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Hi! i have a 2013 VW Jetta, with about 83,000 miles, bought brand new, always always serviced at local vw dealership and servic station., never had any issues with the car, upkept maintenance, everything perfect. randomly without any warning from a light on my dash or any faint smells, my car stated steaming. it was about 9:30 pm and i had been driving my car all around San Diego all day. finally stopped at target for about 30 minuets. turned on my car as well as my heater, took a sip out of my water, then randomly started hearing a "crackling" sound, and steam started fuming out of the side of my hood and through the vents at the front of my windshield. so i immediately turned my car off. my car never smelled like burning or anything. so it was really weird. i got my car towed home and inspected by my dad and he said he was going to add "water" but remembered my car doesn't rake any "water", (im guessing hes referring to coolant? or some type of engine fluid). i let my car sit for a day and my dad was able to take it around the neighborhood and saw no problems... what could've caused this? is this common? could it be the radiator? my dad believes it has to do with the exhaust? if it helps, constantly when driving at night, i can look at my side view mirrors and see steam or smoke coming from my tail. regardless of the temperature outside, could this have anything to do with this?

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Jessica Howe, Automotive Expert & Coach at


There are many places the engine cooling system could have sprung a leak that would have caused this steam. Not only could your engine cooling system develop a coolant leak, but your car's heater uses hot coolant from the engine to warm the air coming into the cabin. The leak may be related to the heating system, and this may have happened when you turned on the heater. You must look for signs of damage that could cause the leak, or make the car steam/smoke again so you can find the source. Only further testing will tell. Seek help from a qualified technician in your area. Also make sure that your engine coolant is topped off at all times, as it may be running low. 

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