Four Mistakes People Make When Flushing A Car Radiator

Your car's engine relies on an efficient cooling system to control its temperature on the move. If the radiator clogs up with deposits and/or rust, the cooling system cannot work effectively, which, in turn, puts more pressure on the radiator. As such, to make sure your car radiator runs as efficiently as possible, it's a good idea to flush the system at regular intervals, but it's equally important to do the job properly. Make sure you don't cause more problems than you solve, and avoid the four following car radiator flushing mistakes other drivers sometimes make.

Doing the job in the wrong place

Flushing a car's radiator isn't the hardest mechanical job in the world, but the task takes time and space, so you need make sure you have plenty of both. It's almost impossible to properly flush a radiator in a very confined space, and if you don't have room to properly move around the engine, you could just end up with a lot of unwanted mess to clear up.

Park the car on a flat surface. A slope can make it harder to get the coolant out of the radiator. You should also jack the car up before you start, so you can easily get underneath the engine, but make sure you check the owner's manual to find out which part of the vehicle can safely take the weight of the equipment. You should also block the wheels, just in case the car moves while you are working underneath it.

Working with a hot engine

High pressure and heat are very dangerous when it comes to flushing a radiator. If the fluid in the cooling system is boiling hot, you're likely to suffer serious burns when you first open the system or when you try to flush the fluid from your radiator. Ideally, you should work on the car when the engine has been idle for at least two hours.

Damaging the drain plug

The drain plug is a simple part of the coolant system that you'll normally find on the bottom of the radiator. This removable part allows you to 'unplug' the system, so the coolant will run out. If this part is dirty, it's sometimes difficult to find, and some people damage the plug by forcing it by hand or with the wrong tool. You may also need to unscrew a protective case to find the plug.

Some drain plugs are simple screw plugs, but you will probably still need a screwdriver or a wrench for these or bolt plugs. If the plug won't easily come loose, you may need to ask a mechanic to help. If you use too much force, you may permanently damage the drain plug. What's more, some plugs are petcocks or drain valves. You don't need to remove drain valves. Simply undo these parts as far as you can.

Refilling the system with tap water

Draining the radiator will remove a lot of the rust and debris inside the system, but you'll need to flush the pipes to get the worst of the gunk out. You can use tap water to flush the system, but you should always refill the pipes with distilled water.

Tap water generally contains chlorine, fluoride and other dissolved solids. These impurities can mix with the coolant you add to the water, limiting the solution's ability to protect your cooling system. Make sure you follow the dilution instructions on the coolant packaging, too. Don't make the solution too strong or too weak, or you could further shorten your radiator's working life.

Flushing a radiator isn't a particularly tricky task, but you still need to know what you're doing. If you'd rather leave the job to the professionals, you can take your car to the shop for car radiator repairs and maintenance.