The maintenance of our radiator

Car radiator maintenance: cleaning inside and out and repair

The radiator of our car is a fundamental piece of its proper functioning. Without it, something as vital as engine cooling could not be maintained and would soon be irreparably damaged. But what we must not forget is that the radiator is only one of the components of the cooling system. It is a circuit full of pieces and nooks where dirt can accumulate. That is why, in this article, we are going to show you how to keep the radiator in perfect condition and how to clean it along with the entire circuit.

With the passage of time, the radiator of a car begins to lose cooling capacity due to accumulated dirt inside and out. The inside prevents heat from being properly transmitted from the antifreeze to the radiator, in addition to hindering or preventing the circulation of the liquid. The external dirt prevents the air from coming into contact with the radiator to lower its temperature.

Clean the radiator on the outside

Clean car radiator outside for maintenance

The first step is simple and should be done periodically . Especially when we circulate in areas with a lot of dust, mud or insects . It never hurts to hit the pressure hose when we go to wash the car. First with the soaping program and, after a few minutes of waiting, with the rinsing program. The time it takes to soak the rest of the car will suffice. What you should never do is use the program of hot wax, polish or any other function offered by the washing center you are in, because they leave remains.

If you want to do it meticulously

strong>, the process can be a bit complicated. In most models you will have to dismantle the front bumper , to leave the radiator exposed. You can greatly facilitate the huge amount of tutorials that are on YouTube to disassemble this piece of almost any model. Here is an example:

Once you have left the radiator on the air, you should use a brush with soap and water > to make it very clean. If you have left some rest, such as insects or some stone, you will probably have to pry it out. In these cases, do not use any metal and be careful not to damage the aluminum sheets. Then rinse it well with water under pressure.

When to clean the radiator inside?

As well as other parts of our engine the radiator requires periodic maintenance . A period of two or three years is adequate for cleaning. In addition, changing antifreeze is also recommended, not because it loses its properties against freezing or as a refrigerant. What can happen is that the compounds that prevent the corrosion of the pieces lose effectiveness and the circuit deteriorates over time.

Antifreeze G12

If you notice, there are antifreeze that have the G12 code on the package. It is an organic antifreeze of much higher quality than synthetics. Among the advantages it has is that it takes much longer to lose its properties than the rest. Therefore, you do not have to change it as often.Normally they are thrown into the cooling system and the engine is heated so that the thermostat opens and antifreeze flows through the entire system. This step is optional , because although they can help to get rid of dirt, it does not have to be necessary. We do not give you precise instructions on how to use it because they come in the container itself.

Step 2 - Cold engine

To start with cleaning and maintenance tasks we must ensure that the engine is cold. When hot, the pressure and temperature inside the circuit can cause it to splash when we uncover its input.

Step 3 - Empty the circuit

To empty the radiator and the rest of the cooling system, you have to access the bottom of the car . There we will find a kind of stopper or key that allows the opening and draining of antifreeze. Otherwise, the hose with the radiator must be removed in its lowest part. If you remove another one that is in the upper part, the circuit will not empty completely.

Open cap, key or sleeve to drain antifreeze from the radiator

Step 4 - Recycled

The coolant is highly toxic , especially non-organic ones like the G12. So it is recommended that you use a container to store and dispose of it in a recycling center, without having any contact with animals or children in the process.

Step 5 - Rinse

Once the radiator is completely empty , place a hose in the expansion or opening cup of the radiator and let the water with all the pressure you can without splashing. In the article on How to clean the engine, what can be done and what can not, we tell you what can be the consequences of wetting what is not due in the vain.

The plug, key or sleeve must be open so that the water comes out of it. Apply plenty of water until you see that it comes out completely clear. If it is hot, better than better.

Radiator dirty inside View of expansion vessel in maintenance.

Step 6 - Fill with distilled water

The next step to do it perfectly is to fill the circuit with distilled water, close and start the engine to warm up again . Do not forget to turn on the heating at its maximum temperature and the fan to the minimum so that the secondary circuit also opens. The heaters usually work thanks to the heat of the engine, by means of a small system that receives the hot antifreeze liquid.

After this, again wait for it to cool a little so that Do not splash when you open the expansion vessel. Also open the cap, key or sleeve on the bottom of the radiator to get all the distilled water out. Now your radiator is well cleaned.

