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Head gasket (again!)
#1
Hey guys,

2002 Peugeot 306 1.9 Diesel, 178k on the clock.

I haven't posted on here in a year since having this one (as opposed to my old 1.4 Meridian which had me on here every few weeks at one point) as it's been pretty decent. Brake disks fell off a while back but the repair was alright.

Was driving back the other night when I noticed the temperature was slightly higher than normal - maybe 100c, so I pulled over, let it cool and was aghast to find the coolant reservoir empty. So I topped it up and drove on up the M5 and the temperature was fine. Next day I did some inner city driving, lots of idling, and when I stopped, not only was the fan roaring but I noticed that there was a leak following my car. So I checked again and saw that the coolant had again gone - definite leak. There was no mayo on the cap or oil cap, so I suspected a radiator, hose or water pump problem, so I bought some of that Radweld + sealant to see if it did the trick, put in more coolant and drove off - a short drive back to my house and no high temperatures or fan noise, so looked underneath and thought I noticed a slight leak coming from under the engine apart in line with the front wheels, and sure enough, had again lost SOME coolant. With all the rain it was hard to differentiate a leak from streetwater, so this morning I topped it up again, did a short run and checked - the coolant had again gone down. So, I rang my garage, and dropped it in - just before I handed over my keys, I checked under the car and saw a couple of drips from the same place (it wasn't raining here today, so I think it was a leak). 

They've just rang me to tell me the head gasket has gone and that it will be £700-£800 to fix. They said they couldn't find any visible leaks and that they'd run some sort of head gasket fluid through it and it was coming up as a failed head gasket (?!). They said that the coolant must just be be burning off. But I know it's leaking.

Now, I don't have that kind of money to spend on it right now, but I can find the money if needs be. But I'm thinking I should take it to my old trusty mechanic 70 miles away for a second opinion/new gasket because that'll cost me £200 less hopefully. 

So, a few questions for you lovely and knowledgeable lot:

- Am I right to question their diagnosis? Especially as they said they couldn't see a leak but I know there is one (though it is a reputable garage who I've used before)

- Am I safe to top her up and do 70 miles back to my hometown and drop her off at a good mechanic?

- Good diesel car, 178k miles. Is it worth keeping her going for £600-£800, in your humble opinions?

I'm just so stressed out as money is tight at this very moment, and I had this exact dilemma 18 months ago with my 1.4 petrol Meridian, spent £560 on it and then got a major oil leak and had to get rid of it a couple of months later. And for personal reasons, as always, this failure has come at a bad time practically and financially - though the finances can be made available if it's the best thing to do.

All thoughts invited.

Many thanks guys,
Harry.
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#2
Considering the cost of replacing the head gasket n possibly having to do work to the head then a 2nd opinion can't do any harm. You could also ask the garage who did the diagnosis what tests they performed. There are kits for pressurising the cooling system while it's cold so they can watch where the leak occurs in a safe & controlled way.

Whether it's been safe to drive in the meantime is hard to say.

.....oh, and there are also test kits you can use to see if there are combustion gases getting in to the cooling system.
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