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Signs Of a Bad Car Radiator

Bad radiator

A radiator is a vital part of the engine’s cooling system. The engine in your vehicle burns fuel to create energy and, in the process, generates heat. It is important to vent this heat away from the engine components to prevent damage. The radiator is responsible for eliminating this heat from the engine. When the thermostat detects excess heat, the coolant and water get released from the radiator and travel through the engine to absorb heat. Once the heat is absorbed, the liquid is sent back to the radiator, which blows air across it to cool it down. The heat is exchanged with the outside air. In short, the radiator ensures that your vehicle doesn’t overheat. If you have a bad radiator, the vehicle may show the following signs:  


If your temperature gauge gets dangerously high, it is a sign that something is wrong. In case your engine is overheating even during your regular commutes, it could be a sign of a failing radiator. However, you must keep in mind that a failing radiator is not the only cause of overheating. It could also be due to coolant leaks, a broken fan, or a faulty thermostat. The moment you notice that the vehicle is overheating, you should pull over and let it cool down. If you continue to drive, you may end up causing serious damage.  

Coolant leaks 

Coolant leaks often occur because there is something wrong with the radiator or its system of hoses. The use of low-quality coolant or tap water can cause rust on the radiator. Over time, it may clog up the radiator, which can cause tiny holes or cracks in the cooling fins. As these cracks expand, the coolant may begin to leak and you will notice a puddle on the garage floor or the smell of the antifreeze. When the coolant level becomes low, your vehicle may begin to overheat.  


Smoking is a clear sign that something is wrong with your vehicle. If there is a leak, the engine may burn some of the coolant, which has leaked out. If you notice smoking out of the tailpipe, it could mean that the head gasket is damaged. This is bad news.   

Fluid discoloration 

The vehicle fluid is normally gold, orange, yellow, or green, and flows seamlessly from the radiator to the coolant passages within the engine. A bad radiator can contaminate the coolant with sludge and debris. This can change the color of the fluid. It may also appear thicker than usual and may not flow seamlessly. This, in turn, can lead to a clogged radiator. Once this happens, the engine will start overheating.  

Hot radiator hoses 

If the hoses are hot, it could be a sign that the radiator is bad. Ideally, the radiator hoses should be cool and touch, and if they are not, it could be because the coolant is not flowing properly and the engine is overheating.  

Blocked radiator fins 

Radiator fins can get clogged with dirt, grime, leaves, and other types of debris. When the radiator fins get blocked, the coolant cannot cool as effectively as it should. When the radiator is blocked or clogged, the vehicle can overheat.  

If you are experiencing any of these problems with your vehicle, have it checked by an auto mechanic immediately because a failing radiator can pose a serious threat to the life and longevity of your vehicle. Get in touch with our team of highly experienced and certified auto mechanics who can diagnose and repair the problem effectively.