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Last weekend I had catastrophic failure, just as I was parking the car at an airport, before flying off.

I've always had a persistent coolant problem on my '97 B5 TDI Passat. The car was happy running with the coolant level just below the "min" line. Upon topping up, the coolant would "leak" and hold at this point, for months.

So my coolant warning light came on just 5 minutes away from the airport parking lot, but I continued driving as gently as possible, parked and switched off the ignition. As my family and I were unloading, my wife said the car was making a funny noise. It sounded like the swashing a washing machine makes. Then my 3yr old daughter said "Daddy, the car is doing a shee shee". I looked under the car and saw all the coolant spilling out. I hurriedly opened the hood, and noticed the coolant was NOT coming out from the overflow spout of the expansion tank. I unscrewed the expansion tank cap, and the coolant began to blow out the bottom spout of the expansion tank, instead of wherever it was releasing from below the engine. I let the car finish what it was doing, locked her up, and flew out of the country.
So I'm wondering, more like hoping, that there is another pressure release mechanism under the car, or that it could be a simple pipe that broke under pressure, instead of a crack in the engine block.
Where else could the coolant have exploded from? Water pump? A hose? The swishing noise makes me think it could be the water pump.
I can't say for sure whether the coolant temp. went above 90, because this has happened so many times, usually I'm able to drive even further before topping up, and the temperature never goes above 90.

To top off my holiday in Italy, I have this train wreck to deal with when I get back home.
I'm hoping to fill up the coolant and try to drive the nearest mechanic.
Bad idea?
 
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