When it’s time to replace your car’s radiator

December 23rd, 2021 by

Your engine uses a tremendous amount of energy to power your vehicle around town and on the highway. The radiator in your car plays a critical part in ensuring that your engine doesn’t overheat while it’s generating all that power. Are you wondering how to tell if your radiator is working properly and how often it needs replacing? Our team here at VW of Marion have brought together some answers to these questions.
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Function and Importance of the Radiator

Your vehicle’s radiator plays a critical role in maintaining optimal engine temperatures and preventing overheating. To ensure your car runs smoothly and efficiently, it’s essential to understand the signs of a failing radiator and take timely action. Here are some unique insights and additional tips to enhance your understanding of radiator maintenance, inspired by expert sources.

The radiator circulates a cooled mixture of antifreeze and water throughout the engine, transferring heat away to keep the system running properly. Without a functioning radiator, your car’s performance can be severely compromised, leading to long-term damage and costly repairs.

How do you know when to replace a radiator?

  • Consistent Overheating: If your engine frequently overheats, indicated by a high temperature gauge or steam from under the hood, your radiator may be failing to dissipate heat effectively. This can result from clogged radiator fins or mineral deposits, hindering the cooling process​​​​.
  • Leaking Coolant: Noticeable puddles of coolant under your vehicle or a sweet smell while driving can indicate a radiator leak. This can be due to cracks or corrosion in the radiator, compromising its ability to maintain optimal cooling​​​​.
  • Rust and Corrosion: External signs of rust or visible deterioration suggest internal components may also be affected. Rust weakens the radiator’s structure, making it prone to leaks and reducing efficiency​​.
  • Blockages: Debris, sludge, or mineral deposits can block the radiator’s internal passages, restricting coolant flow and impairing heat dissipation. Flushing the cooling system may help, but persistent blockages often require radiator replacement​​​​.
  • Visible Physical Damage: Regularly inspect your radiator for bent fins, cracks, or leaks. Even small cracks can lead to significant coolant loss and engine overheating​​​​.
  • Age and Mileage: Radiators typically last between 8 to 15 years. If your radiator falls within this range or has high mileage, consider preventive replacement to ensure reliable performance.

Radiators typically last for the lifetime of your vehicle. On average, they have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years. However, there are some factors that can reduce a radiator’s working life. For example, if you do a lot of driving near the coast, extra salt in the air due to the presence of salt water can cause your radiator to corrode more quickly.

You should also replace your radiator if you upgrade the engine in your vehicle. The reason for this is that the radiator may only be designed to cope with a certain amount of heat. The more powerful an engine is, the more heat it is likely to produce. Therefore, you may need to look for a sturdier radiator that’s up to the job.

Radiators can also be damaged by something called stray current. This sometimes occurs if you install additional electronics or accessories on your vehicle. If you have done some tuning up on your car and you notice a problem with your radiator, you may want to get it checked out at our service center to see if stray current is the issue.

What are the signs of a bad radiator?

When to replace your car's radiator

“Renault R5 radiator” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by Peter Smith

There are some signs you should look out for to determine whether your radiator needs replacing. These problems can appear sooner than the typical lifespan of a radiator may suggest. This is especially likely if you don’t perform routine maintenance on your car.

The first common problem that occurs with radiators is rust or corrosion. If you notice that rust has built up on your radiator, you may need to have it cleaned or replaced. Rust can block the flow of engine coolant through your radiator, which can cause the engine’s temperature to rise.

A second possible warning sign is an unusually hot engine. You may notice this due to a warning on your instrument display or because steam is rising from under your hood. In either case, a damaged radiator could be struggling to keep your engine at a safe temperature.

Another indication of radiator problems is leaking coolant. Although this issue may be related to a hose leak that can be easily repaired, the leak may also be caused by a radiator malfunction. If you’re unable to tell where the leak is coming from, it’s best to visit a trained mechanic so they can investigate.

If your radiator has a fan to assist with dispersing the heat, you should get a mechanic to take a look at it if the fan has failed. The fan can become damaged due to a build-up of debris or corrosion.

How do you replace a radiator?

Replacing a car radiator is quite a tough task. That’s why it’s probably best to have a trained auto technician look at your vehicle if you need a new radiator. Volkswagen of Marion’s professional technicians offer radiator replace in Marion, Illinois. Schedule service for your vehicle online.

If you have some mechanical experience, you may be able to repair a leaking hose if you detect the leak. This type of preventative maintenance can save your radiator from getting damaged and needing replaced.

How do you prolong your radiator’s life?

  • Routine Inspections: Regularly check for corrosion, leaks, and debris buildup. Clean the radiator and ensure the coolant is fresh and uncontaminated​​.
  • Proper Coolant Levels: Maintain appropriate coolant levels and use the correct type for your vehicle to prevent overheating and corrosion​​.
  • Professional Service: Schedule regular maintenance with a professional to address any issues promptly. Professional assessments can prevent minor problems from escalating into major repairs​.

The simplest way to keep your radiator lasting longer is to stick to a routine maintenance schedule. One of the typical tasks an auto technician performs during routine maintenance is replacing or topping up your coolant. If this task isn’t performed often enough, your coolant can get contaminated with debris and dirt. Contaminated coolant can clog up your radiator and expose it to the risk of corrosion. By contrast, fresh coolant will flow more smoothly through your radiator, causing less wear to its parts.

A further way to make your radiator last longer is by reducing the mileage you drive. It may sound obvious, but if your annual mileage is low, your radiator will have less work to do than if you cover a longer distance.

You can also purchase a radiator built from higher quality material than your existing one. For example, brass or copper radiators tend to last longer than those made from aluminum and plastic. Plastic radiators expand when they warm up and decrease when they cool back down. Over time, this can result in a weakening and cracking of the plastic.

Why is your car’s radiator so important?

Your radiator is important because it allows the hot air produced by your engine to pass out of your vehicle efficiently, keeping your engine’s temperature at a safe level. Your engine’s temperature is regulated by coolant, which flows through hoses to the radiator. When the coolant reaches the radiator, it flows out through a series of metal slats, allowing it to cool down.

If your radiator isn’t working properly, the heat from your engine won’t be able to escape. This can result in your car overheating. If this happens, the excess heat can severely damage components in your vehicle. The resulting damage may end up costing a considerable amount of money to repair.

Get your radiator serviced at VW of Marion

Now that you’ve learned a little more about the importance of your radiator and protecting it with routine maintenance, we hope you’ll choose to make our Volkswagen of Marion dealership your first stop for your auto servicing needs. Our team of VW-certified technicians is waiting to assist you with your maintenance and repair requirements. Whether you want to schedule a service appointment online or swing by our Marion dealership, our service department will be delighted to welcome you.

Should you have any questions about your radiator or another maintenance issue, don’t hesitate to contact us. One of our friendly auto experts will do their best to help you.

Posted in Know Your Vehicle