Why Is My Dirt Bike Leaking Coolant From The Overflow Tube?

Has coolant recently started coming out the overflow tube on your dirt bike? Do you have to refill the radiator with fluid after every ride? If you’re lucky, it’s a cheap and simple fix. But if you choose to ignore the problem, it will only get worse.

The most common reasons for a dirt bike leaking coolant from the overflow tube are:

  • There is too much pressure in the cooling system to hold the fluid
  • Bad Head Gasket
  • Warped Cylinder head
  • Bad water pump/impeller
  • Bike is overheating from riding too slow
  • Jetting is off

Put A Cap On It!

Radiator Low On Coolant

The easiest problem to fix could be a faulty radiator cap. It may not be able to hold the pressure because it is worn or broken, allowing coolant to leak past it and out the overflow.

Without spending any money, take a cap from another bike and put it on to see if that’s the problem. Ride around until the bike is warm, and if it doesn’t puke out any fluid, problem solved! If it does continue to spew coolant, then you know the radiator cap is not the problem.

Let The Cap Tell You

If you need to replace the radiator cap and want peace of mind in the future, install one with a temp sensor built in to it (Amazon). That way you can quickly check while out riding.

You don’t want to be way out in the mountains or woods and have your bike overheating on you without even knowing it. Click the image below to purchase a new radiator cap from Amazon.

Can’t Handle The Pressure?

Another common problem that will not only cause the bike to overheat, but will over-pressurize the system is a blown head gasket. It will bring engine temps up greatly, and possibly cause the coolant to boil over. Then the engine leaking compressed air into the system just blows it out the radiator overflow because the cap cannot hold that much pressure.

Don’t Just Install A New Gasket!

Before you install a new head gasket, though, you need to check and make sure the cylinder and head are perfectly flat and not warped (usually caused by improperly torquing the bolts). If it is warped, you’ll want to take that to a machine shop and get it fixed. Putting a new gasket in with a warped cylinder/head will do you no good, so don’t ignore it!

Straighten A Warped Head DIY Version

If you want to save money, find a perfectly flat piece of glass or metal and put some 320 or 640 grit sandpaper on it. Spray some oil on the paper and then rub your warped head back on forth. It might not take much. All you’re doing is cleaning up the surface until it’s completely been sanded and straight again.

Liquid AND Air Cooling

Radiators don’t cool the engine by themselves. They NEED air to keep cool as well, so if they’re not getting any air-flow, it’s probably going to overheat the engine. A common problem that beginner and technical trail-riders have is riding too slow for long periods of time.

Coolant Recovery Tank For Security

If you have a liquid-cooled dirt bike and do a lot of trail riding at low speeds then you’re bound to run into this issue of the radiator spewing out coolant onto the ground. Even if your bike is running fine otherwise then you’re still losing that coolant every time it gets hot. Instead of losing that coolant you could install a coolant recovery tank for your dirt bike (Amazon). It’s super cheap, easy to install, and it simply works.

If a radiator is all bent up or many of the fins are twisted out of shape, that will reduce air-flow to the radiators. You can usually tweak most of the fins back if you’re careful, but it’s best to get a radiator fixed by a professional if it is badly bent or smashed. To increase air-flow even more, you can get a vented front fender, or make one yourself if you have the patience.

Check Your Water Pump Propeller

A cause of overheating may be, although not as often, a broken impeller. If it’s cracked or part of it is broken off (yes, even one small piece) it won’t provide sufficient cooling to the bike. If none of the above are the problem, just pop off the water pump cover to see if the impeller is bad or if there’s corrosion.

Going to an aftermarket water pump impeller kit may help, but then you’d want to go with bigger radiators to compensate for the extra water circulation. The cooling system is kind of like an engine system. Everything has to work together in order to be efficient. Change one thing and the rest of the system doesn’t work the same.

If there’s damage to the water pump impeller, I suggest simply buying a new impeller and going on with your riding.

If none of these are the solution to your dirt bike’s problem, then you might have bigger issues. Don’t worry, check out my article on Why Does My Dirt Bike Get So Hot?

To get more tips on how to fix your dirt bike, how to tune it to make it run better, and much more info on your dirt bike, please like and follow Motocross Hideout on Facebook here!

Kelley Fager

I help new riders learn how to safely ride and understand how to tune and fix their dirt bike in their garage.

