How to Find and Perform a Radiator Leak Repair

Finding Cooling System Leaks

Is your vehicle leaking antifreeze? Do you need a radiator leak repair or is it a hose? A radiator repair, rather than completely replacing the radiator, can save you a lot of money. Some simple radiator leak repairs can be done at home with a little research and the right tools. If you have a simple, clean hole you can follow these steps for repairing a radiator.

Determining if you Have Radiator Leak

There are several different ways to find out if your radiator is leaking or is it a hose or gasket. Look under the vehicle, on the ground for a pool of thick liquid, usually colored green. This is a toxic substance, and should be disposed of correctly. Another way is to check the temperature gauge on your dashboard. The needle should remain somewhere in the middle. If the needle creeps higher than normal, it’s time to check it out. If the needle gets to the hot or red zone, immediately stop and turn off your vehicle and allow it to cool off. You can also find a radiator leak or a hose leak by opening your hood and listening for hissing in your engine area. You should also look for steam which could be coming from the cooling system leak. Steam and hissing could be a small radiator leak, causing liquid to spray out.

Determine the Severity of the Radiator Leak Repair Needed

If the crack or leak is small and manageable, repair is probably the best option for you. If there is a large crack or hole, replacement may be a better option. This will also help you decide what kinds of repair kits to purchase. For pinholes, stop leak may be your best option. If the hole is in the hoses, change the hose, but if you are on the road duct tape can help you get to the next stop to replace the hose. Please note that duct tape is a last resort and only to get to the next service area.

Radiator Leak Repair

Before starting any radiator leak repair make sure you gather all supplies you may need before beginning. Sometimes a simple repair kit is all you will need, especially if stop leak is being used. If draining is needed, be sure to have an appropriate drain pan. Gloves are a great way to keep any toxic liquid from touching your skin, and safety goggles can keep any spraying liquid or dirt from getting into your eyes. By gathering all supplies before starting the repair project, you will not have to stop in the middle to scramble together more tools.

Draining coolant from you vehicle is not a hard job. You can replace antifreeze from a radiator by opening the drain plug and allow all coolant to drain into an approved drain pan. Do not use a drain pan previously used for an oil change if you plan on reusing the coolant as this may contaminate the coolant. Be sure to dispose of old coolant properly. Some choose this time to rinse the system out, cleaning the inside. Allowing the radiator to dry for at least an hour will ensure a better repair. If you are going to solder a radiator or use a plastic resin to fix a leak, you must make sure the radiator is drained to below the area of the leak. It is usually best to remove a radiator for a radiator repair.

Removing a Radiator for a Radiator Repair

Disconnect all cables and hoses from radiator. Remove all nuts and bolts holding the radiator in place. Be extra careful if there are transmission oil lines as these are normally the biggest problem you will have in both removing and replacing the radiator. Now remove the radiator from the vehicle. It is important to ensure everything is properly disconnected, so more damage is not caused when pulling the radiator from the car.

To repair a radiator or Patch any leaks you will always need to clean the area you are going to work on. You can use a metal brush to clean the area down to bare metal. You will then need to make sure the radiator is dry both on the outside and the inside in the area of the leak. A clean dry area will ensure the solder or epoxy will adhere properly  to the metal itself, rather than being applied over dirt or grime, which will not hold and shortly cause more issues. If you are using stop leak follow the directions on the package. Do not take any short cuts when repairing a radiator. Not repairing a radiator properly might damage other parts of your cooling system and you could also seriously damage your vehicle’s engine if the repair fails on the road. Follow any instructions from start to finish, providing a complete and safe repair. In most cases you are better off having a radiator repair shop do this for you. Many DIY people can perform a radiator repair but it is not as simple as many make it sound. Trying to save money on a radiator repair may only wind up costing you more money.

Replacing a Radiator

To install a radiator and reconnect everything  after a radiator leak repair has been made is rather simple. All you have to do is be sure to reconnect all appropriate hoses and cables in reverse order as you did when removing the radiator.

Refill the radiator and fill the reserve tank with coolant to the fill cold line. Use a 50/50 mix of coolant and distilled water. Tap water has impurities that can cause buildup. You can buy distilled water, or boil tap water.

Bleeding air out of cooling system

Bleeding your cooling system helps keep your radiator running smoothly and will prevent overheating. After any repair or part replacement and after completely refilling your radiator, and before putting the radiator cap back on, turn your engine on and allow it to run for about 15 to 20 minutes until it gets hot. Wait until your thermostat opens and make sure your heater is turned on and on heat. You need to run your vehicle long enough to dispose of all the air pockets that may be trapped inside. Any air that escapes will cause the coolant to drop lower so you must add fluid until any trapped air has been removed. You may also find it necessary to top off your coolant to get it back up to appropriate levels after your first time driving the vehicle. Make sure you open any bleeder valves if you have them and after driving the vehicle for the first time double-check the coolant level when it cools down in case you missed an air pocket.

When finished with the radiator leak repair you will want to check back over everything before driving. After all repairs are made, take a short drive and watch for any signs of leaks you may have missed. Take note of the temperature gauge, listen for any hissing, and note any liquid coming from the engine. If all is well, just keep you eye on the radiator leak repair location and the whole system to make sure your cooling system repair holds.

Radiator Leak Repair