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What to do when you check the radiator

Your radiator is an essential part of your car’s engine and, just like everything else, it needs regular maintenance to keep your car running as it should.

When you check the radiator or top up your coolant, you need to do it correctly and safely. Practicing good radiator safety will help prevent burns and injuries.

Watch the video or keep reading for step by step radiator safety advice.

The importance of radiator safety

Radiators can be very dangerous if they are not handled correctly. It’s possible to seriously burn yourself with steam and boiling coolant if you don’t follow the right precautions. Keep in mind:

  • Never open the radiator cap while the engine is hot
  • Never pour cold water over the outside of the radiator
  • Always use a protective glove and rag when opening the radiator cap

These are the basic precautions you need to follow to avoid burning yourself.

How to check the radiator

We recommend you check the coolant levels in your radiator at least once a month. If the coolant level has dropped, this could indicate a problem and you should seek advice.

To safely check and refill your radiator, you need to follow these steps:

1. Allow the engine to cool

Checking your radiator while the engine is still hot can be very dangerous. Allow your car to cool for a few hours after driving it before you open the radiator cap.

2. Use a protective glove and a rag to turn the radiator cap part way

Your car’s cooling system is pressurised to prevent the coolant from boiling if the engine temperature exceeds 100 degrees. If you open the radiator cap too quickly, the sudden loss of pressure can cause the coolant to boil instantly and cause serious injury.

Opening the cap part way will release the pressure slowly and safely. Remember that the radiator cap can be very hot and you turn it counter-clockwise to open it.

3. Open the radiator cap the rest of the way

Once the pressure has been safely released, you can finish opening the radiator cap the rest of the way. You can then check your coolant levels, top it up, and check for any other issues.

When do you need a new radiator?

You may need a new radiator if you notice:

  • High engine temperatures during normal driving
  • Loss of coolant
  • Steam from the front of your car
  • Radiator fins look damaged or clogged

You may also need to upgrade your cooling system to a heavy duty or performance radiator if you use your vehicle for towing or carrying heavy loads.

Things to remember

Your radiator maintains the correct temperature to protect your engine and automatic transmission while driving. If your engine is overheating, you need to get advice from a radiator specialist promptly to avoid potential damage to your engine.

Pouring cold water over an idling engine is an outdated technique which can be very dangerous on modern cars. This is because modern cars often have an aluminium radiator with a plastic tank. The plastic can become brittle over time and the sudden temperature change can cause it to crack and release steam.

At Natrad, we can help you with all your radiator needs. Whether you’re having problems with overheating or need expert advice, we have everything you need.

For more information about radiator safety, repairs, or replacements, get in touch with us.