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Just an update for anyone interested

I studied everyone's replies here over and over. Armed with questions & talking points that made me seem like I somewhat knew what I was talking about, I went to the dealership and spoke with the tech who worked on my car.

He went through everything he tried, which included everything that was covered in this thread. As it turned out, there was just no coolant in the expansion tank, not the entire car — which was my very first question for him. The system was pressure-tested and held pressure. The itemized bill they gave me included everything that was attempted/looked at. They believe that there is either an undetectably small leak, or that the previous shop I had it at did something wrong (like not closing the cap all of the way). The last service I had was at a different dealership.

I was instructed to check the expansion tank once per week when the car is cold. If there is any change or issue, I’m to bring it back. I have the entire conversation recorded, as well.

Im still not thrilled about not having a definitive diagnosis, but I was surprisingly impressed by the tech’s answers and the shop’s seemingly new leaf on service (this dealership’s service dept is known to have gone downhill significantly in recent years).

We’ll see what happens, but I have to extend a huge “thank you” to you guys. As Alf had said, “Knowledge is power”. Thank you gentlemen so much for the knowledge!
 

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Just an update for anyone interested

I studied everyone's replies here over and over. Armed with questions & talking points that made me seem like I somewhat knew what I was talking about, I went to the dealership and spoke with the tech who worked on my car.

He went through everything he tried, which included everything that was covered in this thread. As it turned out, there was just no coolant in the expansion tank, not the entire car — which was my very first question for him. The system was pressure-tested and held pressure. The itemized bill they gave me included everything that was attempted/looked at. They believe that there is either an undetectably small leak, or that the previous shop I had it at did something wrong (like not closing the cap all of the way). The last service I had was at a different dealership.

I was instructed to check the expansion tank once per week when the car is cold. If there is any change or issue, I’m to bring it back. I have the entire conversation recorded, as well.

Im still not thrilled about not having a definitive diagnosis, but I was surprisingly impressed by the tech’s answers and the shop’s seemingly new leaf on service (this dealership’s service dept is known to have gone downhill significantly in recent years).

We’ll see what happens, but I have to extend a huge “thank you” to you guys. As Alf had said, “Knowledge is power”. Thank you gentlemen so much for the knowledge!
That’s much more confidence inspiring. Thanks for the update and religiously check the coolant level. Let us know how it goes.
 

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Glad they restored some of your confidence. That was a good approach.

Thanks for posting the update. It is good information for us all.

Although it is true that "things which go away by themselves usually come back by themselves", this provides a much more thorough background into their recommendation to drive the car and monitor the level.

There have been splits noted in some coolant reservoir tanks, but that should have caused it to fail a pressure test, I assume (I am not a mechanic - don't even play one on TV. I did sleep at a Holiday Inn once though ;) ). That would also not have likely drained the entire tank.

I'd watch that level like a hawk (as I'm sure you will). But you will have to come up with a routine - park in the same spot to check it (as level as possible), and do so only when it is cold (in the morning before you start the car, for instance) as that is the only time you will be certain that the temperature is close to identical each time.

Good luck!
 

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30 minutes into a 4 hour getaway a couple of weeks ago, I had a similar thing happen on my wife's Audi. Red thermometer animation came up with "Shut Engine Off Now". Holy crap!!!! I sympathize with you. That was a baaaaad feeling. Difference in my case was that the reservoir was full. I blasted the heat with the windows down and drove the car home. Turned out to be a thermostat in my case.

Like others have commented, it sounds like the dealer actually did decent diagnostics on your car. Check the tank(ONLY WHEN COLD) every now and again and see what happens. It's still odd that so much is gone.
 

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Hi @beekrock - I'm proud of you buddy. It took some courage to go in there and talk it through with the technician.
The info that you have provided here will help others in the future.
For your knowledge base, here's some advanced cooling system info:
The way that expansion tanks/reservoirs work is that they sit off to the side of the main cooling circuit and allow for the coolant (and any trapped air) to move from the radiator and hoses into the plastic tank when the fluid is hot, and the coolant then gets siphoned back into the system when it cools down (with the air getting expelled via a vent on the cap when the pressure in the tank is above the setpoint (1.4 bar in our case - about 20 psi). Normally the level rise and fall is negligible and sits between the two marks on the side of the expansion tank.
If your coolant system was drained on the last service and didn't have the air properly bled out of the system, then even if the coolant level was filled to the full mark on the side of the expansion tank/reservoir by the technician, the level in the system would still be lower than it should be due to air being trapped at the high points. This is why the technicians (if they are doing the job properly) will run the engine with the heater on and bleed air out of the system at the high points, they will then allow it to cool down before re-checking the coolant level and top it up as necessary. The bleed points for the 4C radiator hoses are hidden under the bolted down panel that some call a bonnet and others call a hood. A lazy technician would not bother bleeding the air out and will rev the engine to get the engine driven "water pump" to flush the air out of the system with the flow of coolant.
Every time the engine goes through a heating up and cooling down cycle after that, the air would progressively be displaced by coolant getting siphoned back in during the cool down, resulting in a progressively lower level in the expansion tank.
A word of caution about checking the expansion tank level through the translucent sides - as the tanks age, it is possible for them to get a stain on the walls of the tank from the coolant and some owners have thought that there is a level in the tank when they are empty. So use a flash-light/torch to shine through the sides and confirm the level is real, or better still check the level ONLY WHEN COLD by removing the cap. Ensure that the o'ring on the neck of the cap is OK before refitting the cap. The level when cold sits around the join/seam of the tank - do not fill it to the top, and if it needs topping up, use the same coolant/corrosion inhibitor that your workshop uses, as mixing coolant from different manufacturers can create corrosive mixtures that eat engine components.
If you are looking for a Masters degree in cooling systems, check out how the thermostat works to get the engine up to normal operating conditions quickly and adjusts to keep your engine at the optimum operating temp:

Cheers,
Alf.
 
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