Things You Can Do to Care for Your Radiator


Keeping your vehicle’s radiator in good working order is an important part of routine vehicle maintenance. Radiator malfunction can be a time consuming and sometimes costly mishap. Furthermore it can often be avoided by simply taking a little time to care for your radiator in an ongoing way. Radiator care is not difficult and it is definitely worth it. Here are some tips and things you can do to care for you radiator:

Check Fluid Level Regularly

It is important to check the radiator fluid level regularly, not just once in a long while. Checking it once every week or two is not a bad idea. What you want to do is actually open the radiator cap and make sure there is visible fluid in the radiator. This must be done while the engine is cold. Just as the warnings on radiator caps say, opening a radiator while the engine is hot is dangerous.
The pressure of radiator fluid (usually ethylene glycol) goes up as the engine temperature rises. This means that if you take off the radiator cap while the engine is past a certain temperature, you stand a significant chance of being sprayed with hot ethylene glycol. That’s no fun and could even blind you or land you in the hospital with serious burns. The way to avoid all this is simply to check your engine fluid level before you start the car in the morning, when the engine is completely cold.
It should be noted that while the engine is hot you can check the fluid reservoir to see if there is fluid in it. This will give you at least some idea of what the fluid level in the radiator is. Even this should be done with caution The fluid reservoir should never be completely dry. There are markings on it that will tell you what the level should be with a hot and cold engine. Try to make sure the fluid level matches roughly with these markings. If fluid in the reservoir appears to be very hot or boiling, you can be sure that the engine is running too hot and there are radiator issues. In such a case take the car in to a garage to be checked.

Check for Leaks

This is also an easy type of maintenance to perform. Simply look for puddles of green or yellow coolant/antifreeze on the ground, wet sports on the radiator itself, or on pools or droplets of coolant on parts of the engine in contact with the radiator. These will almost always indicate a leak. This is also why you shouldn’t place too much stock on the fluid level in the reservoir – the fluid level in the radiator itself may be low due to a leak even if there is fluid in the reservoir.
If there is a leak your best bet is to take the vehicle in to a mechanic for further inspection. If you are handy perhaps you can replace the radiator yourself. Sometimes temporary fixes can also be achieved with stop leak products, but these are seldom good permanent solutions. Most leaking radiators need to either be replaced or taken out and repaired if this is less expensive.

Check Radiator Hoses

You should check radiator hoses for cracks, loose connections, and other signs of wear. Again, this should be done with the engine cold. If a radiator hose is loose, jostling it when the engine is hot can cause it to break loose under pressure and spray hot fluid everywhere.
When checking hoses, make sure hose clamps are tight and fairly free of rust and corrosion. If they seem loose, either simply tighten them or replace the entire hose clamp. Clamps are inexpensive and fairly easy to replace if you’re handy. If you’re unsure about replacing or tightening them, have a mechanic do the job.
Check for drops or wetness on hoses which may mean leaks. If you uncover any of these phenomena, you should replace the hose. This is again one of the easier repairs either for you to do or for a mechanic, but only do it if you are handy with auto repair and feel confident.

Check Belts

Check the radiator fan belt for signs or cracking and wear. Cracked, brittle, or worn belts should be replaced. Again the fan belt is not hard to replace but if you are unsure about it have a mechanic perform the replacement.

Radiator Flush

Perform a radiator flush in each season – i.e. spring, summer, fall, and winter. This simply means emptying the radiator and replacing the fluid. Have a mechanic do this or read a specific article on how to perform this task. It is quite easy but you need to get a full description of the process. Only perform a flush while the engine is cold.

Keeping you radiator in good condition will help prevent miserable engine overheating experiences on hot days and other radiator related problems. Start now and get into the habit of good vehicle radiator maintenance.

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