So, I’m sure that many of you have had a leaky radiator.  This can be a quick and cheap or an expensive problem.  I know this, as I’ve heard stories of it, and it just happened the other day to Mom’s Chrysler Town & Country.  You know the setting.  You pull into the driveway, turn the engine off, and start walking towards the house.  Just as you enter the house, you remember you forgot your cell-phone in the car.  You run out to the car, and see smoke pouring out from under the hood.  You pop the hood open, and the radiator is smoking.  You call Triple A and the mechanic (or dealer), and the car ends up at the mechanic’s shop.  The mechanic says, “Well, looks like you need a new radiator.  Hmmmm…Yeah, yaw’re radiator is smoking.”  You end up paying $500 big ones for a new radiator.  So, I think right now’s a good time to tell you how to look for telltale radiator leaks, and how to prevent them.

Radiator leaks just happen.  It’s just the way they work.  You can’t help it.  If you live in an area where the roads get salted, a leaking radiator may happen more frequently.  It’s more actual age than anything else.  If you have a car at least five years old, it’s a REALLY good idea to check the coolant level.  If you don’t the radiator may run dry without any warning.  If you have a car (or truck) with an electronic message center, and you haven’t checked the radiator in a while, there may be a message telling you to “check radiator.”  This means: you’ve got a leak in the radiator, or low (or non-existant) coolant levels.  Either of these are bad.  If they happen, then the engine in your car will overheat, and Ka-Boom!..I will tell you the telltale signs of a leaking radiator.  Just so you know, you do NOT need to be OCD about checking your radiator after you read this post!  These are the signs:

  • Low coolant level.  This is NEVER good, so check the radiator coolant level from time to time.  Your coolant level can go from full to almost empty (what happened to my truck 15 years ago)  Also, check your radiator before you go on a road trip over 200 miles.
  • A good amount of smoke pouring out through the grille.  This usually means that there is a leak on a radiator hose, which gets very hot, and the coolant is starting to burn.  It won’t do any serious damage to your engine, but you will need to replace the hose.
  • A puddle underneath your car.  It will be: bright (never shiny), neon-green, have a slightly radioactive look to it, and slimy to the touch.  DO NOT touch your face, or any part of your body with the body part you used to touch it with.  Wash your hands!  It is ethylene glycol.  It is one of the most toxic chemicals ever invented.  This is your radiator coolant.  This will need to be cleaned up properly.  DO NOT use laquer thinner!  It will only make it soupy and sticky.  Use some sort of absorbent material such as sand, kitty litter, or canvas.  Use rubber gloves and paper towels to clean it up!  According to the EPA, radiator coolant can go in through your pores, causing severe internal damage.  Blechg!

If you have a pressurized radiator (where a certain pressure is kept to maintain a cool engine), and have any of the above problems, call a mechanic right away!  You will have severe problems if you let it be.  I won’t even tell you what will happen if you let it be!  It makes me queasy just to think about it!

I know what it’s like to have to get a year-old radiator fixed, as Mom’s Chrysler Town & Country just had the smoke and leakage out a hose problem…Dad and I pulled into the driveway, got out of the car and saw some smoke pouring out from under the hood.  We popped open the hood, got a flashlight out, and saw some neon-green, bright stuff on a radiator hose.  Dad repeated some ‘unworthy of this blog’ words, and called the mechanic first thing in the morning.  I hope that it’s nothing serious, but hopefully, we’ll just need to get a new hose.

Some cars need radiator repairs more than others, but that may just be because you tow and/or haul a lot.  If so, then you’re engine has to work harder with that load behind you.

There are many online websites for radiators, but, offers deals up to 75% off!  For example, a 1999 Nissan Quest’s radiator might cost $429 from a dealer, but from will sell it to you for $118!  How about that type of deal?  Well, then again, it’s around the Holidays…

I hope you all have a fun Thanksgiving!  So, eat a lot of turkey, pumpkin pie, and my personal favorite; mashed potatoes!  Gobble-Gobble (Not you, turkey!)!  Just so you know, my tag on the top of the page will say “The Unmuffled Auto News; A Car Blog for Kids.” I am now going to be doing posts on an adult level of understanding.  Kids CAN read my blog, but it might be a LOT harder for them to understand…

6 thoughts on “Second Time’s the Charm!

  1. Your posts are becoming increasingly informative with a nice touch of Candler’s comments.

    You obviously know so much about leaks you should offer your services to the CIA, FBI, TSA, LAPD and all Congressional committees because they all leak like crazy.

    Hugs from Zayzee

  2. Wow, that was helpful Candler. You remind me of the car talk guys on NPR. Humorous but skilled! Ron had a bad radiator last summer and was pouring in a bottle of coolant before every trip across town. Have a good Thanksgiving!

    1. Yeah, Tom & Ray Magliozzi REALLY know what they are doing, but they have a sense of humor (unlike most mechanics). Plus, they get a pretty nice salary (Hint, Hint…)

  3. Just want to add to your informative post: the glycol solution is somewhat sweet and very attractive to pets. Clean up any spill or puddle promptly or you could have a sick (or deceased) dog to go with your sick (or deceased) radiator.

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