Causes And Fixes For A Leaky Radiator

Posted on: 22 March 2019

A car that is losing coolant is a car in serious need of repair. If your car is leaking from the radiator, then it is in constant risk of overheating. Even worse, modern engines generally do not tolerate overheating well. Even a very short period of time above normal operating temperature has the potential to do serious damage to the engine, including head gasket failures or damage to the head itself. Repairing this damage can potentially cost thousands of dollars, making it all the more important to deal with coolant leaks early.

Many cars will suffer coolant leaks as they begin to near six-figure mileage numbers. In most cases, these leaks are not a major issue as long as they are located and addressed promptly.

What Causes Coolant Leaks?

Coolant leaks can develop in a number of locations and for a number of reasons. Commonly, coolant will leak from gaskets around the water pump or thermostat. Leaks also commonly develop near fittings for coolant hoses or in the radiator itself. Gasket leaks may simply happen over time as the gasket material ages and is forced to endure numerous cooling and heating cycles, but radiator leaks are usually due to internal corrosion. In some cases, this may be the result of flushing the coolant less often than recommended or even the result of using a type of coolant other than what is recommended by the manufacturer.

Will Stop-Leak Additives Work?

Unfortunately, this is a complex and contentious question. Additives are generally composed of small particles which filter through the cooling system, ultimately being forced by system pressure into gaps or cracks that are causing your leak. For very small, minor leaks they can be useful. The durability of this particular fix depends largely on the type of additive used, and in many cases, the leak may return over time or after flushing the system. Repeated use of stop leak additives can lead to a buildup of gunk in the system, however, and it is important to understand that additives are not intended to work as a permanent or long-term fix.

Can a Leaky Radiator Be Fixed?

Most modern radiators use an aluminum core, which makes repairing one somewhat costlier and more complicated than on older vehicles. The radiator may also have plastic parts directly attached to it, further complicating repairs. In many cases, simply replacing the entire radiator is often much easier than fixing the leak itself. While this does not mean that repairing a leaky radiator is impossible, it does mean that repairs are often beyond the capabilities of most backyard mechanics.

If your radiator has sprung a serious leak, your best course of action is to have a professional mechanic do a proper inspection and repair. Depending on how bad the leak is, it may be possible get a radiator repair and get your car back on the road. If the leak is too serious, however, radiator replacement may be the only option.