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How to Stop and Prevent Radiator Leaks

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What are some signs of a radiator leak? And how do you fix it?

In this article, we discuss with you what they are, how to fix them, and how to prevent them from happening in the first place.

WHAT IS A RADIATOR?

A radiator is like a mini fan that maintains proper air circulation for your engine. This is important because it helps you avoid the possibility of your engine overheating, the moment your engine starts running.

WHAT IS A RADIATOR LEAK?

damaged radiator
Image shows a damaged radiator due to corrosion.

A radiator leak occurs when there’s existing damage on your radiator’s surface that lets its cooling substance escape from within. When it does, your radiator’s function becomes useless and there’s a risk of encountering accidents or fatalities.

WHAT WOULD CAUSE A RADIATOR TO LEAK? 

busted head gasket

Usually, a radiator leak happens when your radiator is exposed to the various elements like water, salt, mud, etc. Such elements later on leave residue that build up and lead to rusting, which damage your radiator. However, there are other factors that cause a radiator leak:

  • Loose radiator caps – makes the coolant seep through your radiator as time goes by, due to wear and tear.
  • Busted head gasket – coolant could either be pouring out of the engine (external leak) or interfering with the air and fuel distribution (internal leak).
  • Malfunctioning water pump – lack or uneven coolant distribution across the engine parts due to a loose or damaged hose connection.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF A RADIATOR IS LEAKING?

radiator cap cracked

Sometimes, radiator leaks are easy to notice but other times they’re not. Either way, some of these dead giveaway signs meant your radiator is leaking:

  • Tail pipe emitting smoke – color of the smoke is white to signal the coolant interfering with the combustion chamber.
  • Coolant dripping from bottom of radiator – means there’s a hole on your radiator causing the spill (colors can be orange, green, or pink).
  • Radiator cap cracked – a faulty and dented surface where coolant enters means it needs to be replaced.

IS IT SAFE TO FIX A LEAKING RADIATOR?

radiator safety tips

Fixing a leaking radiator is safe if you know what you’re doing and what tools you should be using. Goggles or mask for face (especially for eye) protection are a must. Wearing gloves also ensures your hands don’t get covered with muck along the way.

One extremely important thing to remember though – NEVER open the radiator cap while it’s hot because if you do, boiling liquid will quickly spray on your face (Wait for 3-5 hours first for it to cool down). To properly open it, press the cap first and gently turn it counter clockwise.

HOW DO YOU FIX A LEAKING RADIATOR CAP?

black pepper in a radiator
Photo Credit: Thamizhpparithi Maari via Wikimedia Creative Commons License

A leaking radiator cap should not be overlooked because it makes your engine hotter than usual and can become a more dangerous problem in the future.

If you’re sure that a radiator cap leak is the source of the problem, then one way of fixing it is by putting black pepper in the radiator. Just add 1-2 tablespoons of coarse black pepper into your radiator, with the required amount of water to seal the damage, and do a 10-minute drive after.

If pepper isn’t enough and the leak persists, then it’s time for a radiator cap replacement. You can normally buy radiator caps (per piece) for $20 but you can also get some with the radiator included for $200, depending on the vehicle model.

HOW DO YOU REMOVE RUST FROM A RADIATOR?

radiator rust
Photo Credit: Roger McLassus via Wikimedia Creative Commons License

If the problem is the rust taking over your radiator, then putting baking soda in the radiator slowly softens and eventually removes rust. Do this by adding 5 teaspoons of baking soda on every 1 liter of water and gently put the mixture into your radiator.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TOP UP A COOLANT?

refilling radiator coolant
Photo Credit: Evelyn Giggles via Wikimedia Creative Commons License

If you notice the amount of radiator coolant slowly depleting even though there are no visible leaks below your vehicle, then refilling radiator coolant is still a good idea. This is done at least every 31,000 miles or twice a year, depending on how often you travel. This way, your engine’s proper ventilation is maintained.

HOW TO PREVENT A RADIATOR LEAK?

coolant leak color
Image shows a leaking coolant below the vehicle due to the green liquid oozing out.

Preventing a radiator leak is different from fixing a radiator leak that’s already present. Some tips on how to properly take care of your 4×4’s radiator are the following so its expected service life is met:

  • Radiator maintenance check – done on a yearly basis for general observation like cracks and loose fittings.
  • Flushing your radiator – done every 5 years so dirt, dust, or other residues are removed from your radiator, even when leak or coolant depletion isn’t visible.

CONCLUSION

Stopping and preventing radiator leaks is possible through proactiveness. If there’s more than one problem on your radiator, ask a professional’s help immediately because it not only saves you from potential health and safety hazards but also validates your radiator problem assessment. Share us your other radiator leak issues by commenting below.

 

 

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