DIY Checks for Overheating Car or Truck – Radiator

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Blocked radiator hose
Is your Car Overheating? Check these simple issues
Overheating car fix
Thermostat

Do you have a Overheating Car or Truck after a short drive? Here are some quick and easy DIY checks and fixes for you to do. Try to diagnose the problem yourself and hopefully save some money with a simple fix.

Quick story, my Toyota Corolla was overheating and the local garage wanted to replace the radiator for $1000. My radiator looked fine with no leaks and no blocked cores. Time to investigate this myself. 

Overheating Car Safety:

Never take of the radiator cap when the engine is hot it will explode the coolant over you and it will burn. Its hot.

Wait for the engine to cool down (Over an hour) and use a rag and slowly remove the cap.

A cars cooling system is very simple in its design, it comprises of :

  • Radiator
  • Fluid
  • Fan
  • Thermostat
  • Piping

If any one of these fail you will have overheating problems. But sometimes diagnosing a overheating car can be a little tricky as the symptoms may be erratic.

Radiator Problems:

Some of the common issues with radiators are, Low Fluid. If your radiator has no or low fluid wait till the engine has cooled down usually 1 hour then top it up.

The problem with topping up a overheating engine is you suddenly introduce cold fluid which can warp your engine head or block. (Bad news and expensive) All ways use radiator fluid not tap water. Radiator fluid has special anti corrosion elements which will stop corrosion of your engine. It also has anti freeze properties to stop the fluid freezing in the winter. You can use tap water in an emergency but flush it out when you are home.

All vehicles have the same 3 components to cool the engine, coolant, pump, and heat exchange. Air is usually used to cool the fluid in the radiator. Some marine craft use sea water to cool the motor.

In the case of Sea-Doo they use coolant which after it is hot from taking heat out of the 4tec motor is passed over the ride plate which takes the heat out of the fluid and transfers it to the water underneath the jet-ski. Quite remarkable. If you want to see how to replace the coolant in a Sea-Doo check out this post.

Blocked Cores:

Other problems with the Radiator are blocked cores. As the coolant get old and some corrosion set is the small cores of the radiator can become blocked with what looks like dirt particles. These can sometimes be flushed away with a radiator flush but usually it requires a new radiator. Blocked cares equals a overheating car engine or truck engine.

All ways read you car service manual for recommended replacement of you radiator coolant. To be on the safe side every 2 years is usually fine. If you notice dirt around your radiator cap flush and change your coolant straight away. You coolant is now past being a use full anti corrosion additive and is slowly eating away your internals of the engine.

Radiator Coolant Color Green or Red?

Never mix Red and Green coolant, they will gum up your cores in the radiator. If you need to swap coolant colors please flush out the old coolant and refill with the new.

Genuine Toyota long life red coolant can be brought from here. Its pre-mixed and ready to go.

If your radiator cap is leaking or not sealing properly, you will have overheating issues as the radiator circuit can not build up the pressure required for optimum pressure. Replace your radiator cap. Another issue can be a blocked overflow pipe. The Overflow pipe and Tank is designed to act as an overflow container.

Blocked overflow hose pipe radiator

As the coolant gets hot it expands and overflows into the container. As it cools it is redrawn back into the Radiator thus always maintaining a full radiator. If this pipe is blocked it will cause excess pressure to build up in the radiator and the water pump wont be able to pump coolant around effectively. To clear this blockage take off the overflow pipe and use a piece of wire to poke through the blockage, rinse with fresh  water, blow through the pipe to check it is clear.

I have seen this blocked pipe issues with a few cars now complaining with overheating problems and once the pipe is clear all the problems disappear.

Thermostat:

A Thermostat is a very reliable piece of hardware. The function of the thermostat is to restrict the amount of coolant flow that can move around the engine block thus maintaining the optimum temperature range for the motor.

Thermostats can fail but its rare. The mainly just get old and fail closed either at the seal, spring or just wear out. Defiantly will cause a overheating car if the thermostat jams.

To check your thermostat, drain all the coolant from the radiator then remove the thermostat. Check your workshop manual on how to remove it but it’s usually only 2 bolts for the cover and you can pull it out.

Once out you can put it in a pan of cold water and put it on the stove heat up the pan until it is boiling. You should see the thermostat open. If it doesn’t replace it.

See Video here on how its done : Thanks michaelovitch

https://youtu.be/OJkFkdBQcGE&h=360&w=640

 

Cooling Fan:

A Car engine radiator cooling fan is there to help cool the engine when the car is stationary. Usually when a car is moving the air passes through the radiator and thus cools the coolant which cools the engine. When a car is stopped no air can cool the coolant so when the temperature starts to rise, a fan will auto kick in forcing air through the radiator. 

To check the fan start the car open the bonnet and wait a few minutes till the engine starts to heat up. Watch the gauge to make sure we don’t overheat the engine. If the needle is starting to get up near the red and the fan is not starting this is your problem. You should be able to see and hear the fan or fans start-up.

If not check the fuse for the fan or replace the fan. Older cars may have a fan belt which can break or slip and cause a overheating car or truck.

Cooling Hoses:

Thanks BleepinJeep

Your radiator will be connected by a few hoses, over time these can get brittle and leak. If you are loosing fluid check your hoses for leaks. You will see either a white powder on dried leaks or a wet oil like mark if leaking, Replace the hose.

Internal Head Gasket:

If your internal head gasket has blown it can cause the overheating car symptom. This is a major job and will need to be taken to a garage to check and replace the head gasket, not a quick fix and certainly not cheap..

When a gasket fails, the exhaust gasses can flow into the radiator circuit causing accessible carbon / build up in the coolant and causing fluid loss. As the coolant can also be entering the cylinder it can cause a lot of other problems like rust or a seized cylinder.

A quick was to check is to take the radiator cap off a cooled engine. Start up the car and watch for bubbles in the radiator. You may see a few in the beginning as trapped air bubbles make their way through the system but if they don’t stop or you see a lot you could have a failed head gasket.

Good luck and hopefully its an easy fix.

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