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J-Mac Radiator Blog

Salt Lake City, Utah Radiator Repair and Service blog by J-Mac Radiators. 3520 South State Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84115.

Is It Time To Think About Radiator Maintenance?

Eric Flores - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do you get a physical every year or just wait until you’re REALLY sick to go to the doctor? It’s probably a little of both, but I’m sure you do a lot of preventative maintenance, like taking vitamins, eating healthy, and exercising, to keep your body healthy and to stay away from the doctor’s office.

 

Well, your car needs the same TLC that your body does! I’m sure you know about the basic types of maintenance that a car needs – your oil changed, your tires rotated, your windows cleaned, etc. – but what about your radiator? Do you ever check that? Maybe you should.

 

Regular radiator maintenance is an important and integral part of the overall “health” of your car. An engine’s cooling system is relatively simple when it comes to its design. Why? Well, it’s because your engine has to remain at a certain temperature in order to work properly otherwise you could have engine failure. So, knowing some basic radiator maintenance is absolutely essential for any who owns a vehicle.

 

What does your radiator do? Well, radiators keep your engine cool while it’s working and your car is working, driving you around from place to place. Radiators are like the “wingman” of your car’s engine. Without your radiator, your engine would not last through the cold nights and would easily overheat during simple drives.

 

Here are some simple tips you can use to maintain your radiator:

- Keep your radiator fluid filled! Coolant or radiator fluid should be used in a 50/50 mixture with water. You can purchase a pre-mixed bottle of 50/50 Coolant from your local auto repair shops.

- Make sure your radiator cap is on tight. Your radiator cap is designed to help keep your coolant system pressurized and to keep your coolant from boiling.

- At least once a year, an external radiator cleaning needs to be done. There are two options for this.

- You can use a hose with a nozzle and a soft nylon brush to clean the exterior of the radiator. Once your car is completely cool, gently brush the radiator fins, in the direction of the fins. When you’re finished brushing the fins, use your hose to rinse off the radiator by streaming the water from outside to inside.

- You can take your car to the staff at J-Mac Radiator and they’ll take good care of your radiator! They will clean your radiator’s exterior professionally.

- Lastly, it is important to flush and fill your radiator at least once a year. The professionals at J-Mac Radiator professionals recommend a flush and fill for winter called “winterization” for your car. 

Depending on how much you drive, you may need to have more than one flush and fill per year. Why is a flush and fill important? Simple! It is to ensure your cooling system will run well and won’t become clogged with lots of particulates. Over time, your car’s radiator can become blocked with debris from the engine that is cycled though the dirty coolant and will eventually completely clog the cooling system.

- There are two ways to flush and fill your radiator.

- You can flush and fill your radiator yourself. We’ve posted a blog earlier this year on how to do so.

- We recommend bringing your car into J-Mac Radiator. Our car care and radiator professionals will flush your radiator chemically and then by hand, in two directions with water. Then refill your radiator with the proper coolant you need and have your car ready for the ride of your life!

DIY: How to Replace a Car Radiator

Eric Flores - Monday, October 20, 2014

With this blog post, I am NOT personally advocating that you should go out and replace your car’s radiator. I personally would take my car into the professionals at J-Mac Car Care, but for all you DIY-ers out there here’s how to do it yourself!

Step 1: Gather your tools! You will need a 3/8″ drive ratchet and socket set, Phillips and flat screw drivers, a good pair of pliers, end wrenches, and a pair of gloves. J-Mac Car Care professionals recommend having both the SAE and metric sizes on the sockets and screwdrivers in different lengths.

 

Step 2: Survey around your radiator. You need to note what’s around your radiator. Knowing what’s around it and what will be disturbed will be critical for knowing how to put it back together after you take it apart. It’s also important to make sure you have the correct tools for the job. J-Mac’s experts recommend making notes on where everything goes to make sure it goes back in the right place.

 

Step 3: Remove the parts around the top part of the radiator. Make sure you keep track of all your hardware! This includes all the nuts, bolts, clamps, braces and supports.

 

Step 4: Unplug the cooling fan(s) and remove them. Some cars have one electric cooling fan while others have two. Whether your car has one or two, both will need to be removed before replacing the radiator. First, unplug the fan(s). Then, unscrew them from the radiator frame. Last, carefully lift the fan(s) from the mount(s) and set the fan(s) aside, keeping track of the corresponding hardware.

