Monthly Archives: March 2016

Tips When Your Radiator Is Leaking

download (5)When the temperature gauge on your dashboard reads high or a temperature warning light comes on, you have a cooling system problem that may be caused by a leak — be it in the radiator itself or some other component.

First, make sure it’s coolant that’s leaking, not another fluid. (Coolant is often referred to as antifreeze, but technically coolant is a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.) You can easily check the coolant level in your see-through overflow tank. If it’s empty or low, the next step should be to check the coolant level in the radiator, but that should be done only when the engine is cool.

Once you know you’re losing coolant, the radiator is a good place to start. Some radiator leaks will be easy to spot — such as a puddle underneath the radiator — but others not so much. It’s best to check the radiator from every angle, not just from above, and pay particular attention to seams and the bottom. Corrosion inside the radiator or holes from road debris also can cause leaks.

Antifreeze comes in different colors — green, yellow and pinkish-red, for example — feels like slimy water and usually has a sweet smell. If you can’t see coolant dripping or seeping, look for rust, tracks or stains on the radiator. Those are telltale signs of where it has leaked.

If the radiator appears to be OK, the cooling system offers several possibilities for leaks, including the hoses from the radiator to the engine, the radiator cap, water pump, engine block, thermostat, overflow tank, heat exchanger (a small radiator that circulates hot coolant into the dashboard for cabin heating) and others. A blown gasket between the cylinder head and engine block is another possibility, allowing coolant inside the combustion chambers — a problem that must be addressed immediately by a mechanic.

If you can’t find a leak, have it checked by a professional. Coolant has a way of escaping only under pressure when the car is running — possibly in the form of steam, which may not leave a trace.

How to Replace a Damaged Wheel

If it’s cosmetic or superficial damage, such as from scraping a curb, the wheel is probably still round and has no bent sections or chunks of metal missing. On the other hand, if the wheel is bent, cracked or structurally weakened from hitting a massive pothole, running over a steep curb or some other mishap, it may need to be replaced, though it could possibly be repaired.

A dented wheel may not be able to maintain a seal with the tire bead, resulting in consistent slow leaks or blowouts, and will be difficult if not impossible to balance so that it doesn’t vibrate at speed. A wheel with structural damage could eventually break apart. When in doubt about the severity of damage, a mechanic experienced in assessing wheel damage should inspect the entire wheel with the tire removed.

Whether to repair or replace a damaged wheel is often a judgment call, but because it involves safety issues as well as cosmetic concerns, the best course is to err on the side of safety.

Repair services that promise to restore badly damaged wheels to like-new condition might be able to remove dents and bends and make a rim look great again. However, there are no federal safety standards that apply to refurbished wheels, so you’ll be taking your chances as to whether they’ll still have their original strength and integrity.

Repairing more than superficial damage will not be an easy do-it-yourself project. Heat and specialized machines are used to straighten bends, and a complete refurbishment involves removing all paint and protective coatings, repairing corrosion and physical damage, then applying new coatings.

The cost of repairing a wheel will vary by size, type and amount of damage, and it might approach the price of a new or used replacement. Many original-equipment alloy wheels can cost hundreds of dollars (even thousands in the case of luxury and sports cars) to replace, so buying a used one can save money. However, it might be hard to determine if a used wheel had prior damage and is refurbished.