Protecting My Car

The Scoop On Your Vehicle's Radiator: Is It In Trouble?

A radiator is a pretty simple device. It takes in hot coolant from the engine and releases cold coolant back into it after it runs through a tube that has aluminum fins connected to it. The air that passes over the fins cools the fins down and in return cools your coolant. No matter how simple it is there comes a time where it can potentially cause a complicated problem. A sick radiator can cause everything from minimal damage to a blown head gasket.

Low Coolant Levels


Antifreeze will naturally deplete over time, but today's vehicles coolant is formulated to last up to 150,000 miles so it would take a good bit of time for it to naturally deplete to the level that you'd noticing a problem. In fact, the general rule is to change your radiator fluid every 5 years vs the 3 years on older cars using conventional antifreeze.

Low coolant levels in a sick radiator will usually be the result of a missing radiator cap, leaky radiator, leaky hoses, or an internal head gasket leak. Most of which you can look for on your own, but if you see a sludgy, oily surface there is a good chance it is your head gasket. f you ever notice a drastic drop in coolant levels then you most likely have a leaky radiator. Puddles of bright green fluid is a definite sign you have coolant leaking from your radiator. You will have to take your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible to test for leaks. 

A Drop in Pressure

A drop in pressure can be caused by something as simple as a missing or loose radiator cap. The cooling system in your vehicle only works properly when it keeps a constant pressure. You can also have a loss in pressure with a leaky, repaired, or replaced the radiator. The simplest way to check the pressure in your cooling system is with a pressure gauge. Top the system off with distilled water if you do notice a decline in pressure. 

Rust in Your Radiator

Rust can occur from contaminates in your water. You should only use distilled water and good quality antifreeze in your radiator. When tap water is boiled down in the engine it can leave harmful metallic contaminants in your cooling system. You must also remember that in order for a radiator to run properly it needs a 50/50 ratio of distilled water to the coolant as well.

Leaks in or outside of the cooling system can not only cause rust in or on your radiator but on other parts of the engine as well.  The cooling system in your car is a closed pressurized system so a change in pressure or leaks can result in rust in or on your engine because of moisture exposure. 

An Overheating Engine

Another sign is when you notice your car is running at a higher temperature. This is a major sign that your radiator is sick. When your radiator is working properly it keeps the engine in your car from overheating so as not to cause damage to it. When your car starts overheating, the boiling point in the engine rises. This will cause parts to become super-heated to the point they can crack or warp. This can be detrimental to your engine.

Just remember that you should periodically check the pressure and coolant levels in your radiator as well as leaks in your cooling system. A properly running radiator is an important part of a properly running engine. If your cooling system gets sick or even fails, it could lead to an extensive and expensive repair. 

For more information, talk to a professional like auto mechanic at Action Tire Centre.