How Long Does a Radiator Last?

Your car’s coolant system is vital to ensure that the engine stays within operating temperature limits and does not overheat. It’s comprised of several different components. The radiator is the largest, but there are others, including the upper and lower radiator hoses, the coolant reservoir, the water pump, the thermostat and more.

The radiator’s job is to help remove heat from coolant after it has cycled through the engine. Heated coolant flows through the radiator, and moving air wicks away the heat before the coolant is sent back into the engine to complete the cycle again. Without a working radiator, your engine would quickly overheat, possibly causing catastrophic damage.

Your car’s radiator does have a limited lifespan, but there’s no set number of years. A lot will hinge on how well you maintain the coolant system. If you have your coolant drained and filled regularly, and never run straight water in the radiator, it should last for a long time (for at least a decade). Saying that, your radiator can be damaged in a number of ways.

If too many fins are flattened or folded, it won’t be able to properly do its job. It can also be damaged by rust (if you use plain water rather than a coolant/water mixture), and it can be gummed up by sludge from an improperly maintained coolant system.

Your radiator is working any time the engine is running. This is because coolant constantly cycles through to prevent overheating. It’s still technically on the job even when the engine is off, too, as it holds a significant amount of the coolant in the engine (in conjunction with the reservoir).

If your radiator fails, you’re in danger of overheating the engine. Knowing the signs of a failing radiator can help prevent this from being a disaster. These include the following:

  • Coolant leaking on the ground under the radiator (this could also indicate a leak at a hose, the drain cock or other locations)
  • Damaged fins on the radiator
  • Temperature gauge rises quickly past normal operating temperature (this can also indicate low coolant, air in the lines and other problems)
  • Rust in the coolant
  • Cracks in the plastic (many modern radiators are plastic, rather than metal)

If you suspect your radiator is failing, a certified mechanic can help inspect the radiator, and replace it if necessary.


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1,913
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Mathew

6 years of experience
54 reviews
Mathew
6 years of experience
Ford Expedition V8-5.4L - Radiator - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
My experience was amazing! He was on time, he was very professional, he told me everything that he was gonna do with my truck! All around great experience.
Nissan Murano - Radiator - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
My experience with Mathew was great. He arrived early to replace the radiator and hoses as well as flush the coolant system on my 2009 nissan murano sl (appointment time was between 10:00am-10:15am and he arrived at 9:45). He is very friendly, professional, respectful, courteous and knowledgeable, and had did an excellent job with the repair of my vehicle. I will definitely book all of my appointments with him from now on. I highly recommend Mathew for all of your vehicles repairs and maintenance needs.

Jason

32 years of experience
507 reviews
Jason
32 years of experience
BMW 325i L6-3.0L - Radiator - Redwood City, California
This man might have been the best mobile mechanic I've seen yet. He arrived with minutes to spare. My other mechanics on this website have been 1 hour later and some even cancel, but Jason didn't. Along with showing up early, he diagnosed the problem fast and began working. He was very friendly towards me and didn't mind me talking to him while he worked. He did everything right and completed the repair at and in efficient time. I will recommend Jason to any of my friends who needs a very knowledgeable mechanic!

Jonathan

35 years of experience
483 reviews
Jonathan
35 years of experience
Nissan Xterra V6-3.3L - Radiator - Brooksville, Florida
Professional and knowledgeable. Worked through the rain to repair shoddy work done by mechanic not associated with YourMechanic. Will always request him!

Sebastian

5 years of experience
110 reviews
Sebastian
5 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz ML320 V6-3.2L - Radiator - Boca Raton, Florida
He was a true professional. He identified the problems with the car and made fixes accordingly. He was easy to deal with

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