The radiator is one of the most important parts of your car. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, the radiator is actually a part of your car’s cooling system. The radiator is a critical part of your car’s engine and driving with a one that is not working properly can do serious damage to your car’s engine.
It is helpful for any driver to understand the function and importance of their radiator. It is also important to understand the sign of a clogged radiator, the things that can cause clogging, and how to fix it.
What the Radiator Does
If you have a car with an internal combustion engine, your radiator is attached to passages that go to the cylinder head and engine of your car. A combination of coolant and water is pumped through these passages. The mixture of the coolant and water will be specific to the climate in which you are driving the car. If you live in a very warm climate, you may use water alone.
The cooling system itself is made up of several galleries that are set into the cylinder head and engine of the car. These galleries will encircle the vehicle’s combustion chambers with a liquid that circulates throughout the engine and carries away heat. There are four main parts to an engine’s cooling system, the water pump, the radiator, the thermostat, the coolant temperature sensor, and the fan.
The water pump’s job is to circulate coolant through the system. The radiator’s job is to exchange heat. It transfers heat from the engine to the atmosphere. The radiator has an inlet port and an outlet port. It has a drain plug and a radiator pressure cap. it also has an overflow tank. This tank collects coolant that is heated by the engine and is expanding and recycles it back into the coolant system once it gets cool enough.
The thermostat is used to control the temperature of the engine. It does this by controlling the amount of coolant that goes to the radiator. The coolant temperature sensor monitors the engine temperature. The fan draws cool air through the radiator.
Radiators are normally mounted in such a way that they receive airflow when the vehicle moves forward. You will often find them behind the front grill. In other cars, the radiator draws in the air over the top of the automobile or from a grill that is mounted on the side of the car.
One of the biggest problems that a radiator can have is overheating. If the overflow tank of the radiator runs dry, the engine coolant may vaporize. That can cause the engine to overheat. A clogged radiator can also cause your engine to overheat. Your engine can be permanently damaged if you do not do something about a clogged radiator. A radiator can get clogged from outside elements and elements inside the car.
Signs that Your Radiator May be Clogged
Your Passenger Complains About Being Cold
The cabin heater of a vehicle relies on hot coolant traveling through the heater core. A blower fan then blows hot air onto the passenger seat. If a radiator is obstructed or leaking, not enough hot coolant gets into the heater core to allow the car cabin to get warm.
There are a few different things that can cause this, but it may be a clogged radiator.
Blocked Radiator Fins
A radiator has a thin fine tube that runs across its front. The tubes transport hot coolant. When a person drives, the radiator fan forces air from the outside in and around the fins lowering the temperature of the coolant before it returns to the engine.
When the tubes are clogged by dirt, rocks, or insects, the airflow is impeded. The coolant won’t be able to do its job as effectively. You should be able to clean off the radiator fins easily with a garden hose or a spray bottle.
You have a Coolant Leak
If you notice a puddle of green liquid under your car, you may have a coolant leak. Coolant leaks may be caused by several different factors. The cooling fins of your radiator may get tiny holes or cracks on them if your radiator is stopped up. This is caused by rust buildup.
Rust build-up is often the result of using a subpar coolant or by mixing tap water instead of distilled water in with your coolant. It is very important to flush your radiator regularly because not cleaning it can cause a build-up. When there is a leak, an engine continues to run but does so with less coolant.
You should keep topping off the coolant until you can get your car to a mechanic. If you don’t the engine may overheat. You will want to flush the radiator right away.
The purpose of a radiator is to keep the engine cool. Always check the temperature gauge. If the needle is in the red zone, your engine may be too hot. Newer cars will have a digital readout and warn you when the engine is too hot.
Most cars operate between 195 and 220 degrees F. It tends to run a bit hotter in summer.
If the temperature is consistently hot, you might have a clogged radiator. This happens when coolant cannot circulate properly. This is likely caused by rust and debris building up in your radiator.
