What Happens When a Radiator Cracks?

by Jay Motes

An automobile radiator is a metal device that is used to cool hot coolant that has flowed from the engine. Radiators are made to handle the stresses of heating and cooling, but can crack for various reasons.


The primary reason that a radiator fails is due to internal corrosion. While both copper and aluminum radiators are resistant to corrosion, some corrosion will still occur. Radiators may also crack from excessive heat and impact damage from collisions or extensive off-road use.


Radiators are more likely to crack near inlet and outlet hoses as well as the edges when the core is attached to the ends. These areas are most likely to flex from normal vibrations and movements from the vehicle. Cracks may be difficult to spot, but leaking coolant and steam should make the location easy to determine when the system is hot and under pressure.


A cracked radiator will allow coolant to leak from the cooling system, resulting in an improper amount of coolant in the engine, which can cause significant damage due to overheating. A low coolant level will also cause the water pump to be improperly lubricated, which can cause the pump to fail.

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