How to Deal with Clogged Radiator – Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention
Your dear car looks so sleek and pretty from outside, but on its inside, it is made up of some very intricate parts. No doubt, understanding each of these parts can be utterly difficult and this is why it is easier to visit a mechanic than to try and understand it. One of the most important parts of a car is its radiator and when it faces clogged radiator symptoms, your vehicle may experience other troubles as well.
So here I have brought for you a detailed guide on the clogged radiators, its symptoms, its causes, how to deal with a clogged radiator and how to prevent it to ensure the longevity of your vehicle.
But before we go into the technical details, let us start from the very basics:
What is the Radiator?
A radiator is one of the components in a vehicle which is also known as heat-exchanger. It is designed in a manner that it transfers heat from a hot coolant to the air blown through it by a fan.
In other words, a radiator is responsible for cooling a heated car so that the generated heat does not cause any trouble to the other components of the vehicle.
Nowadays, most of the radiators in cars are made up of aluminum.
Causes of Clogged Radiator:
A car radiator that is constantly in use may get clogged with time. However, the most common cause of clogged radiators is their old radiator fluid that has not been changed for long.
When you do not change the fluid for long or it tends to sit for a long period of time without the engine working, it causes rust and attracts sediments which block the fins and the hoses of the radiator.
However, you would be happy to know that a clogged radiator can be brought to life easily in a very short period of time and you do not need to visit a mechanic for this.
But first, let us know the kind of symptoms you would face in case your car radiator gets clogged.
Common Symptoms of a Blocked or Clogged Radiator:
Some of the most common symptoms of a blocked radiator are as follows:
High Temperature Readings:
As you know well enough, the major task of a radiator is to prevent the overheating of the engine and while it gets blocked, you would always experience a kind of overheating.
Many of the cars are capable of displaying the car temperature and you would notice this rise in temperature considerably more than the normal.
A point to note here is that not all overheating effects are caused due to a blocked radiator. However, if your car stays heated for a long period of time, this is probably due to a clogged radiator.
Due to rust build-up which causes the radiator to clog, the cooling fins or the hose of the radiator may develop tiny cracks or holes. Due to this, you may see the coolant getting leaked from the cracks and this appears on places where you drive the vehicle or park the car.
The radiator fluid is generally bright in color and has a consistency which allows it to flow easily through the component. But after a certain period of time, the color of the fluid gets degraded and it turns darker or muddier.
Besides, the fluid gets thicker and is not good enough to flow within a radiator.
You can check the consistency and the color of the radiator fluid and if it is not too good to go, you can change it as soon as possible. This decolorized fluid can always be a symptom of a clogged radiator.
Blocked Exterior Radiator Fins:
If you look at a radiator, you will see thin tubes running across the system and these tubes are designed to carry the hot coolant.
When these coolant tubes turn clogged due to dust, dirt, bugs, rust, leaves and other various reasons, the airflow in these gets blocked and the coolant is not able to cool the component as much as it needs to do. Though these tubes can easily get washed or flushed, you may need to get hold of the real troubles in the system.
Damaged or Bent Fins:
The airflow in the fins of the radiator can also be blocked when the fins get damaged or bent. Actually, these fins are very delicate in nature and even a tiny piece of gravel can lead to damage to the fins.
Besides, fins can also get damaged during installation or when you spray water on them using high pressure. When a number of fins get bent or damaged, this could lead to a clogged radiator and subsequently heating of the car engine.
Vehicle Heater Not Working:
If your car has a heater to keep you warm in the winters, this works when the hot coolant passes through the heater core and the hot air then gets blown into the vehicle with the help of a blower fan.
In case the radiator gets blocked, the hot coolant would not be able to make its way into the heater core and the vehicle heater would not be able to work properly.
Damaged Water Pump:
Due to a clogged radiator, the coolant gets prevented from flowing into the water pump. While there is no coolant to lubricate the metallic parts, the metal would start rubbing on the other metallic parts and this builds a kind of pressure. This pressure could easily damage the water pump.
How to Diagnose a Clogged Radiator:
Here are some of the steps which you can follow to diagnose a clogged radiator:
- Switch on your car and allow it to run for some time. When the car warms up a bit, touch the outside fins of the radiator with your hand. If the radiator heats up normally, it is in an optimal condition. However, if you feel hot and cold spots, this is due to the abnormal flow of the radiator fluid and it indicates a clogged radiator.
- Pull out the cap of the radiator and start the car. Clutch the radiator hose on the top and put pressure on it when it’s under zero pressure. Replace the radiator cap, run the engine to around 3000 RPM, and once again put pressure on the radiator hose. In case the radiator is clogged, the entire radiator fluid will be sent into the hose and you would not be able to put pressure on it.
- Try installing a new thermostat and hoses. If everything else functions well enough but the overheating persists still, these are definitely the symptoms of a clogged radiator.
- Remove the radiator cap and use a flashlight to check the inside portion of the car radiator. In case the fluid of the radiator appears muddy or smells like rubber or the radiator fins show a white, crusty deposition, these are the signs of a clogged radiator.
How to Get Rid of a Clogged Radiator:
We have seen the common causes, symptoms, and signs of a clogged radiator and now it is really important to know the methods to deal with the same without much effort.
Here are some of the steps that you can follow:
Allow the Engine to Cool Down Well Before Cleaning:
In case you ran the engine to check the symptoms, make sure you switch it off and allow it ample time to cool down before cleaning it. When the engine of the car is in operation, the coolant circulates from the engine to the cooling system. It flows through the tubes and flows back to the engine again.
If you try to clean a running or hot engine, the circulation of the coolant will meddle with the cleaning process. Besides, in case the engine is hot, the pressure inside the engine could lead to a spray of the coolant out of the radiator cap.
Use a Bucket to Catch the Debris:
While the engine gets cooled, you can put a bucket below the radiator which will catch all the waste that has been flushed out.
Use a Radiator Flush:
Once the car gets cooled, you can remove the radiator cap fill all the radiator tubes with a good radiator flush solution.
Let it Stay for Some Time:
Wait for at least 10 minutes after filling in the radiator flush solution. This time is required to allow the solution to flow thoroughly through the piping system and clean it well.
Flush the Solution Out:
Finally, flush the radiator solution out with the help of water. You can use a bucket of water or a hose to clean the interior pipes. However, ensure to be gentle with the water pressure.
The debris and the contaminants would get poured in the bucket placed beneath the radiator.
In this way, you can easily clean the clogged radiator in your car and thereby get rid of the troubles that occur due to it.
However, if you do not feel too confident about it, you can take the help of a good car mechanic who would help you achieve the desired outcomes without any efforts from your side.
How to Keep Your Car’s Radiator in a Good Condition:
A little bit of maintenance and precaution while operating your vehicle goes a long way in keeping your car hale and hearty. Here are some of the tips which you can follow to ensure that you keep away from clogged radiator troubles:
- Whenever you remove the radiator cap, make sure to replace it tightly. With this, you can ensure that the pressure inside the radiator is maintained properly. However, ensure to touch the radiator cap with caution as it can be really hot.
- Check the level of coolant/antifreeze regularly and ensure to maintain it at a proper level.
- Clean the radiator regularly. It is one of the most important parts of regular car maintenance.
- Make sure you change the coolant once every year. Flush the radiator fluid completely and refill it to maintain its powerful performance.
A clogged radiator in a car can easily bring a series of troubles with itself. However, if you keep track of the signs of this trouble and take proper action to clean the system, you can keep your car absolutely trouble-free.
Besides, while you cannot identify the troubles yourself or cannot deal with them, make sure you contact a good car mechanic and get their assistance in the process.