98 Chrysler Cirrus - Overheating

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#1
Hi, I'm a 22 year old broke, female, college student who knows absolutely nothing about cars! I'm hoping someone might be able to help me out in figuring out what might be going on with my 98 Chrysler Cirrus that keeps overheating. . .

When it first started happening I'd been just running a couple quick errands, probably less than 20 minutes of driving. When I stopped and popped the hood, there was some smoke coming out (there hasn't been smoke since then though) and it sounded like the coolant was boiling. I also saw that something was leaking under the car, right in the area under where I put the coolant in, so I assume that is what was leaking. Since then driving it has been a bit hit or miss, I make sure there is water in the coolant reservoir (or whatever it's called!) and sometimes it will overheat, sometimes it won't. Now it seems obvious that something is leaking, however I'm hoping for some ideas as to what I need to look into. Also, yesterday I drove it a little bit and the thermostat told me it was really hot, but when I stopped it was full, nothing was leaking and it was not making the boiling sound. So this change really confused me.

I hope I made this clear enough. Is there anyone that might have any ideas?

Thanks!
 

billr

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#2
Is the Check Engine Light (CEL) on all the time, and does it come on briefly when you first start the engine? What is your goal here, to start learning how to be a DIYer, or to understand enough to not feel like you are getting "snowed" when you take it to a shop?
 
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#3
Unfortunately my Check Engine Light has been on constantly for years, so that wouldn't be a good indicator for this. And with this I'm sure I won't be able to do it myself so it would be more of a not getting "snowed" as you put it. My boyfriend will probably take a stab at it before I take it to the shop but he always tries to get an idea from someone more experienced before he does anything
 
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#4
Lets start with the basics: Coolant level (in the radiator in specific) if its low your car is going to run hot. Don't remove the cap while hot, as you might get a shower of boiling hot coolant.
OK so now that the coolant level is topped off lets move on, Does the radiator fan come on when A. the air conditioning is turned on. B the car is up to operating temp. If no check the fuses, if the fuses are good see if there is a relay you can swap the cooling fans with (horn or other) You will know that you can swap them by the part number on the top being the same. If that doesn't make the fan work we are going to try a low tech test because I don't know what tools you have available. If the car comes up to operating temp and the fan is not spinning try giving the fan motor a tap with the handle of a screwdriver. If it spins up your fan is likely bad and needs to be replaced.

Ford_Dude
 

billr

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#5
Also, since the CEL is staying on there are trouble-codes stored. Get the codes read and post them here (just the code number is OK, don't need the full description). Many auto parts stores will read the codes for free, you just have to write them down!
 

LynnM

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#6
What engine does it have ? I would start with having the thermostat changed