car with radiator leak
DIY Auto Repair

Look Before You Leak: 5 Signs You Have a Radiator Leak

There are seven fluids in your vehicle that must be maintained to ensure your car continues to run smoothly. One of those fluids is coolant or antifreeze. 

This is the liquid that flows around your engine pulling heat away as it flows. It then travels through the radiator where it gives off the gathered heat. Then it flows back to the engine where it begins the process over again. 

If you have a radiator leak, there is a breach in this process. Now you have a problem because the heat isn’t leaving your engine the way it should. Ignore the problem, and you could cause some serious damage. 

So let’s protect your engine and look for these five signs of a radiator leak. 

1. Overheating Engine 

If your radiator leaks coolant, there is less of it, which means more heat in your engine. The air flowing through your engine bay cannot cool your engine as effectively as the liquid. So while you may not notice right away, as you lose more coolant, your engine temperature will continue to rise which will ultimately lead to your engine overheating. 

2. Puddles Under Your Car 

This is the most obvious sign that you have a leak isn’t it? Know the different colors of the liquids in your vehicle, so you know what the puddle means. 

If you see a bright red or green color, then you have a coolant leak. This leak will be under your radiator or where the reservoir is located.

If you aren’t sure where the reservoir is, open your hood and look for a container that holds a brightly colored liquid. The container is usually a white color and will have two tubes and a cap connected to it. 

3. Low on Coolant

In the last tip we mentioned where to find your coolant reservoir, you should regularly check this to ensure you have the proper amount of coolant. 

You could open the cap and look inside to see how much coolant is in there. But if you don’t know how much is the right amount, you won’t know if it is too low. 

Look at the outside of the container, and you should see a maximum and minimum fill line. If your coolant level isn’t between these lines, then add some. Check the level again in a few days to a week, and if the level has dropped, you have a leak. 

4. Sweet Smell in Your Cabin 

Standard coolant is a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. It has a sweet smell to it. A properly functioning system will not allow you to smell that sweet smell when you are in the cabin of your vehicle.

But if your system leaks, the coolant may make its way into your engine bay or behind your dashboard. If that happens, you will smell the coolant in the cabin. 

5. The System Is Not Pressurized

The cooling system in your vehicle needs to be in a pressurized state for it to function correctly. When your system loses pressure, then you have a breach in the system somewhere. If you think your system isn’t pressurized, you can use a tool to test it. 

If you find that your system has a breach, start with a product like Irontite Radiator Stop Leak to seal any minor leaks. If you still have leaks after this, you have a large leak and bigger problems.  

Fix Your Radiator Leak

If you see any of these signs of a radiator leak you should not hesitate to address the problem. By waiting, you risk your engine overheating and your repair becoming a lot more expensive. You could even permanently damage your engine. 

Before you get started fixing any leak or another repair, make sure you have your vehicle’s service manual