The vast majority of coolants will have a green or yellowish color. There are some pink coolants. Deposits from the engine and sludge can get into the coolant and contaminate it. If your coolant looks rusty or like oil, you should check the overflow tank.
Contaminated fluid is thicker and will not flow through the cooling system the way that it should. Thick coolant can clog your radiator. If this happens, your car will overheat.
Flushing a Radiator
If you are feeling handy, you can flush a radiator yourself. If you are feeling lazy the average mechanic should charge around fifty bucks to do the task. Here are a few simple steps to flushing a radiator. You should always wait until your engine has cooled down to do a radiator flush. You should never touch a hot radiator cap under any circumstances.
You will need a bottle of radiator flush and a container in which to catch the old coolant.
- Unscrew the radiator cap and coolant reservoir cap.
- Locate the radiator drain. You should be able to find the radiator drain in your owner’s manual. Place a container to catch the used coolant underneath the drain.
- Open the drain and let the coolant pour out.
- Pour in your radiator flush into the radiator opening. The directions on the flush bottle should tell you how much to use. Top the rest off with distilled water to an inch below the fill line.
- Close the caps.
- Turn the engine on and turn the heater on as well. Let your car run for 10 minutes.
- Let the engine cool down, repeating all the steps one more time.
- Drain the radiator completely and pour in your new coolant.
Radiator Repair and Replacement
The cost of a faulty radiator will depend upon what you need to repair. If it is simply a hose it may cost around $45. If you need a more intrinsic repair it can cost several hundred dollars. If you need a new radiator, you may end up paying between $292 and $1193 for both the parts and labor involved in the installation. You will have several different options for getting your car fixed.
Hiring an Independent Mechanic
If you want to save money, you can find a mechanic online. Some independent contractors work from their garage, Some are talented and honest and others are not. Be sure to get references and ask lots of questions. Make sure the mechanic has a lift in his garage and that he has been in his home for a while.
You should ask the mechanic for the name of their business. It is never a good idea to hire an auto mechanic who has not at least incorporated themselves.
Going to an Auto Body Shop
Autobody shops are the most popular option for repairs. The prices are usually fair and you will be able to talk to the mechanic who works on your car directly. Make sure to find a mechanic who is certified in your make and model of car.
The AAA website has a list of recommended shops. you can go there to find one that is close to you. Angie’s List also offers a list of shops with reviews from previous customers. The person who works on your vehicle should have up to date certifications and training.
Going to a Dealership
A dealership is likely to charge you twice as much as an auto body shop. However, their mechanics are certified in your make and model of car. They will understand the mechanics of the brand and they will know exactly how to repair your radiator so you won’t have to keep coming back. The shop will have the specific parts on hand and they will charge you by the job instead of the hour.
It is always a good idea to shop around for the best price when getting a replacement or a repair. If your car is very old or if the radiator caused other problems in the engine, you may want to consider selling the car. You will have several options there too.
If you are planning on getting your next car from a dealership, they are likely to offer you a trade-in amount for your old car. In most cases, they will offer you an amount that is far below what your old vehicle is actually worth. They may count on your taking a lesser amount to avoid going to the trouble of selling your car independently.
Car dealerships will often offer you what seems like a very good trade-in price for your old vehicle. However, unethical dealerships will end up tagging the entire amount of the trade into the final cost of your new ride. Be sure to read your final offer carefully before signing anything.
Selling old cars online
The internet has become a popular place to sell old cars. There are websites that will charge you by the month to list your car. You will be competing with many other cars if you list your car on an online classified bulletin board or car sales website.
If you sell your online, you could end up having to show it to a few potential buyers before you actually sell it. You may never sell it. If you part out the car, you may end up having the body in your driveway for a long time and you will have to have it towed away.
Selling your car online can actually be scary. Remember that you will have strangers coming over to your home. There have been more than a few crimes associated with Craigslist and Backpage.
Sell Your Car to Us
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Our professional team member will arrive at the appointed time to pick up the car. They will perform a quick inspection, pay you in cash, and tow it away for free.
Our staff wants to hear from you, so fill out our form and we will get right back to you.