Temperature Warning Light, Coolant Leak


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
95,550 miles
Total Complaints:
6 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. head gasket replacement (4 reports)
  2. dealer replaced lower intake gasket set (1 reports)
  3. timing cover gasket seals had to be replaced (1 reports)
2002 Pontiac Aztek cooling system problems

cooling system problem

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2002 Pontiac Aztek Owner Comments

problem #6

Mar 062018

Aztek 3.4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 174,260 miles


The car overheats after just a few minutes of driving from cold start. The coolant gets pushed out into the overflow reservoir as a result of exhaust leaking into the cooling system from a head gasket leak. Due to the way the engine is wedged into this car, and the difficulty of working of the car as a result, I'm not going to repair it. :-(

- Eric K., Bangor, ME, US

problem #5

Sep 252011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

This has happened twice now! The last time it happened was 3 years ago, and now it happened again!

- staceye, Petoskey, MI, US

problem #4

Jun 092008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,657 miles

I had decided to drive my mom's 2002 Aztek up to a friend's house to swim. I live in Clinton and I was driving to Cuyahoga Falls. My mom told me to take her car because it had air conditioning (which we also JUST had fixed) my little Honda Civic did not. After I left I was on route 8 south going toward Akron from Cuyahoga Falls when the HOT COOLANT TEMP gauge started beeping. I immediately got off the highway at Carroll St. by the University of Akron. I put on the hazard lights and noticed that there was smoke coming from the engine on the right side of the vehicle. I called my mom and told her what happened. Of course you know how mothers are, me being 19 years old she wanted me to get out of a bad area and try to make it to Arlington Rd. I told her that the engine was smoking and I didn't want to make it worse, she said that it would be fine and to try it anyway. I continue on the highway and make it just past where route 8 ends and 77 South begins when the car starts to decelerate. I managed to cut across and pull over just past the bridge by Lovers Lane. If anyone knows that area it is not the best place to break down it stop right past the bridge where the median is for people merging onto 77. I was stuck between the cars from the other section of 77 merging onto what was now 77 South. I felt like no one was going to be able to get to me from where I was. I called my mom back and of course I hear my dad screaming profanities in the background wondering why I didn't keep my a$$ put. My mom said she would come get me after she called AAA. I wait there with huge semi's roaring past me stuck in the middle of the freaking highway for an hour before the tow truck came to take the car away. We took it to a mechanic off Manchester Rd. close to where we live. They said that in order to fix the blown head gaskets and to fix the leak that it would be around $1,500.00!!!!!!! Guess who's paychecks thats going to have to come out of. I had to try to drive it back from the mechanic today, yes I had to drive it again, and once again i was 5 driveways up from my own when it stopped. I had to sit there for a good 30 minutes waiting for it to cool down before I could drive it the rest of the way.

- jilloh, Clinton, OH, US

problem #3

Jul 262006

(reported on)


  • 70,995 miles


I, ve been told by a few dealer mechanics that this is a problem with some or many GM vehicles with the type of intake they are using and also the new antifreeze has a tendency to sludge up within the first 2 years of the supposed 5yrs it's suggested for.

- daztek, Hillsboro, IL, US

problem #2

May 242007

Aztek 3.4L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,000 miles

If you are thinking of buying this car, STOP, DO NOT DO IT. This car is fantastic if you are an auto mechanic as it provides PLENTY of job security. First off, yes, it is a stylish looking car, made of the cheapest plastic known to man. But, I am getting a little side-tracked so back to the cooling system. We had the head gasket replaced on the vehicle for obvious reasons (coolant in oil, oil in coolant, etc.) and thought well, stuff happens, but for being a low mileage freeway mostly car, it did raise reliability concerns. 6 months later, we have a new issue, now the car randomly over-heats and shuts down while driving. (Potentially dangerous while cruising down the freeway and suddenly losing power in an all power car that weighs a ton.) While it does give you 10 seconds of "reduced power mode" the 10 seconds before complete shutdown seems like 2 seconds when you're trying to navigate this behemoth to safety. Needless to say, we replaced the thermostat, serpentine belt, flushed the radiator and replaced the radiator cap (and we even followed the manual step by step to bleed the little 7mm air ports on the thermostat housing and the top of the water pump. I then drove the vehicle for 2 hours trying to get it to heat up on me, and it appeared the sun was shining bright once again on our little Aztec, as the temperature stayed right about the 1/2 way point on the gauge no matter what I threw at it. Ahhhh, job well done.

2 days later.........

