As you use your vehicle to get you and your family safely to and from your obligations, it is constantly working, utilizing many different complex systems to operate properly. As your engine is running and fuel is being pumped to keep everything moving, your radiator has the ever important task of keeping the whole system from overheating. An engine that is constantly overheating can have serious repercussions when it comes to repairs, and if you’re not careful, could be potentially dangerous. Knowing the signs of a failing radiator can help you avoid bigger mechanical issues down the road and can keep you from being stranded somewhere with an overheated vehicle.

How Does a Radiator Work?

A radiator is made up of various hoses, pumps, fans, thermostats, a pressure system, and more. As your engine is burning fuels and creating excessive amounts of heat, your radiator helps draw heat away from the engine to stop it from overheating. By sending a liquid coolant through a tube in the engine, it picks up heat and leads it toward the front of the car where the heated liquid is then cooled down by the air stream entering through the grill of the vehicle. The water pump then sends the then cooled liquid back through the system to keep your engine cooled for the duration of your drive.

Signs Your Radiator is Failing

Knowing what to look for is a crucial part of keeping your vehicle running. Here are a few signs that your radiator isn’t performing properly and might be in need of a check up by your mechanic.


Your radiator is constantly transferring liquid coolant through different tubes and compartments which can open the door for a leak to occur from many points. If your radiator is leaking coolant, your vehicle will have a few obvious symptoms, the most obvious being the puddles you will start to see underneath your parked car. Leaked coolant will typically have either a green or yellow tint to it, depending on the brand. Your mechanic can perform a pressure test in order to locate the source of the leak, so if you suspect you are leaking coolant, get your vehicle to your mechanic as soon as possible!

Discolored Coolant

While healthy coolant will have a yellow or green glow to it as stated above, a burnt orange color could indicate that there is a great deal of rust somewhere in your system (this could be the cause of your leak). If your radiator starts to have contaminants build up in the system, it could create a number of problems for your transmission and engine. There are a number of reasons for your coolant to become discolored, and you will want to have your mechanic examine the issue as soon as you notice it.


Because your radiator is the key cooling system for your entire engine, if your vehicle is constantly overheating, it is almost definitely an issue with your radiator. However, just because your vehicle is overheating, it doesn’t mean your entire radiator is failing. With so many working parts, it could be in need of a simple part replacement or replenishment of your coolant, but it could also be something more serious. The best way to know the source of what is causing your overheating engine is by having your mechanic take a look, especially if you aren’t familiar with the system. If left unchecked, overheating can cause serious damage to the entire engine. Don’t wait or let a small issue snowball into something more serious, so if you suspect issues with your radiator, have your mechanic check it out!

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