Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Radiator

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Radiator

radiator

The radiator’s job is to keep the engine from overheating. The engine produces heat while it is running. Coolant absorbs this heat, then passes it through the radiator where it is cooled off. The coolant is then circulated back to the engine. The radiator is the main component of the cooling system, so it is important that it is in good working condition. If you suspect your radiator is going bad, watch for the following symptoms:

1. Leaking coolant onto the floor

The coolant flows through the radiator, so if there is a leak in the radiator, coolant will leak onto the floor underneath the vehicle. It may be while you are driving or while your vehicle is parked. To positively identify if you have a leak or crack in your radiator, the professionals at YourMechanic will need to do a pressure test to verify the radiator is the cause. During this test the radiator is pressured and colored dye is added to the cooling system, and if it leaks out then you may need to have your radiator replaced.

2. Vehicle overheats

If your vehicle is constantly overheating, the radiator may be going bad. One of the most common failures in the vehicles that overheat is a failing radiator since it is the only way engine coolant is cooled. It may not be to the point where it has completely failed, so the issue should be addressed immediately. If this problem is left unattended, then the engine will continue to overheat and cause the vehicle to break down. When this happens, the repair will be much more extensive, so it is a good idea to address the issue as soon as the vehicle starts to overheat.

3. Sludge in the radiator

The coolant in your vehicle should be yellow or green or red normally. As the radiator goes bad, contaminants discolor the fluid making it a rusty or oil color. This turns into sludge and the fluid will not be able to cool the engine efficiently because it will not drain properly and remain in the radiator. This can be from a failing radiator for vehicles that contain a transmission cooler inside the radiator. The barrier between the coolant and transmission fluid fails and the fluids mix. If you or a mechanic notice sludge in your radiator, it will need to be replaced as it can cause extensive damage to the engine and transmission.

4. Low coolant

If your low coolant light comes on or you are constantly refilling your coolant tank, there may be a leak in the radiator. Do not just keep refilling your coolant, take your vehicle to have it properly diagnosed.

As soon as you notice leaking coolant, your vehicle keeps overheating, you have low coolant, or sludge in your radiator, contact a mechanic to make repairs to your cooling system. YourMechanic makes getting repairs to your radiator easy by coming to your home or office to diagnose or fix issues. You can book a service online 24/7. YourMechanic’s qualified Technicians are also available for any questions that may arise.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Still not sure about your car's issue?
Diagnose your car
What kind of issue are you experiencing?
Brakes are squeaking
Car is not starting
Car is overheating
Car is shaking (vibrating)
Fluids are leaking
Heating and A/C
Smoke or steam is coming out of the car
Warning light is on
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
P2159 OBD-II Trouble Code: Vehicle Speed Sensor B Range/Performance
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2159 P2159 code definition Vehicle Speed Sensor B Range/Performance...
What are the Car Pool Rules in Hawaii?
Hawaii is widely regarded as a land of vacation and relaxation, and as such, its scenic roads and routes are far better known than the state’s freeways. But, as with all...


Related questions

Q: Hose clamp broke

If the broken clamp is the only problem then out can be replaced with a new one as long as the coolant hoses are still in good condition. Once reconnected the system should be bled of all air in the...

Q: what is the easiest way to replace the upper radiator hose?

Hey there, thanks for writing in about your 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300E. You should not have to remove any engine components to replace the upper radiator hose. The only thing that you will need to do is drain the coolant. If...

Q: water is leaking

If you are getting a coolant leak behind a manifold then you may have a coolant pipe, hose leak on the intake side of engine or a head gasket or freeze plug leak on the exhaust side of engine. Have...