Repair a leaking Radiator
A radiator repair cost is nothing compared to the cost of repairing your engine. The radiator is a key component of your cooling system and is responsible for keeping your engine cool enough to run properly. Overheating can cause your engine to seize-up and stop working. If any part of your radiator starts to leak or there is an internal or external radiator blockage, then overheating can occur. Overheating your engine can lead to a blown head gasket or a blown engine. Radiator repairs are more cost effective than the cost of a used radiator and purchasing a new replacement radiator. Not all radiator leaks are repairable but it is always worth considering repairing your radiator. In a situation where your radiator has been hit by a stone or maybe your just need a system flush. Sometimes a DIY radiator repair is easy to do but most of the time it is not. In any case, if you have your radiator repair done by a mechanic or at home in your own garage, always double check the work for a week or so. Many times a leak repair will not hold and at time when you fix one leak another may show up. Always watch your coolant level, watch your gauge and check the repair, always.
Should you Repair your Radiator?
Before deciding on what repairs need to be made, determine where the leak is at and what may have caused it. At times radiator leaks are easy to see and at times it is impossible. If you have a corner leak take it into a shop or just replace the radiator. Radiator corner leaks are very hard to repair correctly. If your looking for the location of the leak check under your vehicle for pools of coolant, which is a thick colorful liquid, and toxic. The leak will usually be right above the spot on the ground so work your way up until you find the leak. You can also Listen for a hissing sound, meaning coolant may be spraying from a radiator or hose. Finally, check the temperature gauge on your dashboard to see if the temperature needle is fluctuating, or higher than normal indicating a leak.
Sometimes, finding the leak can be as simple as popping the hood and looking. Look for liquid pooling anywhere, or feel around for wet spots, but make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after, as coolant is toxic. Once you have found the culprit, determine how large it is. Pinhole leaks, small cracks or holes can all be fixed with repair kits, large cracks and holes or corrosion probably mean more out of your pocket: as in a new radiator replacement.
The cheapest and quickest repair option by far is leak sealant; also known as “Stop Leak” or “Bar’s Leak”. Radiator leak sealant is not meant to be a long term fix, but can be great in a pinch. If there are any pinhole leaks in your hoses, radiator, or any other part of the cooling system, they can be quickly stopped with radiator repair stop leak. Costs are cheap, usually just a few dollars, depending on the brand and where you it buy from. The best part about stop leak is that it requires little to no work or time. A mechanic is not required, either. All that needs to be done is pouring stop leak into your radiator’s cooling system, and allowing the engine to run for a few minutes to cycle through the cooling system.
If the issue is with a hose, duct tape can be placed around the hose for a quick fix, until you can replace the hose. Hoses (along with belts) should be replaced more often than other parts, and can never be repaired. If a hose or belt is bad you need to replace it, not try to repair it. Replace your hose and belts at least every 5 years or less. If the belt or hose seems to be working ok you need to still replace it. But always keep good used hoses and belts in your emergency kit when you travel just in case you need one. A new hose will usually never cost more than $50 bucks, and it is well worth the cost. Radiator caps are another common failure in coolant systems, and are best if replaced. You do not repair a radiator cap. Radiator caps can be purchased for around $10, and if you are not sure if yours is good just replace it.
If the radiator leak lies on the radiator itself, cost can vary widely. For plastic repair kits, prices can be as low as $10 for simple epoxy, or over $50 for kits that include drills, cloths, and other tools. While all these are cheaper than a new radiator, effectiveness can also vary, leaving you to decide what’s better for your situation. These kits are fairly simple to use, and do not usually require a mechanic. It can as little as a couple of hours to do, even for someone who is inexperienced. Some kits require epoxy to set for a few hours or overnight to harden and properly seal. The key to any radiator repair is a very clean and dry repair location.
So What is the Cost to Repair a Radiator?
If the leak is on a metal radiator or a plastic radiator, you the cost will be close to the same. While there are radiator leak kits that allow you to perform a radiator patch, on both styles of radiators, the cost will range between $10 to near $100 for a kit, some will argue that a true patch can not be made without welding or soldering. This poses a problem for someone with little or no experience, or without the appropriate tools. While you could spend a few hundred dollars to buy a welding kit, it would be cheaper to have a mechanic repair your radiator, or buy a new radiator outright. If you do have the tools, however, this can be done with your own materials at little cost if the leak is not a corrosion issue. Depending on where the leak is, a mechanic will charge between $200-$1000 including labor to repair your radiator or get you a new replacement radiator. If the leak is harder to get to, it will take more time, and more labor costs. Some vehicle have radiators that can take a half a day or more just to remove.
Water pumps leak all the time and fans can fail and cause leaks. In cases like these the parts can not be repaired, and will need to be replaced. If you have an electric fan your motor may be bad and a fan motor replacement cost less than total replacement of the whole fan system. Motors for fans are usually between $20-$100 bucks, and if you choose to not do it yourself, you are looking at a couple hundred dollars worth of labor from your mechanic.
All-in-all, repairs can save a lot of money, if repairing is the best option for you. It is important to decide whether you want to risk repair failure over replacing in the first place. Usually, however, repairs can safely be made – if not by you, by a mechanic – for cheaper than replacement. The key to any repair is to look at what needs to be repaired and see if you can do the work or are you better off with a new replacement radiator or a take the radiator repair cost into consideration.