 

Step 5: Drain the radiator. To drain your radiator, place a catch-pan underneath the radiator. Take off the radiator cap and unscrew the valve to the drain. You can expect two or more gallons of coolant. Please make sure you dispose of the coolant safely. It’s toxic to animals, so save a little furry creature’s life!

 

Step 6: Disconnect the upper and lower radiator hoses. Unless you’re replacing the radiator hoses as well, you should only have to disconnect the end of the hoses that attach to the radiator. Make sure to leave the clamps on the hoses for your convince. Catch any excess coolant left in the hoses in a small bucket. Remember, save a furry life!

 

Step 7: If your car has an automatic transmission, disconnect the cooling lines. Located along the lower part of the radiator back, disconnect using an open-end wrench to loosen the couplings. Make sure to catch any transmission fluid that runs out of the lines.

 

Step 8: Remove any screws holding the radiator in place. Most of the screws or bolts will be found near the top or sides of the radiator. Also check the bottom of the radiator; sometimes there will be fasteners at the bottom. There are also tabs and pegs at the bottom.

 

Step 9: Remove the radiator. Once you have removed all the fasteners, hoses, and cables, then you can lift the radiator out. If you can’t are having any difficulty lifting the radiator, don’t force it – stop and look for any additional parts or screws that may still be attached.

 

Step 10: Compare your new radiator to your old one. This seems like common sense, but really, if more people remembered step 10, less people would have problems! Match the size, tab locations, ports, and screw holes are all located in the same places. If not, don’t try to install that radiator. Get a new one.

 

Step 11: Install your new radiator. If everything checks out with your new radiator, put it right into place. Make sure to reconnect everything back to your radiator, including hoses, lines, clamps, braces and supports.

 

Step 12: Refill your coolant. Check for leaks by starting your car. Make sure you warm the engine and check your transmission fluid before hitting the streets and showing off your hard work!

 

Again, this job isn’t for the faint of heart, but it can be done. If you’re feeling up to the task, give it a whirl, but for all of you other folks, bring in your car to the professionals at J-Mac Radiator. They’ll take care of you and your car!

How to Troubleshoot Oil in the Radiator

Eric Flores - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do you have oil in your radiator? If you do, we recommend you bringing your vehicle to J-Mac Radiator right away. However, if you would like to troubleshoot the problem and be able to tell us what’s wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. Troubleshooting oil in your radiator is a difficult process and it’s not for the novice mechanic. So please be very careful troubleshooting on your own.

You’ll need several tools to troubleshoot having oil in your radiator. Here’s what you’ll need: your repair manual; a compression gauge; a vacuum gauge; a radiator pressure tester; a spark-plug socket and wrench; and an assistant. If you don’t have all of these items, then you need to skip the self-diagnosis and go ahead and take your vehicle to the helpful staff at J-Mac.

To determine if you even HAVE oil in your radiator, you first need to start your vehicle. Then immediately after start up remove the radiator cap and examine the condition of the coolant contained in your radiator and overflow reservoir. If there is oil in the coolant, it will look muddy brown and “frothy” with the consistency of a milkshake. Then you need to drive your vehicle for an extended period of time, so the engine heats to its normal operating temperature. After awhile, park the vehicle and read the temperature gauge. If the temperature gauge needle is reading “above normal” temperature limits and you saw muddy brown contamination during your inspection, you’ll also need to check your engine.

To inspect your engine, you need to use the following steps:

Step 1: Make sure your vehicle is turned OFF with your vehicle in park or neutral AND set the emergency break.

Step 2: Using the spark-plug socket and wrench, remove the spark plugs. Screw in the compression tester or use a hand pressure tester into the spark plug hole. Remove the high-tension coil or coil pack wire.

Step 3: Your assistant is now needed! Have your assistant turn the engine over (with the key) seven or eight times then stop. Each time read the pounds per square inch (PSI) on the gauge as well as for each cylinder. Record the numbers and note any deviations with your results.

NOTE: Any cylinder that reads less than 30 pounds will have a problem and could point to a blown head gasket.

