Does your car have a radiator leak? If you’ve never experienced a car overheating, you might think, “No big deal, right? A leak doesn’t sound too bad. Fixing it can wait.” However, if you have experienced this scenario, you know that a radiator leak is a serious car problem that needs to be fixed ASAP. But how can you tell if your car has a radiator leak to begin with?
Diagnosing a Car Radiator Leak
Fortunately, diagnosing a radiator leak is relatively simple.
- First, check your dashboard temperature gauge. If it’s reading particularly high, or if your temperature warning indicator lights up, you can tell there’s an issue with your cooling system.
- Next, check your coolant level. The translucent coolant reservoir makes it easy to see the level of the coolant. There’s typically a “minimum” line marked to help you quickly determine whether your coolant is low.
- Low or empty coolant means that there may not be enough in the cooling system. If you drive your car in this state, it could easily overheat. Once your engine is completely cooled down, you can check your radiator to determine this.
- Begin your hunt for the leak at the radiator. Carefully examine the radiator from different angles to see if you can find the breach. The bottom is a common spot for a leak, as any rocks or debris you hit on the road can fly up and puncture it. Occasionally, you may find that there are rust spots or weak points in the aluminum that have broken through to cause a leak.
- If you’ve double and triple checked your radiator and you’re sure it’s not the source of the leak, it’s time to work your way through the rest of your car’s cooling system. Check each of these components until you find the leak.
- Radiator hoses and cap
- Water pump
- Engine block
- Coolant reservoir
- Heater core
- Gasket between the engine block and cylinder head (Note: If this is the source of your problem, go ahead and call a professional mechanic. A blown gasket can mean that coolant has leaked into the combustion chambers of your engine. Running the car in this state will likely lead to a huge cloud of thick, white smoke, not to mention serious engine damage.)
What Happens If You Don’t Fix a Car Radiator Leak?
If you’re reading this section, you must like playing with fire…In this case, literally! You really, really don’t want to let a leaking car radiator go unaddressed. Worst case scenario, your car could catch on fire! Best case scenario, you’re still dealing with a major issue—if your engine overheats, it can blow the head gasket, damage the pistons and cylinders, or even crack the engine block.
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