How to Do a Radiator Repair on Modern Cars… the Right Way

The summer heat is just around the corner and you’re not the only one worried about overheating – your car is too (or it would be if it had feelings).

Tucson’s trip digit temperatures are enough to put a strain on even the healthiest of radiators. If yours is on the fritz, the cooling system might not last you through monsoons, which could make you and your car overheat in the dog days of Arizona’s summer.

In spite of this oh-so real threat, the last thing you want to spend your money on is a radiator repair, unless you need one. Before you run down to your local mechanic, here are a few ways to know if you should have your radiator checked out.

When Was Your Radiator Built?

In the past, repairing a radiator was as easy as soldering a few parts. With today’s radiators, that might not be the case.

Classic car radiators (like the one in our 1960 Lincoln Continental soon-to-be shop car!) are made completely of metal. These make it easy to patch or solder for a quick fix.

Newer cars aren’t built the same. The vast majority of radiators in today’s cars are one part aluminum and one part plastic.

The Aluminum

The aluminum does the heat exchange. This is essential to keeping your engine cool. The problem is, the material is so thin it’s hard to seal the hole and repair.

The Plastic

The plastic yields a similar problem. Plastic is used for the tanks on the sides of your radiator. The pressed joints often leak. In some cases, we’re able to undo this pressing and repair the joints using special equipment, but not always. In even fewer repairs, you might be able to use a plastic welding kit. This requires experience and even then, it might not work.

Can It Be Fixed?

With such lightweight, hard-to-repair materials, the question becomes, “can I fix my radiator?” The answer is usually yes as long as you have the right tools.

The tools we use at Rita Ranch Automotive & Tire enable us to make most repairs to the aluminum core, and install new tanks onto the radiator. If the hose connections leak, that’s another challenge.

The best way to know if your broken or cracked radiator can be fixed is to have a professional take a look under the hood. Although you might be able to see the problem, diagnosing the extent of the repair needed is not always easy. Drop by today (no appointment necessary) and we’ll take a look before the heat of the summer intensifies.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Veronica Teller

    Great tip about how the age of your radiator can change the way it is repaired. I recently got a new radiator when mine was cracked. I wonder if I should have tried to have it repaired instead of paying to have it replaced. Great suggestions.

  2. Carsnow

    I think Classic car radiators is much better. Why did they change it with aluminum and plastic materials? By the way nice article.

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