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    Thread: Lots of rust in coolant - normal? or symptom of something bad?

    1. 09-08-2012 10:10 PM #1
      Hey everybody,

      I have a 2001 Passat GLS V6. I've been having problems with cold starts, and an engine code (P1296) with a "check emissions" warning. P1296 seems to be an intermittent problem with the coolant system (a lot of people have reported fixing this by changing the coolant temperature sensor).

      So I did two things: replace the coolant temp sensor and a coolant flush. So far, the check engine light hasn't come back on, and I'll find out in the morning if there are any cold start problems.

      My question to everyone - when I did the coolant flush, the coolant was REALLY dirty. Really rust-colored, with rust-colored particles suspended in it (I'm assuming this was all actual rust). Rust caking the coolant reservoir also. And when I changed the temperature sensor, that was also caked with rust and pretty corroded-looking.

      Is this all normal? I got the car new in 2001, and I'm really not sure if the coolant has ever been flushed (unless that's done in regular checkups), so it stands to reason that it should be dirty. But I don't know if it's supposed to be so rusty? Also, the car had been sitting around in a garage for about 7 years (I was living in New York) and driven very infrequently, so it certainly seems possible that a lot could have rusted during that time.

      Just wondering if there is anything more nefarious going on that I should watch out for, or I should just kick myself for not having maintained it better and move on now that things are looking okay. Thoughts?

      Thanks in advance.
      -c

    2. Member koidragon1980's Avatar
      Join Date
      Jul 8th, 2011
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      Astoria, NY
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      2001.5 VW Passat V6 FWD (RIP), 2007 Saab 9-3 2.0T 6spd manual
      09-10-2012 10:25 AM #2
      Quote Originally Posted by chetpan View Post
      Hey everybody,

      I have a 2001 Passat GLS V6. I've been having problems with cold starts, and an engine code (P1296) with a "check emissions" warning. P1296 seems to be an intermittent problem with the coolant system (a lot of people have reported fixing this by changing the coolant temperature sensor).

      So I did two things: replace the coolant temp sensor and a coolant flush. So far, the check engine light hasn't come back on, and I'll find out in the morning if there are any cold start problems.

      My question to everyone - when I did the coolant flush, the coolant was REALLY dirty. Really rust-colored, with rust-colored particles suspended in it (I'm assuming this was all actual rust). Rust caking the coolant reservoir also. And when I changed the temperature sensor, that was also caked with rust and pretty corroded-looking.

      Is this all normal? I got the car new in 2001, and I'm really not sure if the coolant has ever been flushed (unless that's done in regular checkups), so it stands to reason that it should be dirty. But I don't know if it's supposed to be so rusty? Also, the car had been sitting around in a garage for about 7 years (I was living in New York) and driven very infrequently, so it certainly seems possible that a lot could have rusted during that time.

      Just wondering if there is anything more nefarious going on that I should watch out for, or I should just kick myself for not having maintained it better and move on now that things are looking okay. Thoughts?

      Thanks in advance.
      -c
      could be your radiator or heater core beginning to breakdown internally, but it's hard to say if it can be considered "normal". nothing lasts forever and if you're running on stock coolant with never having changed/flushed it, then that old coolant will look like crap and carry quite a bit of dirt and residue from the years of normal engine wear it's been cycled through. if you don't have any leaks and your systems are functioning normally, then i'd say it's just 12 year old coolant that is showing it's age and in need of replacement.

      flush/change (don't do a power flush) the coolant with fresh G12 or G12+ and also get a new coolant resivoir at the same time (ECS has them for ~$40), as i'm sure your oem tank is looking old and brownish from the outside and has an ugly residue on the inside. the tanks tend to age and turn in color. they are also known to begin cracking, so getting a new tank and changing the fluid will give the internals some fresh fluids, save the hassle of dealing with a cracked/leaking tank in the future, and get rid of that aging brown eyesore in your engine bay.

      not sure about the rust around your temp sensor. could be age, or could be a sign of a slight leak that went too long unnoticed. there's an o-ring that goes with that sensor that may have been failing or not seated properly.
      God bless the homicidal maniacs... they make life worthwhile. - George Carlin

    3. 09-10-2012 12:19 PM #3
      Thanks koidragon. That makes sense - I think you're right that it was just the old coolant that should've been flushed long ago. The car's running great since the flush/CTS replacement, and I'll go ahead and replace that tank!

    4. Member cvincent78's Avatar
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      May 8th, 2005
      Location
      Cincinnati, OH
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      91 MK2 VR6 GOLF 97 VOLVO 850 Wagon
      09-12-2012 03:26 PM #4
      When you flushed it did you remove the radiator hoses and flush the radiator out with direct pressure from a garden hose? I would do that and I would flush the heater core directly too. Often then not, the heater core will clog up on these cars from the built-up sediment. I suggest you use distilled water and factory coolant.

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