Radiator maintenance is one of the best ways to prevent engine failure. An engine produces extreme amounts of heat when it’s operating, and the radiator fluid pumping through the engine draws damaging heat away from it. Simply put, a radiator problem will lead to engine problems.
The cooling system draws air through the radiator as you drive. Over time, insects, dirt and leaves are pulled into the radiator fins, preventing the flow of air through the radiator. This can cause your car to overheat. An external radiator cleaning should be done every 12 months, using a hose and nozzle, and a soft nylon brush. With the vehicle fully cooled, start gently brushing the radiator fins, in the direction of the fins. The thin metal fins are easily deformed if you brush too hard or brush in the wrong direction. Once you finish brushing, use the hose to rinse off the radiator. If possible, spray the water inside-to-outside, by using the hose inside of the engine compartment. Follow this by streaming water through the radiator outside-to-inside. Again, the fins are delicate and very strong streams of water will distort them. If you find fins that have been bent, use an ice-cream stick to straighten them. Insert the stick in a spot that is not bent, and using a wiggling side-to-side motion, work the stick downward.
Check radiator fluid levels on a regular basis. To check or add antifreeze coolant, open the car’s hood and locate the radiator fluid overflow container. It is typically a side tank, mounted to the edge of the engine compartment. It will have a hose that attaches to the radiator, usually at the filler neck. The container will have places on it to indicate whether your fluid levels are low or high. Remove the reserve tank cap and fill with radiator fluid. If the reserve is empty, also add fluid to the radiator. Radiator fluid should be used in a 50/50 mixture with mineral free water. This mixture protects water in the cooling system from freezing, raises the boiling point of the water and aids in preventing rust buildup. If you regularly find the radiator fluid levels low, then you might have a leak.
A radiator flush is another facet of maintenance that is needed to avoid radiator problems. Never remove the radiator cap on a hot engine, as the fluid could violently erupt and burn you. Place a drain pan under the radiator drain spout, remove the radiator cap and rotate the drain valve knob to let out the radiator fluid. Using a hose, fill the radiator with water, and drain. Repeat until the water runs clean. Fill the radiator with the required 50/50 radiator fluid and water. Make sure the reserve container is full, and monitor its level for the next few days.
Doing your own radiator maintenance will help avoid radiator problems and can be a real money saver. By performing a regular radiator flush and external cleaning, you can help to keep your car’s engine healthy.