Car Maintenance Tip of the Month: Radiators

Jan 20, 15 • Car MaintenanceNo CommentsRead More »

The radiator is one of the most important components of a vehicle. Maintaining the radiator is essential to prevent engine failure. The engine produces an extreme amount of heat as it runs, and the radiator facilitates cooling by drawing damaging heat away from the engine with radiator fluid. Because of the crucial interdependency, radiator problems can lead to engine problems. The radiator requires some yearly maintenance to help prevent potential problems. Over time, debris like dirt, insects, leaves, and other things are pulled into the radiator fins as the cooling system draws air into the radiator during driving. This can prevent airflow and potentially cause the engine to overheat. Here are some basic radiator maintenance tips.

External Cleaning

This process involves thoroughly cleaning the radiator fins to remove debris and enable proper airflow to the radiator. Do this by spraying down the radiator fins and using a soft nylon brush to clean the fins. If any fins are bent or become deformed during cleaning, gently straighten them. This is a very simple process to clean out any build-up along the exterior of the radiator to facilitate air circulation. You can easily do this as you wash your car.

Check and Add Coolant

The next most essential part of radiator maintenance is checking coolant levels in the reserve container and adding necessary coolant to the radiator. Check the fluid levels on a regular basis. The radiator fluid container is usually mounted at the edge of the engine compartment as a side tank. Radiator fluid is a 50/50 mixture of coolant and mineral free water. This mixture protects the water from freezing, raises the boiling point of the water, and helps prevent rust buildup. When checking the fluid level of the coolant, also inspect the container for leaks.

Radiator Flush

The next step in radiator maintenance involves draining all of the radiator fluid, rinsing the radiator with water, letting it drain again, and finally replenishing it with the coolant mixture. The first thing to keep in mind is to never remove a radiator cap on a hot engine. The fluid could erupt and scald you. Always allow the engine to cool before beginning a radiator flush. Place a drain pan under the radiator drain spout, remove the cap, and rotate the drain valve to release the radiator fluid. Next, fill the radiator with water using a hose and allow the water to drain again. Repeat this until the water comes out clean. Finally, refill the radiator with the coolant mixture, making sure the reserve container is full. To check for leaks, monitor the fluid levels over a couple of days.

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