51 Responses

  1. hey man just asking i left me yz250f to warm up so left it for a bit when i came back all water was on the ground what could of cause this and what damage would of this done.

  2. for about 4 mintues

    • Yeah, I usually let my 250f’s idle for 30-60 seconds before riding. Four-stroke motocross bikes get hot fast if they don’t have air-flow. Make sure the radiators are topped off with coolant, and check out my post “Why Do 4-Stroke Motocross Bikes Get Hot?” for more tips.

  3. thanks man for all ur help i will have look

  4. I’ve recently bought an 05 Kawasaki 450f and was told it was normal for some coolant to leak out of the overflow and to just keep topping it up. But after reading this im thinking there may be an issue?

    • First of all, 2006 was the first year of the KX450F. Sounds like it has the typical overheating problem that most early model Kawasaki four-strokes had. How long does it take to get this hot? I’d check the water pump. Most people buy an aftermarket water pump for these bikes for better cooling, and that usually fixes it.

  5. Probably after about 10 mins at idle it starts to drip, but sometimes can leave quite a pool of coolant on the floor. I’ll try the water pump then and see if it improves, thanks for the reply mate!

  6. Shane says:

    I recentally just got a 2002 yamaha wr250f and i just cleaned out the carb after its been sitting for a year and just started it up today and then i started to notice coolant coming out of the over flow and the pipe where is comes off the block right at the bend was starting to glow. but idk if its a blow head gasket or the water pump or whatever someone help me

  7. Thomas says:

    Wow what a relief! I got a 2012 kx250f and had the same problem. I just changed the oil today and when I was done I turned my bike on and let it idle and revved it up a little and after about 5 min. of doing that coolant came out of the overflow. I thought I some how messed it up, and I’m not a very knowledgeable mechanic on dirt bikes so I was worried. After it did it the first time I let it cool down I checked the coolant level and it was fine so I did it again and same thing happened, I was going to take it to ridenow but after reading the comments I think it is just normal overheating from not riding it and getting airflow while it is on. But I’m gonna keep an eye on it next few times I ride and if it happens again I suppose I will have to take it to get looked at. Anyways thanks!!

  8. Ben says:

    I have a rm250 and I’ve changed just about every gasket you can replace including the head, base, and now the water pump cover gasket. It’s still leaking coolant and I’ve also checked the radiator hoses no clogs or anything like that. So I’d like to know if there’s anything else I can do or if it’s a lost cause

    • Where is it leaking from? If it’s coming out of the overflow, you may need a new radiator cap. Try swapping one from another bike to see if it works. Otherwise your cylinder head may be warped, causing coolant to leak past the gasket.

    • Vickypaul says:

      Hi boss my coolant was came out when I was riding it a z750 but anyway I’m going to a shop that will be far from my place it will any problem?

  9. Stephen says:

    I do a lot of trail riding on my 2006 CRF 450R. I am thinking its just my bike getting hot from not always moving fast but am curious if thats the only reason. My header pipe gets red hot where it comes out of the engine block so I am curious if that is a tell tale sign of something more??? Please help!

    • If you’re riding really slow in the woods then that is pretty common. If it gets worse, some things that can help are an aftermarket water pump, aftermarket larger radiators, or a different coolant mixture. Also, check your spark plug and make sure your bike is jetted correctly. A lean condition can burn the engine down. Otherwise just ride faster so your bike breathes more!

  10. rich says:

    My bike is a 94 cr125 and when I start it up it runs for a minute then dies out..what could this be ? I’ve made adjustments to the carb although I’m not to sure what I’m doing, but seems to get the same reaction

  11. Lucas says:

    My klx-650r is leaking out the overflow tube in the resoviour tank also coolant is fouling the plug but none in the crankcase

  12. Matt says:

    My yz 426 has been leaking a little coolant less than an inch every ride. I just noticed her heating up faster then normal i jiggled the main radiator hose and found a pin sized leak. Small enough to hold fluid from leaking but big enough to cause the coolant to bubble. Everyone is so quick to cry head gasket.

