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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Recent Car Radiator Replacement reviews

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1,753
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Chris

22 years of experience
2032 reviews
Chris
22 years of experience
Nissan 300ZX - Radiator - Temecula, California
Chris was very professional, he also kept his surroundings clean and worked efficiently in a tight space with as much Room as parking lot parking place.
Ford Focus - Radiator - Murrieta, California
Chris showed up in a timely manner and completed the job with the utmost respect and professionalism.

Walter

46 years of experience
224 reviews
Walter
46 years of experience
GMC Yukon XL 1500 - Radiator - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Walter was professional and friendly and intelligent he knew what he was doing. Didn't take long at all even in the cold and rain he still got it done. My car runs good and no leaks thanks walter
Toyota Camry - Radiator - Claremore, Oklahoma
Walter was awesome. The radiator went out on my son's car. Walter came out the very next day and did the complete removal and installation in my driveway in just a few hours. Very professional and I would highly recommend him to anyone!

William

34 years of experience
338 reviews
William
34 years of experience
Ford Taurus - Radiator - Sun City West, Arizona
He was great. Showed up on time mentioned and worked in a timely manner. I'd and use William again.
Chevrolet Captiva Sport - Radiator - Glendale, Arizona
William did a great job installing the new radiator at half the cost previously quoted by a auto shop. First he made sure that it was indeed the radiator that needed replaced. To the end when he cleaned up the mess from it! Car is running great now!

Chuck

10 years of experience
263 reviews
Chuck
10 years of experience
BMW 330i - Radiator - Dallas, Texas
Chuck was on time to both appointments, very professional, his work was very neat and clean, he was detailed oriented showing me what parts he took off my car and showing me the new parts he put on. When ever I need work done on my 330i BMW, Chuck will be my first call.

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