Top 4 Symptoms of a Bad Radiator and Replacement Cost

(Updated on November 19, 2021)

The function of the radiator is to prevent the vehicle from having an overheated engine. As an engine is in operation, it generates a lot of heat. There is a fluid called “coolant’ in the engine which engages the heat and absorbs it. Since the coolant is now hot, the fluid has to get cooled off again by going through the radiator. Once it gets cooled off, the coolant leaves the radiator and reenters the engine. The process will then start all over again.

Top 4 Symptoms of a Bad Radiator

The cooling system of virtually any vehicle is very dependent on the radiator for it to function properly. If the radiator stays functional, then the engine will stay cool and not overheat. But if there is a problem with the radiator and it starts to malfunction or go bad, then you will experience a lot of symptoms that are easily recognizable. Below are the top 4 symptoms you can expect to experience from a bad radiator.

  1. Engine Overheating – The most obvious symptom of a bad radiator is going to be an overheated engine. Since its job is to keep the engine cool by circulating the coolant, a bad radiator will fail to do this. You will then begin to see the temperature of your engine becoming very hot by the indicator on your dashboard. If you don’t get the problem fixed immediately, the engine will eventually break down which means your vehicle won’t be able to move anymore. If you wait until your engine breaks down, then you’re looking at an even bigger replacement cost than just replacing the radiator.
  2. Coolant Leak – The problem with your radiator could be that it has a leak in it. This means the coolant that goes through it will leak underneath and get onto the floor underneath the vehicle. However, a coolant leak may not be obvious. This could happen at any time, whether the vehicle is parked or in motion. When you take your vehicle to the mechanic to get this checked out, they will first perform a pressure test to make sure it is actually the radiator that is leaking the coolant. If they determine it is the radiator, then you will need to replace it.
  3. Low Coolant Warning Light – Following the previous symptom that was listed here, you should notice the low coolant warning light on your dashboard turn on. To keep your engine cool in the meantime, you can keep adding more coolant to it until you’re ready to go to the mechanic and get the radiator replaced. Make sure you don’t add coolant for too long as it will still put a lot of stress on the engine because there won’t be a sufficient amount of coolant as it is leaking.
  4. Sludge Buildup – The normal color of coolant is either green or yellow. But when you have a bad radiator, the color of the coolant will change because it will get contaminated Once the color changes from contamination, there will be sludge that builds up in the radiator. This happens because the coolant stays in the radiator rather than get cycled back into the engine. If you look at your radiator and see sludge, then you need to replace the radiator as soon as possible or else your transmission or engine could get permanently damaged.

Read also: Top 4 Symptoms of a Bad Lower Ball Joint and Replacement Cost

Radiator Replacement Cost

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The cost to replace a bad radiator will vary, depending on the type of vehicle you have. For common economy cars, you can expect to pay anywhere from $275 to $785 to replace the radiator. The parts cost will be around $165 to $440, while the labor cost will be around $100 to $200. It is best to choose an auto mechanic service that will charge you the cheapest hourly rate while still doing a good job.

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