    • I see your point, but this post is referring to coolant coming out the “Overflow Tube”, not just leaking coolant in general…

      • Ben says:

        I have a 1992 KLR250, I have a problem with coolant not going back in to the radiators from the overflow. The coolant goes out as the engine heats up just fine but won’t suck it back. When I pull the radiator cap off I get a loud suck of air. I do have a slight Overheating issue as the level gets lower in the radiators. I have cleaned the whole system and hoses to know prevail. Please help

  13. Ron says:

    i have an 08kx250f and it used to spit coolant through the over flow tube I changed the cap and is spits less could it be boiling over cause I have tap water n not coolant in my radiator.? What else should I check

  14. I have a 05′ YFZ 450. I just got a carb clean and put a bigger jet in it because it’s a 480 now and it keeps overheating regardless of how I ride. It boiled out a lot of my coolant so I had to throw in my water just too keep fluids in it so I could get back to camp. I know my bike runs lean from the factory but now it’s even more lean with the fact that it has a bigger piston and a smaller jet.

  15. What is considered slow 2nd gear? becasuse the only way it wouldnt over heat is if i was in 4th or 5th hauling ass. The jet could be too small but its already had a bigger one put in it. Its a 480 now but im still confused. It didnt do this after it was rebuilt. I also haven’t flushed the coolant system so it could have had an airbubble.

    • An air bubble wouldn’t cause it to overheat like that. Did you already try topping it off with coolant and it still overheated? The 480 jet is the main jet, which only affects 3/4 to full throttle jetting. My guess is the pilot jet is too lean, and possibly the needle position. Have you looked at the spark plug yet? What color is it?

  16. Kyle Mccauley says:

    I have a 2005 yzf250. Recently my bikes spewing radiator fluid out the over flow. it happens within seconds of starting and its gushing out. (not a drip.) I have changed the radiator cap but its still leaking. What could the problem be be? It still starts but only runs for a short while and then I cant start it again. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

    • That’s odd that it would occur within seconds of starting the bike. You tried a new cap, or at least one off of a used bike that works? When did it start doing this? Has anything been done to the engine?

  17. tam says:

    I’ve Jst bought a 04 RMZ250 the top end has Jst bn run in and nd to change OIL and filter does the radiator drain out the sump as well it’s my first thumper

    • I do not understand what you are saying/asking. I suggest you get an OEM manual to learn how to do all of the maintenance on your newly acquired dirt bike.

  18. Mike says:

    i hace a 99 honda cr250 I fill the radiator and the coolamt disappears. Come to find out it ends up in my carburetor float bowl. Any idea whats causing this? Thanks

  19. Keaton says:

    I got a crf 450 and when it gets warm and u turn it off it blows steam and water through the overflow line what could it be

  20. Matthew says:

    So I let my bike idle for about 15 mins. It had a few drops on the ground from the overflow tube so I figured it was hot and killed it. When I killed it she puked a puddle of coolant about 4 inches wide. The bike was obviously just hot but there should be no real damage from this right?

  21. Darrel says:

    Just a comment about this issue. If you fill your rad to the top cold you have left no room for expansion and you will loose coolant when the coolant gets up to temperature. You will need to leave room for expansion or ideally install a coolant recovery bottle. Coolant can then cycle back and forth to your cooling system and always be full. Also, tusk makes a rad cap with a temperature gauge that’s easy to see and will tell you whether or not your bike is overheating.

  22. Kyler says:

    I have a 1993 YZ250 2stroke and my bike will spew antifreeze out of the overflow only when I’m giving her shit, and it will spew out fast but it seems like when I’m just going easy on it, it’s fine, what would that be?

  23. Jimmy says:

    My YZF 450 -15 starts immediately after starting to drain water through the overflow tube and does not stop ??
    Grateful for answers.

  24. Scott mac says:

    Hi mate have a yz 125 1999 I have done this head gasket about 10 time finally took it to the shop got it done took it out it spewed water on my leg it has my mind boggled just want it fixed

  25. johan says:

    why does my motorbike pushing out water after i switch her of, as temp stay on 70 to 80 degrees when riding

  26. Barrymore Scott says:

    I’ve an 07 crf250x that leaks from the overflow. No idea why. I topped it up and left it cold only to come back to an empty reservoir. It’s baffling.

  27. Tanner salazar says:

    Why does my 2006 yamaha grizzly 700cc four wheeler radiator get hot easy and squirt radiator fluid out

  28. What would make the coolenf poot óut of the over flow when idialing

  29. Gerard says:

    If got a kmt 450 2005 sx and just serviced it but when I leave it running got about 10 min it starts letting off loads of steam out the over flow can u help

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