Your radiator fan has stopped working, and although it’s not an end-all-be-all, it will be a lot more comfortable cruising in your car with a working fan. Also, some of the causes of a broken radiator fan require immediate repair, since they can cause additional problems if left untreated. Fortunately for you, the average cost of a radiator fan is not very expensive. The cost is typically between the range of $300-$400. The mechanic might charge you an extra $100-$200 for the labor involved. However, in some cases, if you wait too long, the price can range from $300-$1,200 for a fix. Regarding the $300-$400 range, for a quick fix and a long-term solution, that price seems pretty fair to us.
How The Radiator Fan Works?
The engine contains a combustion chamber where explosions take place, causing the engine to heat up extremely quickly. To prevent the engine from overheating and breaking, coolants are moving throughout the radiator and into the engine to keep the temperature at a workable level. The job of the radiator is to keep the coolant at the right temperature so that when it travels back to the engine, it is able to take on more heat, and prevent the engine from getting too hot.
A radiator fan is imperative in keeping the temperature of the coolant low enough. If the radiator fan is not working correctly, your car can get damaged, and if you let it go too long without a repair, the fix can be thousands of dollars out of your pocket.
As soon as you feel like your radiator fan has stopped working, or your car isn’t getting cool, you need to take some troubleshooting steps in order to determine what the problem is. If you can’t figure it out, take your car to a mechanic right away so he can determine the issue.
Troubleshooting Your Radiator Fan
If you prefer to do some of the work yourself, you can actually troubleshoot a cooling fan to see where the problem lies and how to fix it. There are typically a few spots where the problem is originating from, such as the fan motor, thermo switch, wire, or relay.
- Test If Your Radiator Fan Has Actually Failed
In newer cars, you need to first ensure that the radiator fan has actually stopped working before you determine what to do next. If you need to confirm if it’s in working order or not, you should turn on your engine and let your vehicle idle. Turn the air conditioning to the maximum setting – this should spark the cooling fan to immediately come on. In older cars, this typically takes about 15-20 minutes for the engine to reach the right temperature. If there’s a problem with the engine’s temperature, then this can damage the radiator. Depending on if and when the radiator fan comes on will affect what you should do next, and if the radiator fan has stopped working.
If the fan comes on when the air conditioning is operating at maximum volume, but doesn’t run properly when the engine is warm or hot, then you might need to check the temperature switch. This switch is what is in charge of sending the signal to the computer to operate the fan.
If the fan doesn’t come on, you need to look for a blown fuse or breaker. In older cars, you might have a fusible link – this is wire within an insulated block of rubber. Try to grab the end and stretch it. If the wire stretches, the wire link could be broken and you’ll need to replace it.
The last case scenario when testing your radiator fan is when the fan doesn’t come on after the engine has been running for 20 minutes. You need to make sure that your coolant liquid is reaching the desired temperature, which is typically around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is the case, you could be dealing with a stuck-open thermostat – this means that there will be a continuous flow of coolant, causing a lower operating temperature. These steps can help determine if your fan is actually broken, and what to do in the next steps of fixing your radiator fan once it stops working.
- Test The Radiator Fan Motor
If your fan has still failed to turn on, you can check the fan by connecting a different power source to it. Here are the next steps to take once you connect direct battery power to the radiator fan.
First, you need to unplug the wiring connector. Check for any damage and clean the connector. Ensure that the wires are firmly attached and are not damaged.
Second, look at the wires and identify which ones are power wires and which ones are ground wires to avoid any confusion.
Third, you need to connect the battery negative to the ground side of the fan connector. After this, connect the positive battery to the other wire. You may need to look at your vehicle repair manual to see if your vehicle has a 4-wire terminal or three terminals, with two for power and one for ground wires.
Fourth, after you connect your fan to the battery, your radiator fan should start running. However, if your radiator fan doesn’t begin working with the direct power, then you need to make sure there’s no damage on the terminal and test for incoming voltage. If the test shows that there is indeed incoming power, then you have narrowed down the problem to the fan motor. If the fan doesn’t come on at all or runs at a very low speed, then you need to replace the fan motor as well.
- Check All Wires And Connectors
If your radiator fan motor or fuses, breakers, and links seem to be working properly, you’ll need to check the other components to decipher what really is the problem with your radiator fan. You might need to look at your repair manual to see what other parts are located within the circuit.
- Test The Radiator Fan Temperature Switch
The temperature switch on most vehicles is typically connected to your car computer, or your powertrain computer. For this test, the only tool that you need is a test light.
First, you need to connect your test light to the battery ground. Second, start the engine and start idling your vehicle. Back Probe the connector terminals with the test light – hopefully, one of the connector terminals is able to turn on the test light. Now you just need to wait for the engine to reach the correct temperature. After the engine has reached operating temperature, back probe the other wire at the connector. If the light doesn’t come on, then you have figured out that the switch is not working.
