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22Jul Hand open valve metal cover on an radiator - NOLA Automotive Repairs

How To Check for a Leaked Radiator (And Tips to Maintain Your Car)

By NOLA AutomotiveRepairs | 0 Comments

Your car’s radiator is an important part of your vehicle’s cooling system. Without it, your engine is bound to overheat. Located at the front of the vehicle, the radiator contains two water tanks linked through many narrow tubes.

This system of hoses is where coolant or antifreeze circulates, keeping your vehicle operating at ideal temperatures.

While some won’t consider it a big deal, radiator leaks can actually pose a hazardous situation. Aside from keeping your engine cool, the proper amount of antifreeze also keeps your engine from freezing during the winter months.

Related: Is It Bad To Paint a Car’s Radiator?

Frozen engines can happen to any vehicle but can be especially problematic for older models.

One of the easiest ways you can determine a leaking radiator is by checking your car’s temperature gauge. Minor fluctuations are normal but a significant change in temperature can often point to a damaged radiator.

Signs That Your Radiator Is Leaking

Aside from checking your car’s temperature gauge, there are other signs that can indicate a leaking radiator. Some of these include the following:

Low Coolant Levels

Coolant fluid flowing through the radiator is what absorbs the excess heat from the engine. However, as time passes, this coolant level naturally goes down.

When it experiences a sudden drop, that’s a sign that your radiator might be leaking. The coolant being discharged at abnormal levels is a likely sign of leakage.

More often than not, you will also see white exhaust smoke coming out of your tailpipe. This can mean that coolant is being burnt in the engine because of a leak.

Coolant Fluid Under the Engine

Along with low coolant levels, you will likely notice that there’s a puddle of coolant underneath your engine. To distinguish this from other fluids in your vehicle, keep in mind that coolant looks slimy and can come in bright green, orange, or pink. It also has a sweet smell.

Leaking coolant can spring from a hose connected to the radiator or the radiator itself.

When you’ve spotted a puddle of coolant underneath your engine, be sure to at least clean up the leak and dispose of it immediately. This discharge can be toxic to both humans and animals.

Corrosion or Discoloration

Corrosion and discoloration on the radiator and adjacent engine parts can also indicate a leaking radiator. This usually looks like spotting on the radiator and around the engine. This occurs when leaked coolant boils off and leaves spots that quickly rust.

Once corrosion or discoloration happens, try to clean the engine and radiator with water as this makes it easier to determine the leak.

Worn Radiator Hoses

Radiator hoses are often the site of radiator leaks. Hoses that have splits, cracks, or bulges, as well as loose connections, can result in leaks. Connecting clamps can also loosen gradually because of engine vibrations.

Engine Overheating Frequently

Since your radiator helps keep your engine cool, an engine that frequently overheats can be another sign of a radiator leak. Improper coolant discharge is the likely cause.

Check out this post we created on how to stop your car engine from overheating.

Tips for Maintaining Your Radiators

Performing regular maintenance for your radiator can save you from a ton of headaches, not to mention unnecessary expenses.
Since your radiator is tied to your engine, maintaining it effectively keeps you from damaging your engine, which can cost a fortune in repairs and replacement.
Here are some maintenance tips to keep your radiator in tip-top shape:

  • Check hoses for cracks and loose connections.
  • Check if fluid levels are appropriate.
  • Stick to maximum load recommendations. The heavier the load your vehicle carries, the more it needs to cool down its engine. This can overwork your radiator.
  • Use the right engine coolant and avoid mixing.
  • Flush your radiator’s cooling system before replacing the coolant. This ensures that there’s no buildup of rust or residue in the system. Flushing your system can be done every 12 months or 30,000 kilometers.

Radiator Safety Tips for You

Repairing car radiator - NOLA Automotive RepairsRepairing your radiator by yourself is possible, but only attempt to do so when you have ample experience with cars. However, if you’re not well-versed with how vehicles work, it’s best to call a mechanic to do the repairs for you.

Checking and refilling your radiator should also necessitate safety measures, especially when opening the radiator cap. If you’re not careful, this can lead to burns and other serious injuries.

Thus, when checking, refilling, or repairing your radiator, it’s best to take note of the following safety tips:

  • If you’ve been driving, allow the engine to cool for a few hours before opening the radiator cap.
  • Use a protective glove and rag when opening the radiator cap. Open the cap partway to slowly and safely release pressure.
  • Turn the cap counter-clockwise. Don’t just open it suddenly as this can release pressure and temperatures that can exceed 100 degrees.
  • Once the pressure has been released safely, turn the cap the rest of the way to check for issues.

Keep It Cool

Once you’ve spotted a radiator leak, don’t hesitate to take your car to a trusted auto mechanic like NOLA Automotive Repairs.

While this can seem like a small problem, leaving it unaddressed can damage your engine and cost you a fortune in the long run.

Keep your car cool by regularly performing radiator checks and watching out for signs of leaks mentioned above. You can also contact the professionals at NOLA Automotive Repairs for auto repair services.

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NOLA Automotive Repairs has been serving New Orleans clients for nineteen years, making us one of the trusted auto repair shops in The Big Easy.

We offer a variety of services including engine repair, brake jobs, AC repair, and diagnostics.