Signs You Might Have a Leaking Radiator

leaking radiator

Can you recognize the signs you might have a leaking radiator? A leaking radiator will put you on the fast track to a breakdown and understanding some basic signs is key to preventing that on the road emergency.

Warning Signs of a Radiator Leak

Safety Note

Always take care when checking your car cooling system. The fluids are very hot and you can seriously hurt yourself. A hot engine should NEVER be touched by anyone other than a skilled mechanic. Never remove a radiator cap on a hot vehicle.

Temperature Gauge Rising

While driving, always keep an eye on your gauges. It is important to watch what is going on with your vehicle at all times. Your temperature gauge should be somewhere in the middle or a little above that. Every vehicle reads a little different so check your gauge once in a while and know where the normal range is for your vehicle. If your engine starts to overheat, the needle will move up. Once you notice a rise over normal you need to get off the road and check your system.  If the needle gets into the red you will need to immediately stop and let your vehicle cool down before inspecting your cooling system. If your car is running hot do not drive it until you get it serviced. Some vehicles do not have a gauge but only a red warning light to tell you the vehicle is running hot. This red light only comes on when the vehicle is already overheated. You will need to shut off the car as soon as possible when you see this warning light and do not keep driving your vehicle.

No Heat or Intermittent Heat

When you have a cooling system leak an early sign may be the lack of heat in your vehicle. Since your heater core is high up in the cooling system a drop in your coolant level can prevent coolant from reaching the heater core. If you don’t have heat check your fluid level and if low have your system checked for leaks. Having a plugged up heater will also prevent heat in your vehicle and may mean you have to flush your cooling system or replace your heater. This is especially true if you had to repair your radiator and have ever added stop leak to your cooling system.

Steam Coming from Engine Area

Your cooling system is under pressure and if your radiator leaks, no matter how small, you are very likely to see steam coming from your engine area. If you do see steam your system is already overheated and you should let it cool down completely before attempting any service on it.

Puddle of Fluid Under Car

Liquid under your vehicle is a common sign that there is a leak somewhere on your radiator, or maybe you have a leaking radiator hose. With a radiator coolant leak the liquid will usually be bright green depending on what kind of antifreeze you are using. The coolant is a hazardous material, so it is important to properly clean any leaked fluid and keep pets away from it.

Low Coolant levels in Reservoir

If you suspect a leak, but do not see any fluid under your vehicle, you will want to check your radiator’s reservoir tank. The reservoir is an easy place to check your coolant levels. You will find two lines on the reservoir, one showing a cold level and one a hot level. If your levels are not correct you will need to add coolant. If levels are significantly lower than they should be it’s likely that there is a leak somewhere in the cooling system. Have your vehicle checked.

Sweet Smell Coming from Engine Area

Antifreeze has a very sweet smell to it. If you sense a sweet smell coming from your car, it’s probably a coolant leak. It is a very distinct smell and if you detect an antifreeze smell get off the road to a garage as soon as possible. Have your system checked, looking for a leaking radiator, leaking hoses and if not one of those then you will have to check the whole cooling system.

There are many more things that can go wrong with your cooling system. The above examples of cooling system leaks are very common and it is important to know the signs you might have a leaking radiator.

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