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I have a 2006 RAV4 and it has 81k miles on it. We drove it up from south Florida to norther Alabama which is about 13-14 hours. It did fine the whole way until the very end when we started going over mountains and it began over heating. We were only 15 min away from home so we just put the heat on full blast and drove slower. I had my boyfriend look at the coolant levels last week and he said there was almost none at all. He put some water in it for now. I'm pretty sure the mechanic in Florida replaced the coolant before we drove it here but I'm not positive. I'm also supposed to drive to Atlanta next week which is only 120 miles or so but my mother is very worried that it is going to overheat and breakdown on the way. Any advice/ is it normal to have to replace coolant after 1500 miles/ should I go buy some and fill it up? Thanks!
 

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I would make sure it is now completely full (just water) and drive around locally. Look for leaks under the car and keep an eagle eye on the temp gauge. If all appears normal then drain it & fill with correct coolant prior to heading for Atlanta. If you spot a leak you haven't wasted money on coolant prior to getting it repaired.
 

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for some reason the coolant reservoir always seems low in the tank on 4.3 rav4s, even if you fill it to the high mark, when it warms up, it will get spit out the overflow near the reservoir cap, and go back down to the low mark, so if there is still coolant at the low mark it's normal. if the coolant was just changed, it might be air stuck in the coolant system.
 

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I have a 2006 RAV4 and it has 81k miles on it. We drove it up from south Florida to norther Alabama which is about 13-14 hours. It did fine the whole way until the very end when we started going over mountains and it began over heating. We were only 15 min away from home so we just put the heat on full blast and drove slower. I had my boyfriend look at the coolant levels last week and he said there was almost none at all. He put some water in it for now. I'm pretty sure the mechanic in Florida replaced the coolant before we drove it here but I'm not positive. I'm also supposed to drive to Atlanta next week which is only 120 miles or so but my mother is very worried that it is going to overheat and breakdown on the way. Any advice/ is it normal to have to replace coolant after 1500 miles/ should I go buy some and fill it up? Thanks!
You can try what RtexasF recommends, but I would suggest taking your car to a local mechanic(unless you have a dealer nearby you trust)and let him pressure-test the cooling system for any leaks/problems, especially the water pump. When he's satisfied all is well, make sure it's filled with the correct Toyota coolant. Color is pink.
 

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Maybe when the Mech changed the coolant he didn't burp it. Trapped air finally gave and coolant now low. Water is ok to use down there.
 

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Owner's manual specifically states that it is not OK to use water rather than the recommended coolant/water mix, except that water can be used in an emergency when coolant isn't available and must be replaced with coolant ASAP. Agree with RTexasF's suggestion to use water only do determine if there is a leak, then if there is no leak to replenish the system with coolant/water mix. My 4.3 V6 coolant reservoir has been at the recommended level since new - near the low mark when engine is cold and at the full mark when the engine is at normal operating temperature. One can use any coolant which meets Toyota's spec, owner's manual says to use high quality ethylene glycol non-borate, non-silicate, non-amine, non-nitrite coolant. Coolant color doesn't matter so long as it meets those specs.
 

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owner's manual says to use high quality ethylene glycol non-borate, non-silicate, non-amine, non-nitrite coolant. Coolant color doesn't matter so long as it meets those specs.
Don't forget gluten and dairy free too! :wink

Seriously the best advice and the fastest answer will be to have the system pressure tested. The other advice is to always double check the mechanic's work before leaving on a trip. They get distracted and forget to do major things. A friend of mine had is oil changed at a dealer (not Toyota) and though they put the drain plug back in and fitted a new oil filter they forgot to re-fill the oil! Luckily the oil warning light kept him from driving it home.
 

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I had my boyfriend look at the coolant levels last week and he said there was almost none at all.
It is very common for owners to check antifreeze levels by looking at the plastic overflow bottle.You should be aware that it is normal to only see fluid in the bottom 1/8 of the tank, resulting in many people arriving at the conclusion the level is low. To be certain if the level really is low, you need to remove the radiator cap (when the engine is cool) and check that the radiator is filled to the very top. If he was mistaken about the low level, the overheating could be caused by several other engine system malfunctions.
I'm pretty sure the mechanic in Florida replaced the coolant before we drove it here but I'm not positive.
You could check the work order, or call the mechanic to verify this. You also should have noticed a considerable charge if he had to flush and refill your coolant. If you can indeed confirm this work was done, then an air pocket could explain the sudden drop in level and the overheating.

As others have suggested, you could top of the radiator (if it is not already filled to the brim) with plain water for diagnostic purposes, but plain water cannot dissipate the heat from the engine as well as a water/antifreeze mixture. Plain water will also not protect the system from corrosion or lubricate the water pump.

I would also look at the condition of the oil on the dipstick. If your engine overheated, it is possible that the block has cracked. If this was the case, antifreeze will often mix with the oil resulting in a curdled milk appearance on the dipstick.
 

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Don't forget gluten and dairy free too! :wink

Seriously the best advice and the fastest answer will be to have the system pressure tested. The other advice is to always double check the mechanic's work before leaving on a trip. They get distracted and forget to do major things. A friend of mine had is oil changed at a dealer (not Toyota) and though they put the drain plug back in and fitted a new oil filter they forgot to re-fill the oil! Luckily the oil warning light kept him from driving it home.
Pressure testing might identify any leak but it doesn't always do so. My wife had a Subaru Forester which always smelled like hot coolant, coolant level always lowered, and pressure tests were negative. I finally located the leak by placing cardboard under the Forester at night and removing the plastic under-engine pan - as sometimes happens coolant doesn't leak when it is warm and is more likely to do so when cold. Situation had been made worse by incompetent dealer service, as you noted. Double checking service techs' work was mandatory with that Subaru.
 

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It is very common for owners to check antifreeze levels by looking at the plastic overflow bottle.You should be aware that it is normal to only see fluid in the bottom 1/8 of the tank, resulting in many people arriving at the conclusion the level is low. To be certain if the level really is low, you need to remove the radiator cap (when the engine is cool) and check that the radiator is filled to the very top.
I don't know about yours, Rick, but my 2008 doesn't have a radiator cap. The pressurized cap is on the plastic reservoir.
 

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I usually lose some from that pressurised cap even if I only fill to the LOW line.
I guess some escapes in vapour form. I know that just under the pressure cap nozzle, I have a stain to prove that it is actually escaping from there.
I top up to the LOW level every year.
 

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I don't know about yours, Rick, but my 2008 doesn't have a radiator cap. The pressurized cap is on the plastic reservoir.
To be honest I haven't owned my RAV4 for almost a year now (hope you don't cancel my membership).

I guess my aging memory isn't that great because I was surprised when you said there is no radiator cap. I had to actually watch a YouTube video before I was convinced. Both of my current vehicles have radiator caps, and I have always considered them mandatory for the purpose of refilling the system after draining. The YouTube video showed that antifreeze added to the plastic tank will automatically drain into the engine (by gravity), so indeed the rad cap is not required.

My apologies to the OP for providing misleading information, but as Vanib has stated, the normal level in these tanks is at, or slightly below, the "low level" mark.
 

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To be honest I haven't owned my RAV4 for almost a year now (hope you don't cancel my membership).

My apologies to the OP for providing misleading information, but as Vanib has stated, the normal level in these tanks is at, or slightly below, the "low level" mark.
No problem Rick, we always appreciate your input, no matter what you're driving!
 

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Which engine? The V-6 is notorious for bad water pumps.
 
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