We all know that the radiator can be considered the heart of every motor vehicle. It is the most vital component which has to be functioning at its optimum in order for the vehicle to function as designed to. The radiator forms part of the vehicle cooling system which ensures that the engine is operating at an ideal temperature. Hot coolant from the car engine flows through tubes during which the heat is expelled from the coolant. The now cooled down fluid can then be pumped back out of the radiator into the engine, for the process to repeat itself. Due to the radiator being essential to the cooling system and running of your car, it would be in your best interest to be able to identify any potential radiator problems. Surprisingly identifying signs of a failing radiator is something that a significantly large number of drivers do not know how to do. Car components can be daunting for many people and one would rather leave it up to the professionals, but not everything vehicle related has to be as challenging as learning a new language. Here are some of the signs and of a bad radiator to look out for and checks to conduct to avoid irreversible damage to your vehicle.

1. Leakage

Sometimes you may notice fluid with either a yellow, red or green tinge leaking from under the vehicle. This is likely to be a radiator leak and can be very harmful if not addressed as soon as possible. Leaking coolant reduces the level of coolant present in the vehicle. If the levels drop too low, there will not be enough coolant to reduce the heat generated by the engine causing the engine to potentially overheat. Radiators are manufactured with both metal and plastic components. As plastic is not extremely durable, it is not uncommon for these components to develop cracks due to its brittle nature. If you are uncertain about the coolant leakage, you can perform a cooling system leakage test. For this particular test, you would require a coolant dye kit and pressure tester (cooling system).

  • Ensure that the engine is completely cool or allow it time to cool down if it was in use.
  • Remove the pressure cap and by following the manufacturer’s instructions apply pressure with the tester and check the system for leaks.
  • After removing the tester you can add coolant dye, secure the cap in place and start the engine.
  • Observe for any leakage by looking for the dye.

2. Engine overheating and Thermostat failure

When the car engine begins to overheat, you can immediately assume that there is a cause for concern with the radiator. Overheating can be caused by a defective thermostat which may no longer open in turn causing the overheating and engine breakdown. To check for a defective thermostat, you will require a temperature gun (infrared).

  • Start the car and warm the engine. Give it enough time to completely heat up.
  • Let the engine overheat and by using the temperature gun, scan the temperature of the radiator hoses.
  • Do not assess the temperature by using your hand as this could lead to unnecessary injury and burns.
  • By checking the temperature of the hoses, you will be able to judge if the thermostat is defective or not. If just one of the two hoses becomes heated or if both hoses remain cold then it is safe to state that the thermostat is the problem and will require replacement.

3. Internal and External blockage

Internal blockage within the radiator can cause a restricted coolant flow. Any external blockage will restrict airflow and result in overheating. Radiators need sufficient airflow for proper cooling to take place. The thin tubes carry the heated coolant away from the engine and these tubes can become clogged by dirt, debris etc. compromising the airflow and keeping the coolant heated. To check for blockage or clogs, do the following:

  • The engine must be completely cooled down. Having a warm engine will not suffice.
  • Inspect the radiator. Remove the cap and look for any internal debris, if there is a blockage then your radiator will most likely need repair or replacement.
  • Inspect the front of the radiator for external blockages and debris. By use of a garden hose or compressed air you will be able to remove external blockages.

4. Water pump

The water pump has to be operational to move coolant through the tubes and passageways of the cooling system. If any debris breaks away in the radiator, the water pump is likely to receive damage which will disrupt the flow and lead to breakage or failure. If the water pump cannot circulate a sufficient amount of coolant, the engine will eventually overheat.

  • Ensure the engine is cooled.
  • Remove the pressure cap and then start the engine.
  • Once you have started the engine observe to see if the coolant is circulating. If the coolant does not move then the water pump is defective.
  • Look for wet spots or dry residue green or white in colour, these are signs of water pump leaks.

The above mentioned are just some of the key indicators of a radiator in need of attention. Contact the professionals at Silverton Pinetown for all your radiator repair, replacement and sale related needs.

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