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Back story: My wife bought her 2009 Rav4 Sport V6 4x4 in Jan of 2011 w/29k miles on it. A few months after purchase she got the loud whining noise from the trans/rear end. Toyota replaced it under TSB/Warranty for no cost. Ever since then we've noticed a coolant smell whenever she parks it in the garage. I'd notice the coolant reservoir getting a little low when changing her oil, and I've simply topped off over the past couple years. The last time I changed the oil I noticed the reservoir was completely dry. Uh oh. So I filled it up. Today after taking it out for a quick drive I popped the hood in the garage and once again noticed the reservoir was bone dry again. Crap! I looked around and couldn't see an actual leak of any kind, but definitely smelled the coolant smell again. After closer inspection I looked at the back of the radiator with a flashlight and discovered this monstrosity. I also noticed all the dried fine coolant mist on the engine and in the same area. No odd noises whatsoever coming from the engine when on. Is this absolutely a sign of a bad water pump, could it be the radiator itself, or could we get lucky and it's just a leak from one of the coolant hoses down there?

 

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That is more than likely the radiator itself.

Hopefully that has not contaminated the transmission fluid. When you pull the radiator cap, does it have the appearance of a strawberry milkshake, or is it the same pink transparent fluid that you are putting in?
There is a transmission cooler in the radiator and failure is not uncommon (google "pink death").
 

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Thanks for the responses. Once the engine cooled down I could get a better look and then could tell its definitely the radiator. How the heck it's leaking that bad in that one area is beyond me.

I'm pretty mechanically capable, so DIY isn't out of the question. How big of a job is it? Obviously draining the system is easy enough, but does it simply unbolt and remove from the top?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
How can I tell if her's has the tow package or not? There's no hitch on it. Still possible to have the tow package?
 

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Check the Alternator fuse in the under hood fuse box. The tow prep pkg models have a 140A one altho most likely never do have a hitch put on.
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Yep checked after googling it and it does indeed have the 140 amp fuse. How hard is it to change the radiator out? Are there any special fittings or anything for the trans cooler? I checked the transmission fluid and there's no evidence of the pink death milkshake, so I think I caught it before its done any damage.

I've been looking at radiators on Amazon, specifically the Denso one, but unfortunately it won't ship until next week. There's a Spectra one available for 2 day shipping, but I've never heard of how their radiators are quality-wise.
 

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Thanks for the responses. Once the engine cooled down I could get a better look and then could tell its definitely the radiator. How the heck it's leaking that bad in that one area is beyond me.
Rock, or something else physically damaged it.

I'm pretty mechanically capable, so DIY isn't out of the question. How big of a job is it? Obviously draining the system is easy enough, but does it simply unbolt and remove from the top?
The R&R is not too difficult... just getting anything attached to it and in the way clear and keeping it organized for reassembly.

The tricky part is bleeding or "burping" the system to clear all of the air out of the block.
 

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Yep checked after googling it and it does indeed have the 140 amp fuse. How hard is it to change the radiator out? Are there any special fittings or anything for the trans cooler? I checked the transmission fluid and there's no evidence of the pink death milkshake, so I think I caught it before its done any damage.

I've been looking at radiators on Amazon, specifically the Denso one, but unfortunately it won't ship until next week. There's a Spectra one available for 2 day shipping, but I've never heard of how their radiators are quality-wise.
SPECTRA - Took my 2000 4Runner in for AC not working, my garage owner friend ordered me a new Spectra Evaporator / similar to an aluminum rad construction, but mounted under the dash.
- my Toyota was tying up a shop bay / Spectra unit was same day delivery, Denso part wasn't
- original Denso and new Spectra AC Evap. were identical, in every way
Spectra also makes gas tanks, using clean coil steel, with a higher nickel content...they are slow to rust and a premium product. A Quality Company BTW.

TOW PACKAGE - our Canadian built 2008 RAV4 v6 had the tow package as standard on the Limited...for the Canadian Dealerships / the Class III hitch was not included & extra $$...weird, I know.
 

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Do you know if it was in an accident before you bought it? It seems pretty odd to me that you'd have radiator damage like that without some sort of trauma to the front end.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Do you know if it was in an accident before you bought it? It seems pretty odd to me that you'd have radiator damage like that without some sort of trauma to the front end.
A year late on a response, but to answer your question, there had been no front end accident at all before buying, at least according to Carfax, but obviously a report could be avoided if the dealership we bought it from bought the car from auction with damage and repaired it on their own without any insurance claim. Who knows. A deer ran into the driver side of the car between the front and rear doors a few years back, but that wouldn't have any impact on the front. I still think when they replaced the tranny early on they put a pin hole in it during the install and slowly over time it finally busted open. The good news is ever since replacing it last year it's been 100% no leaks or issues with missing antifreeze, no more coolant smell and all is good.
 

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Sorry I never updated this thread. It was indeed the radiator. Wasn't a bad job at all. I ended up going with a Koyorad radiator. A seller on eBay had one locally so I was able to buy it the same day, avoid shipping and paid cash so no tax. :D A year later and it completely solved the coolant smell issue and no more leaks or low reservoir.

















 

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Glad to hear it all worked out so well.
 

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Sorry I never updated this thread. It was indeed the radiator. Wasn't a bad job at all. I ended up going with a Koyorad radiator. A seller on eBay had one locally so I was able to buy it the same day, avoid shipping and paid cash so no tax. :D A year later and it completely solved the coolant smell issue and no more leaks or low reservoir..quote.


Looking at your rad, it like like that pink thingee might have flown into your rad from the back of a Pickup truck or similar.
Ott.
 

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That pink "thingee" is actually the coolant which had leaked out and solidified.
 

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Yep... the radiator is behind the AC condensor... If anything flew out of a truck and damaged the radiator, it took the AC system with it.
No, that was either a factory defect, or something struck the fan from behind.
 
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