When faced with the hot summer months and stop and go traffic, radiator overheating is a common problem among older cars. While your engine’s cooling system is a relatively simple design, proper radiator maintenance is a key factor in avoiding radiator problems both in new and old cars alike. Below is some information on common reasons for overheating, and simple steps that can be taken to help remedy them and even prevent them before they begin.Check your Cap
While it may seem like an unlikely culprit in your overheating problems, your radiator cap plays a huge role in maintaining cooling efficiency. Radiator caps are designed to help keep your coolant system pressurized, as higher pressures help prevent boiling of the coolant. When the spring loaded plunger that seals the cooling system fails, internal pressure decreases, allowing your coolant to boil. When allowed to boil, coolant develops many bubbles and pockets of air which are not very good at conducting heat. If heat cannot be conducted, then it can neither be carried away from the engine, or transferred to the radiator and removed effectively, which will result in overheating problems. Air in the System
Air inside your cooling system can occur through several different ways such as rushed refilling, but should excessive amounts of air be present, cooling efficiency may be lowered dramatically. If you have recently flushed or refilled your coolant, it is a good idea to bleed the air from the system. To do so, simply start your car and allow it to idle with the radiator cap off and the heater turned to max. As your coolant circulates, air will make its way to the opening and exit the system. Make sure to only do this when the engine is cold, as doing so on a hot engine can cause burns or injury.Clean your Radiator
Excessive contaminants on both the inside and the outside of your radiator can cause a severe drop in cooling efficiency. To clean the outside of your radiator, simply apply a spray on degreaser liberally to the exterior of your cool radiator and rinse thoroughly with water. Flushing your coolant system is also a good way to prevent mineral and rust deposits on the inside, and should be done regularly with every coolant change. To flush your radiator, simply open the valve on the bottom of your radiator and drain the coolant from the system. With the engine running and the heater set to max, refill the system with water and allow it to drain as before. Once fluid comes out clear, begin refilling your cooling system with coolant, bleeding air as detailed above, and close the valve once fluid draining out is the color of your coolant. Always remember to use distilled water if diluting your own coolant, as tap water will cause mineralization and reduce cooling efficiency.Simple maintenance can do wonders for the cooling ability of your radiator. Clean coolant in a properly sealed and pressurized system, combined with a clean radiator that can efficiently transfer away heat are the key points to a healthy cooling system. By maintaining these key points, your cooling system should remain healthy for years to come.