While the missus was running errands, it went to the store fine, mind you we live a bit out i the country, so it takes a minute to get to town. On her way back, it pegged the temperature gauge and went into low power mode, she pulled to the side of the road and it cooled down..... weird sound like thermostat again as the heater inside was blowing warm air (good indication the water pump is working.) But, it's a brand new thermostat, while it could be yet another defective thermostat (yes, even NEW parts can sometimes be defective,) Today I am going to go out and flush the radiator AGAIN, change the thermostat AND the water pump, and replace the evil orange gunk called DEXCOOL (which apparently is the BIGGEST problem causer in all the complaints read about this similar problem. Apparently, DEXCOOL is supposed to last alot longer between flush and changes.... WRONG, if you don't service your cooling system yearly (same as with the normal green stuff) it tends to "Jellify" or congeal and starts blocking cooling passages and your radiator and heating core. NOT GOOD.) While this is not advised for folks under warranty (because these manufacturers KNOW the dexcool will not last as long as they "claim" between flushes, it will last long enough for the car to expire warranty, and changing it to the green normal antifreeze could void your warranty. They are just hoping it lasts long enough to mess up your engine AFTER the warranty expires. Food for thought.

Besides the problem with the cooling system, we have had the headlight pop out while driving down the road (remember....cheap plastic car.) have had to replace the throttle position sensor (causes the Aztec to high idle at 2500-3000 rpm, a quick fix is to shut off the engine and start it back up again until you have the chance to replace the sensor.) Once replaced will be back to normal.

Will report back once I have completed repairs and see how it goes.... I am hoping it isn't another head gasket or cracked head sigh \

Oh, and yes, the alternator is heavily UNDER-POWERED for this car and the power consumption in the electrical system causes batteries to go out more than brakes as we've had to replace 3 batteries in 2 years.... just lucky I guess, time for a larger OEM alternator and deep cycle batteries LOL.

All in all.... it's just another Pontiac, I should have known better than to purchase a Pontiac as the company, well in my honest opinion, just doesn't care about reliability and takes zero pride in making a well build car.

- Mr R., Manteca, CA, US

problem #1

Sep 082005

(reported on)


  • 57,270 miles

I bought this car in Aug 2003 with 9,700 miles on it. The temperature warning light came on as I went up a hill near my home. I immediately pulled over and shut the car off for a few minutes. Then when I started the car it ran fine for a few weeks and then it happened again at the same hill.

This happened a total of 4 times in a three month period. The fluid level for coolant was fine. The oil level was little low on the third occasion and I had an oil change done.

Other than this random temperature warning there was nothing obviously wrong with the vehicle that indicated a problem. I thought that maybe the thermostat was going out on it.

Two days after the 4th event I was on an overpass and started smelling coolant. I checked the to make sure that the temperature was not hot and that no warning lights were on, everything appeared normal.

I pulled into the nearest parking lot and shut the car off. When I got out there was a hissing noise under the hood. When I checked under the hood, I could see that a small amount of water was leaking toward the back of the engine so i walked behind the car to see if I could see any sign of water on the ground. Approximately 15 feet back, I could see fresh droplets of water on the pavement, so at least it had not been leaking very long. So I thought that maybe the water pump had gone out.

I had the car towed a repair shop and was told that the timing cover gasket seals had to be replaced and that it was going to cost around $600.00. I called the dealeship that I bought the car from and was told that by the service department that the warranty was for three years or 36,000 miles and it had expired three months ago, so any repairs would be my responsibility since I did not purchase the extended warranty.

I had been sick and was in the hospital in Juy and then my daughter had to have surgery in July and again in Aug. 2005, so with missed time from work and all of the hospital and doctor bills I just barely scraped up the money for the repairs to be done. By the way, if anyone that reads this is feeling generous I will gladly accept any donations.

The next day I got a call that said " I have good news and bad news." They had fixed the timing cover seals, but during a pressure check found a small leak in the rear head gasket and that would cost an additional $1100.00 to be repaired. This news almost caused a nervous breakdown with everything else that I had going on I surely did not need more bills. I knew that there was no possible way that I could not afford to have this properly repaired, so they used some kind of block sealant with no guarantee that it would last for more than six days.

The only reason I bought the car was to try and avoid having to pay for a lot of repairs on my old vehice. I thought that with it being an 2002 that it should last for a while before I had to even consider any repairs like that. I still owe four years on it before it will be paid for.

Now I don't know one day from the next if the car is going to break down on me again and I won't be able to repair it.

Has anyone ever heard of this happening before? And should this actually be covered by the manufacturer warranty?

- Debbie D., Princeton, NC, US

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