5 Signs That Your Radiator is Failing

Posted on Aug 2, 2022

The engine may get all the credit for a vehicle’s performance, but nothing would run smoothly without a healthy radiator. If you find yourself asking, "why is my car overheating?" or “why is my car leaking coolant?” you may need to take a look at your radiator. Protect your safety and guard against costly repairs by learning the warning signs of a failing radiator.

Master Tech's experienced technicians can diagnose problems with your radiator and cooling system. If something’s off with your radiator, swing by Master Tech and let our friendly specialists perform a check or radiator repair! 

What Does a Radiator Do?

Without a radiator, your whole vehicle could go up in smoke--quite literally. The radiator regulates your vehicle's temperature by cooling and circulating water through the engine block. A broken radiator sets you up for problems such as overheating and eventually engine failure. 

How Does a Car Radiator Work?

The radiator uses a straightforward method to regulate engine temperature. The engine creates heat when it burns fuel and creates energy. When the thermostat detects excess heat, it signals the radiator to release coolant and water throughout the engine. This liquid absorbs heat from the engine before returning to the radiator, which cools it down by blowing cool air from outside across it. The coolant then continues its cycle through the engine, absorbing and releasing excess heat.

What Causes a Car Radiator to Fail?

Before we look at the clues of a failing radiator, let's look at what can cause it to malfunction in the first place. Common culprits include:

  • Old age (most radiators have about a five-year lifespan)
  • Corrosion/rust buildup
  • Sludge buildup that prohibits coolant flow
  • A faulty water pump

Stranded on the side of the road with an overheated engine? Call our 24/7 towing service for help!

5 Common Signs That Your Car Radiator Is Failing

Knowing the signs of radiator failure means you can find radiator repair in Santa Fe, NM, all the sooner. 

1. Overheating Engine

Perhaps the most recognizable sign of a failing radiator is an overheating engine. If the radiator can't circulate the coolant for whatever reason, be it cracked radiator hoses, blocked ventilator fins, or a faulty thermostat, you won't be able to keep your engine cool.

2. Spots Of Rust Or Corrosion

Rust can build up as a radiator ages, especially if there's a faulty water pump. The water pump circulates coolant throughout the engine block. If there's a small coolant leak, rust can build up on the pump, obstructing the coolant's path.  

3. Oddly Colored Coolant Fluid

The coolant that circulates your engine is commonly yellow or green, and sometimes pink or red. If sludge deposits have built up in your radiator, the coolant may take on more of a rusty color--you may even mistake it for oil. Check your coolant overflow tank for thick or discolored coolant. Also, keep an eye on your coolant level to get an idea of if it's leaking or not.

4. Faulty Passenger Heater

We all know how life-saving a toasty heater can be on a cold winter's day. Did you know that that heat comes from the hot coolant passing through your engine? That hot air then gets blown into your car. If your radiator is malfunctioning, you may not feel as much heat as you'd like.

5. Damaged Core

The most essential part of any radiator is the core which is made from copper. Although aluminum cores are growing in popularity, copper does an excellent job at conducting heat. If the core gets damaged or cracked, the radiator won’t be able to do its job correctly.

The radiator is one of the most critical parts of your vehicle and needs to be regularly maintained for you to get the best performance from your engine. Recognizing the signs of a malfunctioning radiator can save you from needing expensive repairs. 

Visit MasterTech today and let a professional mechanic give your radiator the special attention it needs. Whether you need a radiator repair or an all-over checkup, our experts can get you road-ready in no time!

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