As you can probably guess, your car's radiator is responsible for keeping the engine cool. Without it, the huge amount of heat produced by your engine would quickly become too much for it to handle. Unfortunately, radiators can sometimes develop leaks, which renders them slowly less effective and increases the chance of engine problems.
Here are just five common signs of a leaking radiator.
1. Drop in Coolant Levels
Your radiator uses coolant to absorb heat from the engine. When your radiator starts to leak, it's coolant that leaks away. Of course, coolant levels do drop naturally as you use the vehicle, so a steady decline is nothing to worry about. All you need to do is add more coolant to the radiator. However, if coolant levels drop suddenly or continue to fall right after you've added more to the system, you probably have a leak.
2. High Temperatures and Overheating
If you're worried about radiator leaks, keep an eye on your temperature gauge. It should be set around the normal range most of the time. If it keeps moving up or down, it probably means there's something wrong with the cooling system. Leaks aren't the only cause – blockages can also lead to abnormal readings – but they are one of the most common. Eventually, you may notice your car overheating after even relatively short drives.
3. Puddles Beneath the Car
If your radiator is leaking coolant, it's probably not going to be gushing out fast enough to leave a trail as you drive. However, you might notice coolant puddles beneath your vehicle after you have been parked for a few hours. Coolant should look yellow, green or red, depending on the type you use. However, radiator leaks often let contaminants into the system, which turns the fluid to a rusty colour.
4. Funny Smell
When you're trying to decide if a certain liquid is coolant, give it a sniff. If it's coolant, it should be fairly sweet, and that's great since it can help you spot a leak. If you notice an unexplained sweet smell while you're driving, it could be because coolant is leaking. Anti-freeze has a similar sweet smell, but you'll still need to bring your vehicle to a professional for car repairs.
Finally, try having a look at your car's radiator. It's very easy to spot – you'll find it right at the front when you pop the hood open. If coolant has been leaking from high up on the radiator instead of along the bottom, you might spot discoloured stains caused by coolant drying and hardening along the surface.