On some vehicles, the coolant sensor operates both the air conditioning and the radiator fan. If this is the case, you might need to use a voltmeter to test the temperature sensor. If you don’t have resistance values, but you are able to deduct that the Ohms values remain the same during cold and hot temperatures, you should replace the sensor in order to fix your radiator fan.
Test The Radiator Fan Relay
There are a few steps you can take in order to determine if the fan relay is causing your radiator fan to stop working. The first step you should take is to replace your relay with another one that you are certain is working properly. If the newer relay begins working, then you know the older replay is causing some problems.
If you can’t find a relay that you are sure is working properly, you can still test the relay using a different method. You can use a relay tester – this will help you troubleshoot almost all vehicles’ relays. All you have to do is follow the instructions that come with the tool. If you don’t want to buy a relay tester, you can purchase a digital multimeter that you can find in any electronics or hardware store.
Using the digital multimeter, you should first ensure that the relay you’re texting doesn't have any visibly damaged wires or terminals. Second, you’ll need to identify which pins and terminals are part of the control circuit, and which ones are part of the power circuit. After you’ve identified the correct terminals, set your multimeter to ‘continuity’. Connect one lead to the power circuit and one lead to the power terminal. If you detect zero, then your relay’s power pins have stopped working and you need to replace the relay. Replacing the relay could fix your radiator fan from having stopped working.
Reasons Why Your Radiator Fan Isn’t Coming On
After you have undergone all of the troubleshooting tips to decipher what part is causing your radiator fan to stop working, you need to figure out the correct diagnosis in order to figure out the part that needs replacing, or the part that needs repairing. There are a few common reasons why your radiator fan is not turning on.
- Broken Fuse
A blown fuse can happen when there are electrical surges going towards a piece of electronic equipment, forcing the fuse to cut the electrical supply in order to save the equipment from an overload. Despite a blown fuse not being a big issue, it is important to find and fix. Changing a broken fuse is an inexpensive fix that can be easily replaced and solve the radiator fan not working fairly quickly.
- Fan Wiring
Be sure to inspect all of the wiring leading in and out of the radiator fan. If your wire has worn out due to environmental factors, like heat, it will need a replacement. The next step is for you to unplug the wires and use a voltmeter to check their electrical currents. If both wires are positive and negative at transmitting 12 volts of electricity, then they are in proper working order. However, if there is an issue with the number of volts of electricity, then that usually means the wire needs to be replaced.
Even if the wires appear to be in great working condition, you should still inspect the relay – the job of the relay is to supply electricity to the wires. This small structure can wear out after prolonged use. Once you replace the relay, the radiator fan should start working again.
- Temperature Sensor
The ECU’s job is to start the radiator fan once the engine reaches a certain temperature. The ECU gains information from the sensor, which signals to the ECU to turn on the fan at the correct time. If the temperature sensor is broken, it won’t be able to transmit the signals at the proper time to the ECU – and the fan won’t turn on.
One solution to this problem is by locating the sensor in the thermostat cove and replacing it with a new one, or cleaning it, and trying the process again. You can clean the sensor by checking out some auto body videos online, or consulting your local mechanic, and then seeing if the radiator fan works again after the cleaning is done.
- Coolant Level
If you’re in the car and you feel as if the radiator fan isn’t working, even though it’s on, then the problem might lie within the coolant liquid. If your coolant level is low, then it might not feel as if your car is getting cool, even with the radiator fan turned on and working. If you don’t replace your coolant level when it’s low, then this can cause the engine to become seized. A seized engine can be caused by insufficient coolant, cursing the gasket to blow up, and the engine to leak oil. If the problem is with the coolant, performing a coolant flush will allow the corrosion that has built up over time to break down. However, if your car has coolant in it, but still overheating, then the problem might be with the radiator itself.
- Fan Clutch or Fan Belt
The fan clutch is in charge of holding the fan to the engine and rotating it. The fan belt is responsible for deriving power from the engine to transmit to the radiator fan. When the engine starts, the radiator fan starts spinning due to the power from the fan belt. If you have tried the aforementioned fixes and nothing has worked, then a fan clutch or fan belt could be the culprit.
What If I Waited Too Long To Fix My Radiator Fan and It’s Going To Cost Me Thousands Of Dollars?
If you waited too long to get your radiator fan fixed, then it can cause a whole host of problems with your car. Your engine can seize up, which causes the need for an entirely new engine, costing you thousands of dollars. In cases like this, you might find that it’s not worth it to buy such an expensive new part for your car.
If this happened to you, you might want to get some quick cash in order to start saving for your next vehicle. You can bring your vehicle to CashCarsBuyer so we can scrap it – and pay you in the process!