How Long Does a Radiator Drain Cock Last?

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Your car’s coolant system is one of the most critical on the entire vehicle. Without it, the engine would quickly overheat, causing devastating damage. Coolant is cycled from the radiator, through the hoses, past the thermostat, and around the engine. While it cycles, it absorbs heat, and then transports it back to the radiator, where it is dissipated with moving air.

Coolant is designed to absorb heat and also withstand freezing temperatures. This is what allows you to run your engine during the winter, when regular water would freeze solid. However, coolant has a finite lifespan and you should have it drained and filled once every five years or so.

Obviously, there has to be a way to get the old coolant out of the system before you can add new coolant. That’s what the radiator drain cock does. It’s a small plastic plug located at the bottom of the radiator. It screws into the radiator’s base, and allows the coolant to be drained out. Once the old coolant is out, the drain cock is replaced and new coolant is added.

The problem here is that the drain cock is made of plastic, which is pretty easy to damage if you’re not careful threading it back in. Once the threads are stripped, the drain cock will no longer seat correctly and coolant can leak out. If the threads are badly stripped, it’s possible that the drain cock will fail completely and coolant will be allowed to flow out unchecked (particularly when the engine is hot and the radiator is pressurized). Another potential issue is if the rubber gasket on the tip of the plug is damaged (this will allow coolant to leak out).

There’s no set lifespan for a radiator drain cock, but it definitely won’t last forever. With the right care, it should last for the life of the radiator (8 to 10 years). However, it takes very little to damage it.

Because a damaged radiator drain cock is potentially very serious, you need to know the signs of failure or damage. These include:

  • Threads on the drain cock are smoothed out (stripped)
  • Head of the drain cock is damaged (making it difficult to remove)
  • Plastic is cracked from heat exposure
  • Coolant leaks under the radiator area of the car (can also indicate a leak at a hose, from the radiator itself and other areas).

Don’t leave things to chance. If you suspect your radiator drain cock is damaged or have a coolant leak, a certified mechanic can help inspect the radiator and drain cock, and replace any parts needed.


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Alex

20 years of experience
110 reviews
Alex
20 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra - Oil Pressure Light is on - Mesa, Arizona
Very knowledgeable and efficient. I sincerely appreciate his professionalism
Hyundai Santa Fe - Car starts and then dies - Phoenix, Arizona
Alex was very knowledgeable and took the time to explain everything that was going on with my car.

Ben

39 years of experience
1113 reviews
Ben
39 years of experience
Nissan Sentra - Radiator - Houston, Texas
Ben is an excellent mechanic with true professionalism.
BMW 330i - Oil or Fluid is leaking - Houston, Texas
Once again,friendly,energetic,competent and thorough car care service from Ben and Your Mechanic! Thank you!

Ejnar

27 years of experience
107 reviews
Ejnar
27 years of experience
Saturn Ion - Car is not starting - Hayward, California
Friendly. Knowledgable. Simple.
Volkswagen Eos - Oil Change - San Leandro, California
He was pleasant and courteous. He updated me on his time of arrival. He was prompt and finished the job within the time allotted.

Rodney

34 years of experience
386 reviews
Rodney
34 years of experience
BMW 328i - Radiator Drain Cock - Davis, California
Rodney fixes all my problems. He would not give up until he found the complication that ignites my SES light, and then fixed the main trouble. I admire his effort and honesty. What an expert.

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