Although most people have heard of a radiator, they may not be aware of its purpose or importance. In the simplest terms, the radiator is the central component of a vehicle’s cooling system. Its primary function is to monitor and regulate a vehicle’s engine’s temperature and prevent it from overheating.
A radiator helps to eliminate excess heat from the engine. It is part of the engine’s cooling system, which also includes a liquid coolant, hoses to circulate the coolant, a fan, and a thermostat that monitors the coolant temperature. The coolant travels through the hoses from the radiator, through the engine to absorb the excess engine heat, and back to the radiator.
What Are the Signs of a Bad Radiator?
A radiator that has been damaged will often spring a leak. In addition, a bad radiator can cause the engine to overheat. This is because the hot coolant that runs throughout the engine block goes to the radiator to cool down. Certainly, a leaky radiator is a problem, but that’s not the only thing that might be wrong with the radiator.
Can I Fix a Leaky Radiator with a DIY Solution?
At auto parts shops, you may find solutions designed to seal leaky radiators without the expense of a complete replacement. However, these can cause just as many problems as a leak. The coolant moves through small channels in the radiator, and these DIY solutions can settle into these very same channels. When this happens, your radiator may get clogged.
Inspect Your Hoses Before You Buy Parts
If your radiator is old enough to be leaking, it is likely that the hoses are also getting brittle or are cracked. It may seem like an added expense, but imagine if you skip replacing the hoses, and then they burst. Your engine and the new radiator could be damaged, costing far more in repairs than anticipated.
Fins Per Square Inch are Your Best Performance Indicator
With improved technology and new material, your replacement radiator will likely outperform the old one. If you are looking to boost your horsepower and improve your time down the line, look for a radiator with more than 14 fins per square inch. More fins equal more surface area which helps to provide more cooling efficiency for the engine. Most factory-installed radiators contain between 8 and 14 fins per square inch.
Can a Radiator Be Repaired, Or Does It Need To Be Replaced?
If the radiator itself is indeed to blame, it’s generally best to replace it entirely. There are times when you can have the radiator core replaced rather than the entire unit. However, this is usually a better option for older vehicles that may not have a new radiator unit readily available.
Mechanically, replacing a radiator is one of the simpler car repairs that a novice is able to tackle without too much assistance. However, it is important to heed all the radiator replacement advice available. When you take your time and double-check your parts, you will have the old one out and the new one installed in short order.