What is that pink fluid?

Posted by: on August 5, 2015

For those of you who own a watercooled Porsche, have you ever seen a brighter pink fluid underneath your vehicle, and wondered what it is? More than likely it’s not bubble gum flavored sugar water from your grandkid’s sno-cone, although it may smell sweet like such. It could be leaking engine coolant/anti-freeze, and if it is, you’ll want to have the leak diagnosed and repaired sooner than later.

The most common formulation of coolant uses ethylene glycol as a base with anti-corrosion additives mixed in. The ethylene glycol part of the formula is what smells sweet, and has a syrupy consistency. It provides crucial anti-freezing characteristics and the additives deliver the anti-rust and anti-corrosion capabilities. We recommend using the OEM Porsche coolant(bright pink in color), mixed 50/50 with water(use distilled water if you have hard water in your area). The water is actually the main media which transfers the heat away from engine components.

From what we see come thru our shop, the most common culprits for coolant leaks are;
#1 coolant reservoir’s cap
This is a common issue. We often see these caps seeping or leaking when vehicles come in for service, and we replace them at that time. Porsche has an updated cap for 986/987 Boxster/Cayman and 996/997 911’s; part # 996-106-447-04/01.

#2 water/coolant pump
This is another common issue on 986/987’s and 996/997’s. There was a terrifically informative Q&A article about M96 and M97 water pumps and cooling system failures in the May 2014 Excellence magazine. A reprint of the article called Anxious Pump Watcher can be found starting on page4 here; http://www.callasrennsport.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Tech-Notes-Is-it-worth-Attempting.pdf
The two most common water pump issues we’ve seen have been from either the water pump seeping/leaking, or the water pump’s impeller shaft bearing failing and causing a rattling sound(which can then lead to leaks as the water pump starts coming apart). The water pump failure can be the most catastrophic of the three common culprits listed here.

#3 coolant reservoir
This is a less likely issue, although we’ve seen some slooooowly seep over time, constantly producing a very very faint whiff of sweet coolant smell. This seep/leak can be difficult to locate since the coolant reservoir is often stuffed in the engine bays of these vehicles. Often a retractable mirror helps pinpoint the issue.

So if you see pink coolant under your vehicle or smell a sweet nectar from your vehicle, locate the source and/or have a professional inspect the issue right away. As always with these fine German machines, proper proactive preservation prevents poor performance.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, please feel free to ask. There are no silly or stupid questions.

Jeremy Williams is the Oregon PCA Technical editor. He co-owns Matrix Integrated Inc. (Matrix Integrated Inc.) with his brother Justin. Jeremy can be reached at techeditor@oregonpca.org

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