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Common Radiator Problems and Radiator Maintenance

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Radiator cooling system failure is one of the most common causes of car breakdown. Most cooling system failures arise from poor radiator maintenance. Many radiator problems can be prevented with regular radiator maintenance and periodic professional inspections of you car radiator and cooling system.

Here are a few of the most common radiator problems:

  • Leaky fittings or seams. As a car gets older your parts are going to wear. For your car radiator, that means hoses, clamps, sealed seams, and secondary fittings (like an automatic transmission oil cooler). Keep an eye out for overly rusted clamp, for leaking seams where the cores join the tanks, and split hoses. This can occur with or without regular radiator maintenance.
  • Fin deterioration and bond failure. Constant exposure to dirt, water, or road salt can coat, corrode, or damage the cooling fins on your radiator cores. Radiator maintenance here includes regular cleaning and inspection, which can greatly increase the life of your radiator cores. Many radiator cores are bonded to the tanks with solder or epoxy and these are common points of failure in radiators.
  • Electrolysis. If dirty or mineral-rich water is used in a cooling system, you can quickly accumulate scaling and sediment build-up on the interior of your radiator. Electrolysis is the process by which this accumulation occurs. This build-up can be cleaned out with radiator cleaners and, for some radiators, with a rod and brush.
  • Cracked tank. One of the most common radiator problems is a cracked tank. Sometimes, it is caused by corrosion, other times it is from tank faults or internal pressure. Many radiators have removable tanks that can be replaced when they fail.
  • Fan damage. An improperly fitted fan can rub against or hit the radiator when the car goes over a bump. This will bend and sometimes split the radiator cores, reducing cooling efficiency and causing leaks. You should periodically visually inspect your radiator cores for fan damage.
  • Those are the most common car radiator problems. Simple preventative maintenance can save you from most of them. Remember, to keep your cooling system running in tip-top shape, you should have it professionally inspected and serviced at least once every two years for proper radiator maintenance.
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