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Signs and Symptoms of Radiator Leaks

You hear all the time the importance of your radiator in your car, it acts as a cooling unit for your engine and allows hot coolant to pass through it and lower the temperature of the engine to avoid overheating and potential damages and issues. When there’s a problem with the radiator, it can have catastrophic effects on your entire car, rendering it with either expensive to fix damages or possibly even a total loss beyond any repairs. Fortunately, there are a lot of signs to look for that signal a leak in your car’s radiator and knowing them when you see them and having them diagnosed and repaired quickly by a professional technician could mean the difference between saving your car or shopping for a new one on the weekend. Here are some of the most common symptoms that your radiator is leaking and needs to be repaired immediately.

Car Radiator Replacement

  • Frequent Engine Overheating– If you notice your engine temperature continually spiking into the red and staying exceedingly high, then this can signal a leaking radiator. It’s the radiator’s job to prevent the engine from overheating so if coolant is leaking out, then there’s no chance it can cool the engine down at all.
  • Visible Leaking– A bit of a no brainer but before jumping to any conclusions is to be sure to check under the car to see if any fluids are leaking into the street or driveway. Coolant is typically a neon color, usually green, orange or pink and will smell sweet. If your engine is still warm, a radiator leak may cause steam from wherever there is a leak.
  • Drop In Coolant Levels– Even if there isn’t a radiator leak, over time the coolant levels in your car will drop. This is why coolant should be replaced as needed, however, if you see a drastic drop in your coolant levels and there are no other visible signs of a leak then take your car in to a professional service center and have them check to ensure that the radiator is actually leaking.
  • Corrosion and Discoloration– If coolant is leaking out onto the radiator, this can cause a discoloration as buildup occurs. Check under the radiator for any signs of discoloration, as this is the most common place it will occur. Also clean the engine and check surrounding parts for discolorations or dried coolants. You can also check the radiator and hoses for corrosion after cleaning them thoroughly, if there’s a leak in one of the hoses, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to repair while an actual leaking radiator will be a much more involved process.
  • Damaged Radiator Hoses– Just as likely to cause a leak as a damaged radiator, the hoses will wear out over time. Whether the radiator hose is actually damaged and worn out or just loose, it’s important to check the condition of all of your vehicle’s hoses so that you can replace and repair them as needed if you find any splits, cracks or bulges.
  • Sludge in the Radiator– While this isn’t a sign of a leak in the radiator, it is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately should you notice it. If you see sludge in the radiator as opposed to standard coolant, this is because contaminants in the engine are making the coolant rusty or discolored. As it builds up more and more, the fluid will not drain properly and will stay in the radiator. If you or your auto mechanic notice sludge in the radiator, it needs to be replaced immediately or else you may seriously damage your engine and transmission.

Cooling Car Engine

Don’t drive with a leak in the radiator

If your vehicle is showing any of these signs or symptoms that the radiator is leaking, then it’s important to have them checked out and repaired by a mechanic as soon as possible. Driving with a leak in the radiator is extremely ill advised as you’ll need to constantly replenish coolant to avoid engine overheating and you run the risk of making the leak worse. Eventually, if you do drive with a leak long enough, your engine will break down on you, causing extensive damages and possibly rendering your vehicle unfixable. Knowing the signs of a leaking radiator is a great way to make sure your vehicle is kept as well-maintained as possible.