Aluminum Radiator Repair can be very Difficult
Aluminum radiator repair is not as easy as repairing a copper brass radiator. Most copper and brass radiators just need a clean surface and some solder to repair. But with an aluminum radiator repair you are looking at gaskets, epoxy, aluminum welding, plastics of different types, nylon and crimping tools. There are probably millions of aluminum radiators leaking in vehicles all across American as you read this. Aluminum is one of the more common materials used in automotive radiators today. Aluminum radiators are strong and light, they do not corrode or plug up like copper and brass radiators and aluminum dissipates heat efficiently. Aluminum radiators are also stronger and lighter than copper and brass radiators. Aluminum radiators can utilize a thinner core, with wider tubes, allowing for better air and coolant flow through the radiator.
Plastic Tank Radiator
An aluminum radiator is also called a plastic tank radiator. The plastic tanks are crimped onto the aluminum core utilizing a gasket to complete the seal. One of the advantages of using plastic tanks is that the connections, brackets, and the filler neck can all be formed onto the tank during the molding process. This eliminates the need for soldering everything together like on a copper brass radiator. Plastic radiator tanks are made of a special mix of nylon, glass and polymers that produce a very durable material that can withstand the intense heat generated by your engine. Many times when you are talking about an aluminum radiator repair you are really talking about a plastic tank leak repair.
Aluminum Radiator Repair and Leak Procedures
Radiators made with aluminum can fail just like copper and brass radiators fail. We will go over a few basic maintenance steps you need to take to help prevent aluminum radiator leaks in your vehicle. We will then cover a few procedures you can follow to help perform an aluminum radiator repair if a leak does develop.
Change Your Coolant
As with any radiator, it is important to change your coolant according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Coolant can look and seem ok well past its prime, and the protective additives can wear out over time. Not changing your antifreeze when called for is one of the main causes of radiator leaks in both aluminum radiators and copper radiators.
Low Coolant Level
It is important to keep your cooling system full. Watching your gauges can help you understand what is going on with your vehicle. If a gauge shows your running hot and then moves to the normal range, and then gets hot again, you may have a defective thermostat or your fluid level may be low. Low coolant can create an air pocket or bubble in your cooling system leading to overheating and severe damage. Always be aware of what your gauges are showing you and check your cooling system and fluid levels often.
Many aluminum radiators have an epoxy seal around the tubes where the tubes enter the header. At times, this epoxy can crack or lift off the header allowing a leak to develop. In cases like this, the radiator should probably be replaced. Stopping a radiator epoxy leak that is a tube to header leak is very difficult. If it’s a small seeping leak, you could try aluminum stop leak for a temporary fix.
Plastic Tank Crack
A radiator plastic tank crack is very common, and the most likely place for a crack to occur is at the back of the inlet tank right behind the hose connection coming to the radiator from the engine. The inlet tank is the hottest spot on your radiator, and the constant heat hitting the back of the tank can cause the plastic to weaken and crack. If you’re a DIY guy, a radiator crack repair at this location probably should not be attempted. Changing the tank or getting a complete replacement radiator is your best bet. You can repair plastic tanks as seen in this video, but this is one spot that is the hardest to repair.
Radiator Gasket Leak
There is a gasket, where the plastic tank sits on the aluminum core. The radiator tank is crimped onto this gasket and at times coolant can seep out. This type of aluminum radiator leak is common, and you can try a little stop leak and see if that helps. If the stop leak does not fix the leaky radiator, you can try a DIY Repair with a pair of vice grips. The key here is not to over tighten the crimp as that could make the leak worse. Make sure you have even pressure all along the tank and set the vice grip at a certain gap and keep it the same all the way around the tank. Put the vice grip on the crimp and squeeze shut, pushing down on the plastic tank. This should set the tank properly on the gasket. Check out this video on Plastic tank radiator repair.
Aluminum Radiator Repair with Epoxy
A clean hole in an aluminum radiator is something you can fix if done right. There are a lot of different ways you can attempt this repair. You can try JB weld, super alloy 1, aluminum radiator repair epoxy, soldering aluminum radiator material, and many others. Follow directions and make sure everything is clean and dry before attempting a repair. Check out this link to Muggy welding.
Cooling System Electrolysis
Another enemy of the cooling system is electrolysis, which is an electrical current running through your cooling system that can eat up the metal. It is important to make sure your system is grounded properly and if not your metal radiator can just melt away. A radiator replacement cost will be a total loss if the electrolysis is not fixed before installing the new radiator. A radiator can have electrolysis damage within days and could be junk within a week if not addressed. If you have an aluminum radiator, that is melting or seemingly being eaten away, check for electrolysis.
Aluminum radiators, like copper and brass radiators, can be hard to repair. Many mechanics, when faced with a leaky radiator, will not even attempt to repair it. The bad part about this is a radiator repair cost can be a lot less than the cost of a new replacement radiator. At many repair garages, a radiator repair just means selling you a new replacement radiator. Try to check out a true radiator repair shop before you get a complete new radiator replacement cost from the local repair shop or part store. Remember, while aluminum radiator repair can be difficult, it can be done properly if taken to a true radiator repair shop.