Step 4: Hook up a vacuum gauge to a vacuum source on your engine. The best vacuum sources on your engine will come from a hose that leads from the intake manifold, carburetor or throttle body.

Step 5: Idle the engine. While the engine is idling, read the gauge and record the number. Use your owner’s manual has a guidebook for the correct vacuum reading. It will be measured in inches of mercury.

NOTE: Any number that is less than the manufacturer’s specification will indicate excessive vacuum entering the combustion chamber. A warped or cracked cylinder head or a defective head gasket could cause this problem.

Step 6: Turn off your engine and check your oil. Look for any light brown coloring or foamy substance on the tip of the dipstick.

NOTE: If you see any light brown coloring or foamy substance on the tip of the dipstick, this indicates that that a cylinder passage in the head or block has crossed an oil passage with a water passage. A warped or cracked cylinder head or a blown head gasket could cause this problem.

Step 7: Hook up a radiator pressure tester to your radiator cap inlet. Manually pump the tester to the pressure that is listed for your radiator (it will be written on the radiator cap). You can exceed the pressure, but only by a few pounds, without damaging your radiator system. So please be VERY careful.

Step 8: Wait for approximately five (5) minutes and see if the pressure slowly drops. Listen for any hissing noises coming from the area near or around the cylinder head.

NOTE: If you can hear hissing noises coming from around the cylinder head or the pressure is slowly dropping in your radiator, your vehicle may have a defective gasket seal and potentially an exterior crack in the cylinder head.

Q&A: Liquid Aluminum

Eric Flores - Monday, October 13, 2014

Our first question was: “I have a bottle of Bar’s Liquid Aluminum stop leak. Will the ‘Liquid Aluminum’ stop leak that I have work on my radiator if it is made of brass and/or copper?” Naturally, I sought the specialized team of radiator repair experts at J-Mac Radiator in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah, for their advice on this topic.

 

After going in, I sat down with Mr. Mark McKenna, manager of J-Mac Radiator. We started talking about using ‘Liquid Aluminum’ and he strongly recommended just coming in and having a professional radiator technician examine your radiator.

 

“I would only under the most dire of circumstances encourage its [Liquid Aluminum] use,” he said.

 

When I asked why, he explained to me that it and most other “stop leak” products work in theory by circulating through the cooling system via the coolant. As the coolant escapes through the leak some of the product will be left behind thus clogging the leak. Sounded like a good theory to me. Then Mark explained that there were a few flaws with the theory.

 

1. “Stop Leak” products rarely work whether they are designed for a copper, brass, or plastic aluminum radiator.

 

2. “Stop Leak” products are non-selective. That means they flow through the ENTIRE system, plugging up passages into your heater cove and the radiator tubes. This can make your radiator problem worse by causing your car to overheat.

 

Mark said if you choose to use a “stop leak” product, to make sure it is only as a SHORT TERM SOLUTION. Again he cautioned that if your radiator has a leak, please take it in and get it fixed by a radiator repair shop.

 

Here’s an example, if you were to use the “Liquid Aluminum” and it stops your leak, but it also severely restricted your Heater Core. Now your Heater Core will no longer produce any heat and that means you’ll have to take your car in for it to be removed, repaired and possibly replaced. This would range in price from a few hundred to $1,500.

 

Another example…so you still used that “Liquid Aluminum” and it stopped your leak. Well, it also clogged up your whole radiator, which resulted in the overheating of your engine. Do you know how much a new engine costs? On the conservative side, it would cost a few thousand dollars.

 

So, I ask you, is using the “Liquid Aluminum” or other “stop leak” product worth the risk? Are you willing to put your car’s Heater Core and engine on the line for a quick fix? I submit (and Mark agrees with me) that it simply isn’t worth the risk.

 

“You are money ahead by having the leak diagnosed by a professional and then having it repaired,” he said.

 

Thanks to our friends at J-Mac Radiator for helping us out with this question today. I really hope you found it as interesting as I did and if you were thinking of using a “stop leak” product in your radiator, I hope you’ll think twice before you do. Stop by J-Mac Radiator for any of your car care needs, located at 3520 South State Street and online at www.jmacradiators.com.


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