What Do You Know About Your Vehicle's Radiator?

By: Dave's Garage at COPilot

A radiator is a device that exchanges heat from the engine with the outside, cooler air. The failures can be complex, but preventable with basic knowledge.

What Does a Radiator Do?

Hot coolant enters the radiator through the upper hose, then moves down small tubes internally built into a large, flat surface area. The heat from the coolant is transferred to these tubes and then onto many tiny metal vanes. This surface area is needed for the rush of cooler air drawn in by the radiator fan, or wind entering through the front grill of the vehicle.

Now in most modern cars, this front area can have a lot of components: the air conditioning has its own cooler called a condenser, and the transmission fluid might also have a cooler or even use part of the radiator. For these reasons, the front grill is designed with plenty of open space.

Symptoms of Radiator Failure

Radiators usually fail in two ways. Unfortunately, these failures sneak up on us, and may not be obvious until the damage is already done. That’s why maintenance is very important.

Leaks: The most common failure is a leak. Like most parts in a vehicle, the radiator is constructed from aluminum and plastic, to help with fuel economy. It doesn’t take much corrosion or jarring to start a small hole or crack. With all the shielding underneath, and simple evaporation, we might not notice these small leaks until it’s too late, and the car is overheating.

Restriction or Clogging: Restrictions and clogs are caused by the rust and corrosion that develops in the radiator and throughout the coolant system. They’re especially common if there’s been little or no preventive maintenance.

The clogs are brought about by the rust that flakes off and joins the coolant flow. These small rust particles build up in the smaller tubes of the radiator. Clogs and restrictions cause uneven cooling, or the overheating of the engine.

Car Radiator Replacement

When the radiator has failed, either through leaking or from clogging up, replacement must be performed right away. Severe overheating causes catastrophic damage to an engine, and leads to much bigger and more expensive repairs.

Most repair facilities will be able to change the radiator, and usually can do it in the same day, with radiators running between $120 to $300, depending upon the type of vehicle. Installation can cost an additional $100 to $300, based on how much labor time is involved to change it.

Upper and lower radiator hoses are a good add-on during the repair with very little or no additional labor.

How to Prevent Radiator Failure

The most effective way to prevent radiator failure is to service the cooling system and change the engine coolant. You should follow the manufacturer’s schedule or do so at least every 30,000 miles.

In addition to the chemicals that help carry heat, coolant also contains rust inhibitors that protect the steel and aluminum interiors of the entire system. These inhibitors prevent the radiator itself from breaking down and developing weak spots and holes. They ensure that the entire system will be protected, and that rust will not be carried back to clog up the radiator.

A coolant flush with quality fluid usually runs $100 to $120. This is a much better price than the one a mechanic will quote you when the engine has catastrophic damage from a failed cooling system.

COPilot Members know that they can count on us when something unexpected occurs, but it is important to know that no traditional service contract or extended warranty, or COPilot will generally cover damage due to overheating, particularly when there is evidence that the vehicle has not been maintained properly. This is information you need to be aware of when selecting coverage for your vehicle.

One key benefit of choosing COPilot over any other protection option, however, is that COPilot Preferred Service Providers offer discounts to Members for non-covered services like this, usually around 10% off of the published service cost. This means as a COPilot Member, this valuable automotive maintenance can cost under $100!

Drive Safe and Remember COPilot helps Keep You in Control! Find out how COPilot can help prepare you for the unexpected in as little as 60 seconds. Grab your VIN and odometer reading and visit HERE for a FREE, no obligation quote!


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