We are sure you’ve seen it, a car pulled over on the side of the road with steam pouring out of the hood. Maybe it has even happened to you. What is the cause of this overheating? It could be that something is wrong with your radiator.
The radiator is the core part of your car’s cooling system, along with the thermostat they keep your car from overheating. The radiator, which sits just behind the front grille of your car, passes the hot radiator fluid or coolant through metal “fins” which disperse the heat. As the coolant passes through the radiator it is cooled and returned back into the engine block to keep your engine from overheating. Maintaining your radiator is important for keeping your vehicle in good working condition.
It used to be that a radiator lasted the life of your vehicle. But today’s radiators, which are mostly made of plastic, sometimes last less than 10 years.
There are things that you can do to help your car’s radiator last for as long as possible.
- Make sure your radiator always has the proper level of coolant. If your car ever runs low on coolant it may overheat. When you check it, remember to NEVER open the radiator cap while the engine is hot. To do so could result in serious injury. Check the levels at least twice yearly, once before summer and again before winter is best. Most cars allow you to check your coolant without even taking the cap off. Give us a call to let us know you are on your way and we will meet you in the drive and show you where and how. Check your owner’s manual for specifics. If you notice your car is often low on coolant, you may have a leak in the radiator, hose, or a gasket. In this case, the best thing to do is take your car to a trusted mechanic.
- Flushing out the coolant system regularly is important to maintaining a long radiator life. It is usually recommended that you have it flushed every two to three years, however, you should consult your owner’s manual to see the specific recommendations for your vehicle. When you have your cooling system flushed, it ensures that the coolant can easily flow through the engine, the radiator, and the heater core so that your engine cools properly and your heater works fast and hot on those cold winter mornings.
- Watch your engine temperature. If the gauge is rising more than normal, it could be an indicator that your radiator or thermostat is not performing at its best and may need some maintenance. Inspect the cooling system and the radiator visually. Make sure you don’t smell the sweet smell of coolant or see any coolant pooling up on the engine or at the ends of any hoses. Make sure that all of your belts are present and not frayed. Also look for drip stains under the car. If anything sees off, bring your car into a mechanic and have them inspect your vehicle.
When you come in for a coolant system/radiator check-up, there are several tests that we usually perform to make sure that it is in top working order:
- System pressure test– to make sure the system does not leak under pressure
- Thermostat test– to make sure it is regulating the coolant temperature flow properly
- Radiator cap pressure test– to ensure that it will release at the proper pressure
- Fan test– make sure the engine fan and all other fans are working properly
When you neglect to care for your radiator and cooling system, you put yourself at risk for costly repairs. By practicing the above radiator parts maintenance, it is likely your radiator last as long as you own your car.