Summer Proof Your Radiator To Avoid Roadside Frustration

Plenty of unfortunate motorists may find themselves on the side of the highway in June and July, steam billowing from under the hood from an overheated engine.

Here’s how to avoid being one of them.

A complex system of fans and fluids keeps your engine humming on even the hottest summer days.

Engines may overheat for a number of reasons. These include: old or contaminated coolant, air pockets in the cooling system, fan malfunction, leaking water pump, damaged thermostat, malfunctioning radiator cap, coolant leaks or a problem with the head gasket.

So how can you know your vehicle is ready for hot days?

For starters, make sure to have your vehicle inspected before any road trip. This simple pre-travel check-up can help prevent roadside tempers from flaring.

“Preventative maintenance is the cheapest insurance you can buy,” said Barry Bronson of Zerex, an engine coolant manufacturer.

  • Ask your trusted service advisor to inspect the radiator and cooling system.
  • Engines rely on fans and coolants to help maintain a balanced temperature. Coolant in the radiator must be replenished or replaced routinely to keep the engine operating smoothly.
  • Like the oil, engine coolant has a service limit. Over time the water in the coolant evaporates, causing the mixture to become imbalanced.
  • Impurities in the liquid can clog coolant passages, causing ‘hot spots’ in the engine. These ‘hot spots’ can cause false sensor readings, as well as accelerate wear on other components and the engine itself.

A coolant flush removes old fluid from the system, along with any debris. Newer vehicles can last longer before their coolant needs to be replaced. The owner’s manual offers the best guide for service intervals.

Bronson offered the following advice on coolant maintenance and what to do if your vehicle overheats:

  • Engine coolant is like oil, it needs to be replenished and replaced periodically.
  • Impurities in the coolant can corrode hoses and cause hot spots within the engine.
  • Have your vehicle inspected by a certified technician, especially before a long road trip.

What To Do If Your Engine Overheats

  • Turn off the engine.
  • Open the hood to let the engine vent.
  • Never open the radiator while it is hot. The cap itself is blistering hot and the fluid is under pressure. Opening the cap of a hot radiator may cause severe injury from scalding liquid. Wait for the radiator to cool before opening.