by Pat Goss
Radiators are one of those parts that tend to be “out of site; out of mind”. On a modern car, you basically can’t even see your radiator. But, no matter, you do have to perform preventive care on them. You see, radiators, if they aren’t taken care of, will deteriorate over age. And that means that you have to have them flushed on a regular basis. Usually about every two years. Now, taking the garden hose and putting it into the top of the radiator such as we’ve done here, with the headtop open on the bottom, does that really do anything? No, not really.
See, what you have to do to flush a radiator, it’s best to have it done professionally, because they’re going to put a chemical into the radiator. And that chemical is going to lower the pH; it’s going to make the coolant acidic. Now, what we’re trying to do here is, there is scale that builds up here inside the radiator. This is much like what builds up inside a teapot over time. The low pH, the acidic nature of the flush chemical, softens this stuff. Then the flush machine flushes it out of the cooling system. The garden hose doesn’t do any of that.
Alright, so that’s one thing. The other thing is to keep the surface of the radiator clean. Because, lots of times, leaves and dirt will build up, and that hampers its ability to cool. Plus, you want to look at the radiator on a regular basis, to make sure that you don’t see any signs of leakage. It won’t really be a lot of wetness or anything, but you might see signs of coolant right along this seam where the plastic connects to the aluminum. If you see that, it means you should soon be thinking about buying a radiator.
Now suppose you have to buy a radiator. Well, you can find lots of deals out there, but those deals may not be very good. And the reason is, if you look at this radiator, you see these little fins in here, that go back and forth between the tubes that carry the coolant. Those fins, there are a certain number of them per inch. Your replacement radiator has to have the same number or greater number per inch in order to work properly in your car. If there are too few fins per inch, you’re not going to get proper cooling. And if you happen to have a leak, a minor leak when you’re out on the highway, and you need to get home or to a repair center, you can buy stop leaks, and things like that. Or, if you’re in a real emergency, black pepper will seal the leak temporarily. All of these are temporary. Once you get to the service center, you need to flush the system. And if you have a question or comment, drop me a line. Right here, at MotorWeek.