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Five Safe Ideas for Dealing With Cracked Radiators

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On an episode of Bush Mechanics, the stars of the show fixed a cracked radiator using an old battery. They removed the existing radiator, melted the core of an old battery over a fire and then poured the molten substance over the radiator, where it set and presumably repaired the crack. While this approach might work in a pinch, it is also a bit dangerous. Luckily, there are other ways that you can address and repair a cracked radiator. Take a look at these ideas:

1. Top up the fluid regularly.

Your radiator uses coolant fluid to keep your car's engine cool, and if you have a small leak in your cooling system, you may be able to mitigate it just by adding more fluid. To add coolant, wait until the engine is cool, remove the radiator cap and slowly pour the fluid in.

If you see a puddle of coolant beneath your car, that is usually a sign that you need to add additional coolant. Also, keep an eye on the engine temperature gauge in your car. If your engine appears to be getting too hot, it could mean that you need to add more coolant. In an emergency situation, if you don't have any radiator coolant, you can add water.

2. Replace the cap.

If you are losing fluid but you don't see a crack in the radiator, consider replacing the cap. The cap is under a lot of pressure on the average car radiator, and as a result, it can develop cracks that can prevent it from protecting the radiator. As long as you know the make and model of your vehicle, you should be able to order a new radiator cap from a car parts store online.

3. Try a radiator stop leak product.

Several stores offer commercial sealants that you can use to repair a crack or leak in your radiator temporarily. You can find a range of products on the market such as Bar's Leaks, and they generally contain liquid aluminium. To use them, you simply open the radiator cap and pour in the stop leak mixture. It creates a coating around the edges of the radiator that seals the leaks. Unfortunately, however, this product does not create a permanent solution, but if you only have a small leak, it can work for a while.

4. Repair the leak with an epoxy.

If you are relatively comfortable doing minor vehicle repairs, you may be able to repair a radiator leak with epoxy. This is particularly true if you have a radiator with plastic ends. To get started, identify the source of the leak on your radiator. Typically, it will appear moist even when the car hasn't been running for a while.

Clean the area with acetone and sand the surface lightly.  These steps help to ensure that the epoxy will stick effectively. Follow the preparation instructions on the epoxy to make the epoxy warm and workable. Then, spread the epoxy directly on the cracked area using a small foam brush or your hands if you are wearing gloves.  

5. Replace the radiator.

If the crack in your radiator is too large for any of the above methods to work or if you are looking for a more permanent solution, consider replacing your radiator. Generally, there are two options. If you have the type of radiator with side tanks (common on older cars), a radiator shop may just be able to replace those reservoirs for you. Alternatively, if your radiator has integrated reservoirs (common on newer vehicles), you may need to get a whole new radiator in order to get new reservoirs.  

Want more tips and ideas on dealing with a cracked radiator? Contact a radiator shop today with your questions and concerns.