Your temperature gauge is spiking into the red zone, and you’re gripping the steering wheel a little harder. Suddenly, a plume of white steam billows from under the hood in the middle of traffic. It’s your radiator.

It could go differently too, and still be radiator problems. There are a few ways your radiator can pack it in.

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What Are Some Symptoms of Radiator Problems?

Car Leaking Coolant Puddle on the Ground

Car Leaking Coolant Puddle on the Ground

On a given day, you could walk up to your car and find a green puddle under the front end. A puddle of coolant under your car is never a good thing - the cooling system should remain sealed!

Engine Overheating

A spiking temperature gauge is a cooling system problem in most cases. It could be due to an airlock in the engine or a water pump that’s not working. However, it could also be a radiator failure - a blocked passage inside.

Interior Won’t Warm Up in the Cold

Ever driven your car in the fall or winter and wondered why it’s taking so long to warm up? Hot engine coolant is used to heat your car’s interior. If you need a radiator replacement or repair, odds are that your interior won’t heat up properly in the cold.

Why Your Radiator is No Good

There aren’t many things that can go wrong with a radiator. It’s a simple system with an inlet, a coolant tank, a series of tubes running through it, and an outlet.

Why Your Radiator is No Good

One common radiator failure is a coolant leak. It can happen a few different ways though. A seam where the tank is mounted to the core can spring a leak. A tank, often made of plastic, can crack or the radiator core can be punctured by a rock or road debris. All of these things will lead to a radiator leak that needs to be fixed. A cracked radiator typically needs to be replaced.

Perhaps the only other problem that can happen is due to blockage. Coolant reacts with metals inside the engine over time, causing corrosion that floats along in the system. Ever seen white bits in the coolant? That’s the stuff. I can collect on the radiator core, effectively blocking coolant flow through the radiator. A radiator flush can fix it sometimes, other times a radiator replacement is necessary.

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What’s Involved with a Radiator Repair?

Radiator repair services come in three forms:

  1. Corrective Maintenance Through a Coolant Flush
  2. Radiator Repair
  3. Radiator Replacement

Coolant Flush

Coolant FlushIf it’s not a leak, try a coolant flush first. An additive breaks down corrosion and buildup inside the cooling system. It’s then completely washed out and new coolant is installed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It might be worth a try.

Radiator Repair

Sometimes, a radiator leak fix is possible. The radiator needs to be removed from the car and sent to a facility that can test it and repair it. You might get lucky and it can be fixed.

The downside of this auto repair is that your car is out of commission for a couple days. A radiator repair shop needs time to get the leak fixed - if it’s even possible. You might end up needing a radiator replacement anyway, even after your car’s been without a radiator for a day or two.

Radiator Replacement

Other times, it’s evident a car radiator needs to be replaced, not repaired. A cracked tank, for example, or a major hole in the core will need to be replaced.

It’s faster than radiator repair services, but it’s going to cost you more money.

What Does a Radiator Repair Cost?

It’s not the most expensive repair in the world, but it could still sting a little.

  • A radiator coolant flush is the least expensive possibility. It’s usually around $100, but it’s only effective some of the time. You might still need further repair.

  • A radiator repair is usually around $80 to $175, depending on the style of radiator. In addition, the radiator repair cost needs to account for labor to remove and install the radiator, which is likely another $200.

  • A radiator replacement ranges depending on the make and model. Parts could be $250 to $700 for a new radiator, plus $200 in labor to change it.

Of course, the repair will be exponentially more if you ignore the problem at first. If your engine overheats, you could be looking at an engine repair or replacement to boot!

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Is The Radiator Worth Repairing?

The radiator is a critical portion of your vehicle and vital to its health. If you can, repair it yourself. However, if you cannot, then get an auto mechanic to repair your radiator ASAP.

How Much Does Radiator Repair Cost?

On average, repairing a radiator leak by yourself will cost you about $50. On average, mechanics will charge an additional $40 for the labor, bringing your total cost to $90. Replacing your radiator in total is more expensive: the average cost runs between $300-$900.