The dog days of summer are rapidly approaching, and before long, millions of Australians will rely on the ability of their car to function in these extreme conditions. After all, there's nothing worse than sitting in a traffic jam on the way home from work, while watching the temperature gauge as it glides inexorably towards the top. You may have noticed that your vehicle has been running "too hot" in recent times and want to take action now before the pressure really mounts. Can you service the radiator by yourself and if so, what do you need to do?
Issues Over Time
Typically, an overheating engine occurs when sediment builds up inside the narrow fins of the radiator. These tiny particles can be traced back to impurities in the water, elements of the antifreeze solution, rust or rubber pipes that will gradually degrade. The cooling fins are designed to be narrow so that the air can flow across the surface and bring down the temperature of the water within, but this can create problems when the sediment builds up to a certain level. Gradually, it will adhere to the side of each fin, and the water will find it very difficult to pass by. In turn, this will affect the flow level, and the engine will begin to overheat.
In order to fix this problem, you will have to get rid of the old coolant. Begin by locating the drain plug that is typically situated at the bottom of the radiator. Be very careful when you're trying to open this as it has a tendency to corrode and is relatively flimsy in any case. If you break it, you will probably have to replace the whole radiator, but if you do manage to open the valve, make sure that you gather the old fluid in a suitable receptacle. Recycle it according to instructions.
You will need to remove the top and bottom radiator hoses before you can continue, as you will need to flush the system out completely if you are to be effective. You may have to craft a funnel of some kind so that you can direct the water into the radiator carefully without it blowing back at you. If you achieve this, then you should let the water run for some time until it appears to run clearly from the bottom.
This is not the end of your work. However, as you now have to reverse your angle of attack and push water upward from the bottom instead. You need to try and catch the old fluid as it comes out of the top. Do this until the water is completely clear.
While you are doing this, have a good look at the outer shell of the radiator and get ready to clean the surface. Over time, it will accumulate quite a lot of dirt or grime, leaves, stones and all manner of bugs. You may have to use a soft brush but be careful not to damage the fins as they are quite susceptible.
Quite a Challenge
Technicians recommend that you flush the system several times with consistent pressure to do the best job. In truth, this is difficult to achieve using rudimentary household tools, and you may be better off taking the vehicle into your local car service before the hot weather really arrives.