Radiator Leak Indication

Radiator leaks are announcing a more critical engine problem in the future, and you should never postpone the fixing. The engine coolant keeps the temperature of the operating engine in the most efficient range and fuel consumed.

Why is the temp of the engine critical?

If the engine is too cold, the fuel isn’t going to vaporize easy, leading to more fuel consumption and poor performance of the engine.

By the contrary, if the engine is too hot, the fuel could combust and not spark, possibly damaging the engine for good. Too much heat can also deform the engine, ruining it beyond repair.

A leaking radiator is an indication of a serious issue, no matter the type of vehicle we’re talking about. It’s quite tempting to keep on adding coolant to the top-up line, keep on driving.

However, you should never take the change with a leaking radiator but rather address the problem and solve it asap.

One reminder- what is the engine coolant?

Engine coolant is formulated with a lot of water and ethylene glycol or propylene glycol, but also various additives (lubricants, dyes, and rust inhibitors).

Water typically freezes at 32F degrees and boils at 212 F degrees, which is why you cannot use it as it is for the engine. Should you use a 16-psi pressure cap, pure water is going to boil at 252F degrees. It could work for a warm climate, but it’s going to freeze at night in the winter time.

The glycols are going to expand the liquid temperature range of water, reducing the risk for freezing and boiling when the temperatures are really high or really low. The 50/50 water/coolant combo is going to lower the freezing point to -35F degrees, and increase the boiling point to 223 F degrees. If the proportion is 30/70, the dropping freezing point goes as low as -67F degrees, with the boiling point raising to 235F degrees. Some name the combo an anti-freeze solution, but it’s only the impact of the engine coolant operation. The pressure can also increase the boiling point, and takes as high as 267F degree for a 50/50 combination.

How do you know that the radiator is leaking?

It’s normal for a new engine to maintain the coolant in the radiator, but also the coolant passages and the hoses. Wear, corrosion, damage, and various problems may lead to coolant leaks.

Here are the signs that should make you take a closer look at your car and even take it to the mechanic:

  • Obvious coolant leak

A puddle on the ground or any coolant smelling in your car mean that the refrigerant is leaking. You shouldn’t postpone the repairing as you want to reduce the damage on your engine.

Pink, green, red, or blue puddle under your car/inside the car too are alarming signs. The slimy looking fluid is a sure sign that the radiator is leaking. Besides, the liquid is tocks and harmful for your health, so make sure you clean the puddle as soon as possible. It’s also essential that you dispose of the fluid correctly so that no humans or animals could touch it.

  • Bubbling radiator

If you see bubbles in the radiator or the coolant overflow tank, it’s expected for the combustion gases to be forced to get into the cooling system. It’s also a sign of radiator leak, but cracks in the head/head gasket and the engine may cause it as well.

  • White smoke

If there’s white smoke coming out of the exhaust, even after you’ve just warmed up the car, it could be an internal engine leak (a cylinder head or head gasket failing or a cracked block). The coolant may be forced going into the cylinder by the pressure. It may steaming the cylinder fires anytime.

  • Lower coolant level

With the coolant being the fluid that flows in the radiator for absorbing the excess heat energy caused by the engine, it’s perfectly normal to worry when it’s not doing good. It’s expected for the coolant level to drop in time when you use the vehicle. It’s why you should add coolant the moment the level drops. As you add the coolant, you may also protect the car from damage. When the coolant level drops to alarming value, a radiator leak is a leading cause nine times out of ten. It means that there is an unusual discharge of coolant.

  • The engine overheats

When the coolant is leaking, the air takes its place. We know that air is compressible, the boiling point is going to get lower, which is why some of the coolants flash into steam. Air and vapor are effective insulators, helping the cooling system not to expel excess heat. As the temperature gauge gets closer to the red zone (a temperature warning light could also inform you), the chances are that the radiator is leaking, even if there are no other visible signs.

  • Corrosion/discoloration

Leaking coolant is going to lead to discoloration of the radiator. A leaking radiator is going to cause corrosion soon enough. Take a look at the radiator and look for any signs of discoloration. Now that you’re under the hood, you should also check the engine parts nearby. You should do it when the engine is clean. Use water for cleaning both the radiator and the hoses. Start the engine and look for any signs of leakage. You may notice a leak in a hose (it’s rather easy to fix). When the leak is in the radiator, the fixing is a lot more challenging.

  • Damaged radiator hoses

The hoses connecting to the radiator are going to take the use only for a limited time. The same thing goes for the connecting clamps as the engine vibrations loosen them in time.

Loose connections and worn out radiator hoses are causing radiator leaking. Stay on the safe side and check the tubes and the connection any now and then. You may be ahead of leaking like so. Repair any crack, split, or bulges on the tubes.

What can you do when the radiator leaks?

Identifying and fixing the leak seems like the most obvious solution, but it’s not always easy to find the hole. Here are some of the things to try when you assume that the radiator is leaking:

  • Replace the broken hoses

As previously mentioned, the rubber hoses and the heater hoses are going to wear down. A bursting tube is going to release all the engine’s coolant and replacing it is rather easy. Search for a good quality hose, some hose clamps and remember to clean the sealing surfaces before installing the original accessories.

  • Install a new radiator cap

A weak/ leaking/worn radiator cap isn’t able to hold pressure and lowers the boiling point. It can also allow the coolant leak externally. It’s best to wait for the engine to cool down, refill the cooling system and place the new radiator cap.

  • Repair the radiator leak

Corrosion, debris damage, and some minor impact are typical for the radiator as it’s exposed. Fix the heater until it’s not too late.

  • Fix the leaking water pump

It’s not easy to replace the leaking water pump. The bearing and front seal do wear out, and it’s going to take a couple of hours for replacing the water pump. It’s best that you return it simultaneously with the timing belt.

  • Address the internal engine damage

When the cylinder head is warped, or the block is cracked, the engine may need some essential repairs, so taking it to the professional is the best decision.

One last recommendation

You can also try the stop-leak products that can work for the tiny cracks or the hairline imperfections. Keep in mind that they do not mend for the puddle-size leaks, so don’t use them hoping to have fixed the radiator.

 Other resources

Engine Coolant Leaks: Symptoms and Solutions

3 Signs of a Radiator LeakNAPA Know How Blog

Radiator Leak and Overheating Symptoms

How to Flush a Diesel Radiator | DoItYourself.com