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The 4 Steps to Confirm the Location of a Radiator Leak

With so many components to look at in a car, locating the source of a problem can literally be like searching for a needle in a haystack. That said, leaks are some of the trickiest issues to confirm in a car. If you’ve ever launched a search that lasted hours upon hours looking for the source of that puddle in your driveway, then you know how difficult it can be.

Granted, not knowing what to look for and how to go about your search for a leak can lead to a lot of wasted effort. And so without further ado, here are the four steps to take in order for you to confirm that a hard-to-find leak is in your radiator and not anywhere else.

Step 1: Make sure it’s coolant that’s leaking

Coolant, otherwise known as anti-freeze, comes in many different colors (blue, green, pink, red, etc.), other fluids in your car can have the same color, and so color is not a good physical property to identify the type of fluid. Your best recourse is to check how fast your car is losing coolant. You can do this by checking the coolant level in your reservoir a few hours after topping it up. If it’s low or empty when you get back home, then it’s obvious that you have a leak in your coolant system.

Step 2: Where is the puddle located?

The position of the puddle on the floor of your garage or driveway is a good indication of where your coolant leak is located. If it’s right under your radiator, it’s a good bet that the leak is at or around the radiator assembly.

Step 3: Check the coolant level in your radiator

After confirming the type of fluid and location of the leak, your next step is to inspect the coolant level in your radiator. If it’s low or empty, the leak is somewhere at the bottom. If it’s full, then the leak is likely somewhere at the top. Before you check your radiator though, make sure that your engine is cool to avoid getting burned.

Step 4: Go over the radiator

Unless the leak is easily visible, you may need to look at the radiator from every angle. Use every tool at your disposal to do so, including a creeper so you can get underneath, a mirror to check in narrow spaces, etc. Once you spot the leak, bring your radiator in for repair or replacement at a competent car service shop. You might consider using a radiator additive or sealant that stops the leak, but it’s always best to have a trained and experienced technician weld the leak shut.

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