car radiator

How to tell if your car radiator is going bad

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

To work correctly, the items we use regularly and for long periods of time need to be able to release heat.

That is the role a car radiator plays – it helps keep the engine cool.

This component sits out front, where the air is coming in. Coolant entering the radiator is hot and must leave at a cooler state.

Radiators don’t necessarily go bad. However, they may start leaking or become clogged. 

Symptoms of car radiator problems

Car is overheating: A vehicle overheating multiple times may be an indicator that the radiator is failing. Keep in mind that just because it’s overheating doesn’t mean the radiator is bad. The coolant needing to be changed is another possible reason.

Low on coolant: As we mentioned, sometimes coolant simply needs to be replaced or topped off. But if you’re noticing a recurring low coolant issue, there may be a leak in the radiator.

Coolant is leaking: You may see coolant under a car if there’s a problem with the radiator. It may be green, orange, pink, red or yellow. In addition to the radiator, this can be caused by a bad hose or water pump.

Coolant is a different color: The coolant changing colors could hint at rust, scale and sludge buildup in the coolant lines.

Cheap vs. good radiators

It seems like just about every manufacturer has some kind of small engine that has one or two turbos on it. That’s a lot of heat that is generated. 

Not using a good radiator with the full amount of flow that is going to hold up under pressure can be detrimental to your engine. 

If the vehicle overheats or the side tanks blow out due to cheap manufacturing, you have a chance of ruining a $5,000 to $25,000 engine. Buying that $150 radiator compared to the $300 to $500 radiator can make the difference of whether or not you could have an engine problem.

Just because it fits doesn’t mean it’s the right radiator. 

Radiator replacement

Radiator maintenance

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your vehicle’s coolant level. If you notice that it’s low, make sure to have it topped off or – if it’s a continuous problem – checked for leaks.

Coolant fluid exchanges are another way you can maintain your vehicle’s cooling system. On top of cleaning out the system, this service restores coolant. We recommend it every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, depending on the vehicle and manufacturer’s recommendations.

You should also make sure that a high quality coolant is being used. With today’s engines and how they’re manufactured you want to make sure you’re using the right type of coolant for that vehicle. Putting the wrong one in can actually cause overheating problems.

In addition to replacing the radiator and conducting coolant fluid exchanges, our technicians perform cooling system repairs. This includes installing new components, such as the thermostat and water pump. 

With most cooling system repairs, we offer to change the thermostat, which determines the amount of coolant that flows between the radiator and engine.

For example, say you have a leaking radiator and your car overheated. That maxed out your thermostat, and it might not always bounce back.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.