Clean classic car radiator

Step 7 - Fill with new antifreeze

Close the cap, key or radiator hose and fill it little by little with coolant . There are also people who use distilled water again to replace it. An alternative that manufacturers strongly discourage. Liquids have all the additives needed to take care of the system.The price of an antifreeze is very low, so it is not worth risking to save a few euros every few years.

Important notice: no mix antifreeze types

We have mentioned the G12 organic antifreeze before. Well, if your car indicates that you have to use that type, do not use another one. It is always indicated in the expansion vessel, in a place of easy visibility.

Antifreeze G12, use antifreeze correct

Step 8 - Bleeding the antifreeze

Do not think you've finished with just throwing the antifreeze on the expansion vessel. As the cooling circuit turns and passes through complex components there will always be some air . Normally you have to open the lid of the vessel and start the engine up to the operating temperature so that the thermostat opens. Thus, the motor that moves the liquid will expel the air through the expander and we can pour the liquid until the indicated level is reached.

However, the purging process may not be so simple . There are models of all types, for which you have to do different tasks. That's why we recommend you visit the article How to purge the antifreeze from the cooling circuit. There we explain in more detail this process.

Step 9 - Change cap (Optional)

The radiator cap is an element that there is no need to despise in the maintenance of the car. Normally it is not necessary to replace it, since only in very old cars it may not fit well when replacing it. The passage of time and constant temperature changes can deform or crack it. In the rest of the cases it will be enough to use a hose to remove the dirt.

Fissure in the radiator of the car

Correct level of antifreeze in car radiator maintenance.

Your car may lose antifreeze somewhere. In these cases there are products to cover the fissures that the system has. It is a liquid that coagulates with contact with oxygen and prevents liquid from escaping through these small openings. Although it is usually called permanent sealant or permanent leak cap , it is a temporary solution with which you can continue to circulate for some time until they reopen.

Some good examples of this product are Wynn's or Liqui Moly's. As you can see, they have different names: leaktight, sealant or waterproofing, but in essence they are the same type of product and they work in the same way.

You can try this product if the leaks are very small , but if the antifreeze comes out in abundance, you will have to repair it properly. The loss of liquid can be by the radiator itself or by some sleeve of the cooling circuit. The normal thing is that you have to take it to the workshop. There you will make sure that this important element of your car is fully operational. If not, there may come a day when you miss the temperature warning during a trip and you're lying on the road.

What if I stay? without antifreeze?

Car with broken radiator picked up by crane

Although commonly called antifreeze, in fact its main function is to cool the engine .It is usually indicated in the expansion vessel of the system. The indication is half hidden by the sleeves and other conduits of the engine, but you can see it if you dig a little.

If the problem is that you are losing antifreeze it is normal that directly you see the liquid. If the motor's warning has jumped, it is that the loss is serious, not just a little. In this case the best thing you can do is to stop as soon as possible, respecting the rules of road safety and call the tow truck to take your car to a workshop.

Arrangement provisional in case of emergency (not recommended)

Old refrigeration system: radiator, expansion vessel.

If for whatever reason you need to get somewhere urgently and you can not stop much. The best thing you can do is raise a hood and take a look in case you are lucky and the leak is in a visible place. If so, use insulating tape to cover the leak and fill the expander until it reaches the level. Remember that it is recommended that you wait for the engine to cool , so you do not splash the hot liquid when you open the glass.

Purge the system by reheating the engine with the Open cup to take out the air. Also, this way you will be sure if what you have used to temporarily cover the leak is holding. When all the air has been filled with more antifreeze until it reaches the level.

Malfunction due to loss of antifreeze

This provisional arrangement is not recommended and you run the risk that your engine will suffer very expensive damage to repair. When an engine overheats, many of its parts are deformed and parts like the cylinder head, the manifolds and the turbo among others can lose their tightness. Very expensive faults to fix.

For example, if the stock or its joints break down you can find the typical mixture of oil and antifreeze in the expansion vessel. A breakdown that involves very high costs because they require fixing or changing the cylinder head and/or its joints and cleaning the entire cooling system in depth. The same process that we have explained to you above, but with the extra difficulty of having to remove oil. All this added many hours of workshop that swell the bill.

If you want to know more about the maintenance of your car we recommend Current Motor articles:

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  • How to clean the engine car: what to do and what not to do
  • Let's take care of our car's turbo
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