair, so the estimate you see above may not represent your total cost. Some of these bigger related repairs are listed in the table below. Talk with a RepairPal Certified shop to learn which repairs may be right for you.

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What is a Cooling System Pressure Test?

A cooling system pressure test is a procedure used to determine if engine coolant (sometimes called antifreeze) is leaking somewhere in the cooling system. When the system develops a leak, it is not always visible. A technician can perform a pressure test to identify whether coolant loss is due to a leak or to some other cause.

How do Cooling System Pressure Tests work?

During normal operation, an engine produces a lot of heat. The cooling system makes sure that the engine runs within a consistent temperature range without overheating. In the cooling system, a mixture of coolant and water is circulated through the engine block to absorb excess heat. It is routed out of the engine and through the radiator, where its temperature drops before it enters the engine again. The coolant is moved through the system by the water pump, driven by a serpentine belt on the front of the engine. And the temperature is regulated with a thermostat placed in the path of the coolant. It is essential that the amount of coolant in the system be kept full. But sometimes the coolant level drops - either due to overheating or to a leak in the system. In a cooling system pressure test, a technician uses air to pressurize the system, and a pressure gauge to read the effects.

What symptoms require a Cooling System Pressure Test?

If the cooling system on a car, truck, or SUV develops a leak, the coolant level will drop. When the coolant level sensor detects the loss, a warning light on the dashboard will come on to alert the driver that the coolant level is low. Sometimes the coolant loss is due to a leak somewhere in the system. The leak may leave a puddle of fluid under the vehicle or inside the engine compartment. But not always. A coolant leak inside the engine may not be seen, but it can produce a heavy white smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe, or it could cause a white milky residue to form on the engine oil dipstick. A sweet syrupy smell, either inside or outside the vehicle, is also an indication of a coolant leak.

Can I drive with a bad Cooling System Pressure Test?

If the engine overheats, the vehicle should be pulled over immediately and should be towed to a trusted repair facility. In some cases, the Engine Control Module (a computer that controls engine functions) will force the engine into emergency "limp" mode, effectively idling the engine so that the vehicle cannot be driven fast or far. Eventually the control module will shut down the vehicle completely. But driving with an overheated engine can cause significant engine damage. If a vehicle shows signs of overheating - a temperature light on the dash, high temperature gauge reading, steam coming out from under the hood - do not attempt to continue driving the vehicle. Pull off the road as soon as it is safe to do so and turn off the ignition.

How often do Cooling Systems need Pressure Tests?

A cooling system pressure test is performed whenever a coolant leak is suspected, especially if the leak is not visible.

How is the COoling System Pressure Tested?

To perform a cooling system pressure test, a technician will first make sure that the engine temperature has dropped so it is not hot to the touch. Opening a hot cooling system can cause serious injury. Then the radiator cap, or the cap to the expansion tank (overflow bottle), is removed and engine coolant is added until the system is full. Next, the technician will install a pressure tester (usually an air pump with a pressure gauge attached) in place of the cap, and pump air into the cooling system. The air compresses and shows a positive pressure reading on the gauge. The technician will observe whether the system can hold the pressure or not. If the pressure drops, a leak is present somewhere in the system.

How are Coolant Leaks fixed?

A coolant leak can develop in any of several locations within the engine cooling system. A leak on the outside of the engine may spring from a weak spot or tear in a radiator hose, at the hose connections, from a hole in the radiator, from a bad seal at the water pump, in the heater core underneath the dashboard, and so on. Inside the engine, a bad intake manifold gasket or cylinder head gasket can cause coolant to leak; so can a crack in the cylinder head or the engine block.

RepairPal Recommendations for Engine Cooling System issues

RepairPal recommends that the cooling system be thoroughly inspected by a qualified technician at a trusted repair facility as soon as possible when signs of overheating appear.

What to look out for when dealing with Cooling System Issues

An engine in a late model vehicle is designed to run somewhere between 195 and 220 degrees. But the fluid in the cooling system can rise well in excess of 220 degrees when the engine overheats. This produces steam that will cause severe injury from scalding if the system is opened when hot and under pressure. Burns are possible as the engine components are also at a high temperature. Extreme caution should be exercised when working on a hot engine, especially one that is overheated. If steam is seen coming from under the hood, the engine should be allowed to cool for at least a half hour before the hood is opened, and the radiator cap should not be removed until the engine is cool enough to touch with a bare hand.

Can I do a Cooling System Pressure Test myself?

Someone with intermediate DIY experience and the proper equipment can perform a basic engine coolant system test. But this procedure only shows whether or not there is a leak in the system. It does not reveal the location of the leak.

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