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My 2007 Element EX, ~52,000 needs help!
I went to change my oil and checked the rest of my fluids as a matter of habit, only to find that my coolant looked like coffee with cream.

The hose in the overflow tank has a slight sludge buildup on it that is the same color.

Now, I *fear* head gasket, but my oil is perfectly clean, no leaks of either fluid, no stuttering, my temp gauge only ever gets to about halfway after my 20+ mile commute, plus only 52k miles on it.

I am about to do a coolant flush, and replace, along with my oil change and see how it looks after a few days? Should i use any additives like:
http://www.autozone.com/autozone/accessories/K-W-Products-FiberLock-head-gasket-and-block-repair/_/N-25zw?itemIdentifier=249495_0_0_
or
http://www.oreillyauto.com/site/c/detail/KSL0/ST5501/N0451.oap?ck=Search_k-seal_N0451_-1_4450&keyword=k-seal&pt=N0451&ppt=C0180

or should i just flush and see?

Any suggestions as to what else I might look for, test, try, etc?

Money is tight and there is no way I could afford a head gasket replacement or engine swap right now!

Thanks in advance!
 

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I'd drain what you have in there, rinse out the reservoir and run your garden hose through the system while the car is running. Drain that and fill with Honda blue coolant and go from there.
 

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And definitely DO NOT use those "stop leak" products unless you intend to buy a new engine.
 

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A slight residual of sludge in the overflow tank is normal as there is always some leftover oil in the coolant system from when the car is build. Now if there is milkshake under the oil cap and you are going through coolant then I would worry.
 

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Coolant looked like coffee with cream? Yeah, your head gasket is shot. You can live in denial world all you want, but you're leaking oil into your cooling system.
 

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Coolant looked like coffee with cream? Yeah, your head gasket is shot. You can live in denial world all you want, but you're leaking oil into your cooling system.
Just to clear this up for some who may be wondering why the oil got into the coolant and not the other way around is that the gasket must be leaking between a oil passage that runs to the cylinder head and a coolant passage. Oil pressure normally runs 40 to 65 psi and the cooling system is about 15 psi max. Which fluid do you think will be the invasive species?

Your head gasket problem will not go away, and the sooner you fix this the less damage that will be done.
 

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DON'T CONCLUDE HEAD GASKET JUST YET.

If you are certain it might be a head gasket then have a compression test done, BUT I doubt it is as severe. It's most likely just sludge build up from the coolant breaking down and is notably common with dextron based mixtures. Just get 50/50 premixed and flush it good. In fact, I just changed the coolant on my racing motorcycle which is a mixture of water and water-wetter with the same sludge, I just cleaned it out and replaced with 50/50 for winter storing. Again, it's probably not serious, especially if you didn't find any in your oil either. If it hasn't been changed in a long time or has been sitting for a long time then it's common.

PS: more often than not, oil in your coolant will make it appear dotty and bubbly since the oil is too dense to mix with the coolant. It usually doesn't make a consistent thickness throughout the coolant.
 

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I just checked my radiator fluid for the hell of it to check on this breaking down theory of yours. I've had the factory stuff in my car since I got it brand new in '08. Over 5 years and 65,000 miles later the stuff still looks like blue washer fluid with not a trace of sludge/oil in either the radiator or the overflow. I'm actually finally going to change it out this weekend.

OP, you have a leaky head gasket. Oil in your cooling system is NOT normal. I don't care what anybody says. Oil from the manufacturing process shouldn't be in the cooling system. These blocks get flushed like crazy after they come out of their molds and get machined. There's no "residual oil from the building process".

If you have oil in your coolant you have a problem. Especially stuff that looks like coffee and creamer mixed together. Get a combustion gas analysis done where they check your coolant for the presence of combustion gases. If it shows ANYTHING, you've got your answer.
 

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Island E, keep in mind it usually happens if the car has been sitting for a while and I've seen this happen plenty of times to assume it's not a theory - I've seen it more on rarely driven sports cars because people assume "well, it only has 25k miles on it so it doesn't matter that it's 10 years old, it's probably still good - oh no! I have sludge!". If you drive it daily then it's less likely to happen. It's still critical to change coolant not based on mileage alone, but time as well.

Don't assume head gasket, I've seen this plenty of times be misdiagnosed on the forums and it leads to unnecessary costs - just dump it out, flush it with distilled water and add Honda Type 2 coolant (free of phosphates and reduce aluminum oxidation). Worst case scenario is it comes back, get a chemical test done, and you end up having to actually get a head gasket job done, but try the MUCH cheaper alternative first.
 
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