How to Fix a Radiator Leak on Your Own
Got a leaking radiator?
Well, it’s time to get under the hood and fix it. In this article, I’m going to show you how to fix leaks on your vehicle.
The radiator is an important component of your car. It keeps the engine cool and keeps the car running smoothly. Without it, your engine will get hot and probably blow up.
To keep the radiator working properly, there are different coolants that can do a wonderful job. If you want to drive safely, you should always fill the overflow tank with coolant.
It will also protect the hefty amount of investment that you made in your car. You should also do a regular check of the radiator. Because, as the car gets old and components age, you’ll see the reservoir that holds the coolant get low.
It shouldn’t decrease in the first place. If you see your low coolant light blinking, that’s the first sign of a leaking radiator.
You might think that adding a little more will do the job, but where are all the coolant going?
A car radiator is basically an orderly web of tubes & fins. These web of cooling tubes keeps your car from getting too hot. They also hold the coolant inside of them, and they all connect to a small tank located on the top and bottom.
Sometimes heavy corrosion occurs and renders the whole radiator useless. The most common case would be road debris puncturing on those tubes.
You never know how or when it would cause those tubes to leak. So, you should carefully inspect the radiator and look for any leaks, wet sports or corrosion.
How to Identify a Radiator Leak?
Fill the coolant tank and drive around for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure the car gets up to temperature. Then, park it on a flat dry surface. It could be your garage or a park.
Now, look for any signs of drips. It will narrow down the search. Or better, use your nose. If you can smell antifreeze, then you can be sure it’s coming from the radiator.
If you see some type of water dripping, it’s probably the coolant that’s coming out of the radiator.
In this case, you can hook up a pressure tester to the cooling system and see where the leak is. All you need to do is pump it up and see where the coolant leaks out.
There are other possible scenarios like loose hoses, leaked drip pan and stuff like that. As your car ages, the hoses will start to wear out. They go through heat cycle and possibly can get cracked or expand.
You should also look for loose clamps. They can also be leaking coolant. Make sure to check every coolant hose there is, and sometimes a simple tightening can get it fixed.
There are a couple of points to keep in mind when dealing with radiator leaks and what may cause these leaks in the first place.
- It may be due to a lack of preventive maintenance. I can’t stress enough about the importance of scheduled maintenance. I know a lot of people that don’t even follow the owner’s manual.
- Regular coolant flushes, changing the coolant frequently, going through scheduled services, etc. are all necessary to keep your car running smooth.
- It will also prevent coolant souring. Sour coolant can be very conductive and can also become acidic too. When the dissimilar matter in the coolant joins together, they create a unique electrical energy.
This energy is similar to the effect of your car battery. If this electrolysis occurs in your coolant, it will eat the soft material in your radiator like aluminum and can make the tubes more porous which will cause them to leak.
How to Fix a Leaking Radiator
The best way to fix leaking radiator permanently is to replace it. It’s a permanent solution but expensive. If you want to save a few bucks, you can go for a more temporary solution.
After you are done locating the leak, there are a couple of things you can do.
1. Locating The Leak Using Pressure Tester
Apply a small amount of coolant dye and use a pressure tester. It will act as an alternative pressure without running the engine. It will make the leaks easy to spot.
Be careful not to apply too much pressure. Keep the pump pressure at 15 psi and not more. It’s enough to reveal the leak. You can either buy this pressure tester or rent it from a local auto repair shop.
2. Fix or Repair?
There are different proven methods for fixing a leaking radiator. You can go full pro and get it soldered. Or, you can opt for commercial stop leaks. You also have the option to use some DIY methods which I don’t recommend. But, it won’t hurt to know the perks of all these methods.
(a) DIY Way
Eggs and black pepper. Crazy right? These are not always reliable, but they can get the job done. Eggs and black pepper can cause clogs, and the high temperature of the coolant can cook the egg.
So, why do people use it? Well, pepper and eggs can flow to the leak and the pressure forces it to cover the leak spots by hardening and sealing.
Another way you can make temporary adjustments is by using Epoxy. It has the best combination of reliability and ease of use. You apply this to the drained radiator, and after few hours, the leak should be sealed.
(c) Commercial Leak Stopper
It is by far the easiest way to fix a leaking radiator. But, this method has a slight risk of clogging the radiator. You should always use this method as a last resort.
Apply it when the engine is cooled down and pour the chemical into the engine to seal the leaks. There are specific instructions to use each of them, make sure to read those instructions before using.
(d) How Much Is The Repair Cost?
If you do it on your own, you just have to pay for the tools. But, if you are thinking of flushing the radiator and get a proper fix, it will vary on who you employ to do the job.
Doing the fix by yourself should cost you around $50, which is the price of a commercial grade coolant and stop the leak.
If you go to a repair shop, it will cost you double depending on your car model.
3. Determining Leak Type
The easiest way to determine the fluid type is by looking at the fluid. Simple. Those puddles can be coolant from the A/C compressor which will be orange or green, yellowish for motor oil, plain water from the air conditioner. You might need to touch the fluid to get a better idea.
4. Take A Closer Look At The Coolant Level
If you still don’t know if it’s the radiator leaking or something else, but you have a suspicion about the coolant, then check the coolant reservoir. Take a look under the hood and check the coolant level.
Almost all reservoirs will have some sort of high/low fill marks. Take a mental picture of the meter or better yet, take a picture using your phone to remember the last amount of coolant left.
It should remain in the same spot. But, after driving for a while, wait for a few hours and make sure the engine is completely cooled down. Check under the hood, and if the level is lower, then there is a possible leak in the radiator.
5. Rust At The Engine Bay
Another common sign would the forming of rust around the engine bay. It’s because of the leaking water that makes the radiator and surrounding parts to discolor. The leak encourages the rust to develop, and this can also affect your engine components.
6. Safety First
Now, before you apply any sort of chemical, it’s important to wear proper safety gear. You are dealing with pressurized chemical, so it’s advisable that you wear safety glasses and heat resistant gloves.
There is also a possibility that you need to get under the car for inspection. To keep your eyes protected from falling debris, you should always wear safety glasses.
7. Cleaning The Radiator
Not often you get the chance to work on the radiator. It’s the ideal time clean it. Take a hose pipe and spray the radiator to get rid it from excess debris and dirt. It will also make it easy to locate the leaks and cracks.
8. Repair Using Your Desired Method
At the top of this guide, I have mentioned different methods that you can use to seal the leak. Regardless of what method you use, it’s important to check the result.
Drive your car as you usually do and park it somewhere flat and dry. Check to see if there are any more leaks left. If you still have any leaks left, it’s better to consult a professional.
Hope this guide will help you fix the leak in your radiator. Till then, drive safe.
Do you want to keep your engine cool?
Then you must ensure the car radiator system is working properly. If there is any leak, go ahead and seal it trying our methods.
However, if the leak is too critical, then these methods will only get you a few extra time before you visit a professional.
After reading this article, does the issue seem difficult to you like before? We hope not.