Although it's a relatively common problem, a leaking radiator can leave you stranded if your vehicle overheats. Knowing the signs of a leaking radiator will help to protect your investment and keep you and your passengers safe. Take it a step further and keep up-to-date on your vehicle maintenance to avoid the major pitfalls that occur when automotive problems are ignored.
Radiator Leak Warning Signs:
1.Visible Leaking Fluid
An engine misfire is a sensation that you should instantly recognize. The engine will appear to stumble for a brief period of time and then regain its pace. The frequency of which this will occur depends on how serious your misfire problem is. This means the engine is not functioning as smoothly as it should because one or more spark plugs are not firing properly. Misfiring will cause increased exhaust emissions, reduced fuel economy and reduced engine power.
A single misfiring spark plug can dump enough raw fuel into the exhaust to overheat and damage the catalytic converter. Higher than normal levels of unburned gasoline in your vehicles exhaust will cause the operating temperature of the converter to soar. This could lead to a partial meltdown of the converter substrate. In turn this may form a partial restriction or a complete blockage in the exhaust. Replacing the converter should solve the blockage problem, however unless the spark plugs are replaced the new converter could soon fail. This is just one example of a problem that can result from a serious misfire condition.
2.Dropping Coolant Level, Rising Temperature Gauge
A quick drop in your vehicle's coolant reservoir level can generally be a good indication that your radiator is leaking. As the coolant level in the radiator normally rises and falls with engine temperature, small changes or drops in the reservoir level are not unusual, however, a drastic drop is typically a sign of leakage. If you think there may be a leak, fill the coolant reservoir and check the level after several days of normal driving. If you notice your temperature gauge rising or experience frequent engine overheating it's probably time to take action in order to avoid major damage.
3.Examine Parts and Hoses
Rust and discoloration on your radiator and the surrounding engine components is also a sign that your radiator may be leaking. Radiator hoses and clamps are also subject to normal wear and damage and should be washed and inspected to find possible cracks and leaks.
4.Fixing a Radiator Leak
After identifying the leak and allowing the radiator to cool, plug the leak with a leak repair product, but it is important to remember that this fix is temporary. Always replace the leaking part or get your vehicle to a repair shop as soon as possible.
5.Lack of Preventative Maintenance
If you have not been following your owner's manual recommendations and getting regular coolant flushes, that may be the cause of your leak. Regular radiator coolant exchanges are necessary to prevent coolant souring. Once coolant sours, it becomes acidic and therefore more conductive. Your coolant system can actually conduct energy when the dissimilar metals (such as aluminum, iron, steel, brass, or copper) join together to create a unique electrical energy, and have an effect similar to your car battery. If electrolysis occurs, your coolant will begin to eat the soft aluminum of your radiator away, causing it to become more porous and leak.