A car is only as good as its parts. Be it luxury cars on sale, used cars on sale or even global names in heavy vehicles such as Toyota forklifts rentals, for example, it needs the parts of the forklift to be in top shape to function at their best. One such part is the radiator. Think of it as the temperature controller of the car. A radiator is an integral part which is responsible for stopping the car from overheating. Leaks and blockages in the radiator can cause some serious damage and costly repairs to the car’s cooling system. It can also cause severe damage to the engine and the transmission. 

Radiators are either cross flow or down flow; the difference is the placement of the tank. For cross flow, the tank is positioned on the side of the core, for down flow the tank is placed on the top and underneath the core. 

Listed below are the most common materials that the radiator is made of:

Plastic & Aluminium Blend

The most commonly used radiators are made of an aluminium core and a plastic tank as it is cost effective to mass produce. 


Full aluminium radiators are made for high-performance cars, in which both the core and the tank is made of aluminium. Since aluminium is light-weight it is perfectly suited for high-end/ heavy-duty cars such as forklifts, trucks etc. The radiator of a forklift is often made of aluminium. 

Copper & Brass

You will find these in vintage models, and until 1980, these have a brass tank and a copper core. Since Copper is costly and susceptible to corrosion, these were replaced by the plastic and aluminium radiators for their durability and cost-effectiveness. 

One of the most common car breakdowns is caused by the failure of the heating and cooling system due to overheating.  The coolant/ anti-freeze maintains the temperature of your engine, preventing it from overheating and freezing. Over time the coolant loses its protective properties, sometimes causing the radiator to rust and corrode. The cooling system can also be affected by blockages due to the building up of elements from the oil, grease, hose and other substances. 

It is recommended to change the radiator liquid every year; some even recommend flushing and refilling the radiator every 2 years, regardless of the mileage. Some of the signs that it needs changing are if your car overheats, your temperature light comes on or the heater stops working.

Let’s look at some of the common problems that occur with the car radiators and the fixes. 


One of the most common problems faced with radiators. You can see the liquid dripping beneath the front of the car after the engine is switched off. It’s a greenish-yellow liquid with a sweet aroma. You can see it around the edges of the radiator or around the hoses that connect it to the engine. Leaks are repairable when small, larger ones will require for the radiator to be replaced. 


Rust and corrosion occur when the coolant isn’t changed regularly. If the liquid carries rust particles or is turning into a sludge-like consistency, your radiator needs to be flushed, in some cases where the damage is severe, it will need radiator replacement entirely. 


Radiators are majorly blocked in internal core or the face due to debris build-up. Dirt, dust and other debris can gather on the face of the radiator restricting the airflow. Without sufficient airflow, the radiator can’t exterminate the heat from the coolant. There is a simple fix to this problem. The mechanic will spray water or compressed air from the flipside of the radiator to get rid of the debris. 


Radiators can also be damaged due to the vibrations from the running of the engine which may cause the end tank to crack, causing leaks. The parts that are most vulnerable to damage are the hoses or the area where the end meets the finned heat exchange. Leaks may also occur in the automatic transmission cooler located at the end or underneath the radiator. ATF from the transmission is circulated through a narrow metal pipe inside the radiator to extract the heat from the liquid.  Leaks here means the coolant will mix with the liquid which can affect the transmission. 

Front located radiators are also open to any stones or solid debris that make their way inside, through the grille. A strong impact can cause a puncture in the radiator, which can lead to leaks. 

What are the tell-tell signs that the radiator has been damaged?


One of the first signs of radiator failure is the release of white smoke either through the hood of the car or through the tail-pipe. If the smoke is coming from under the hood, stop your car immediately.  Is a definite sign your car is overheating. If the smoke is being let out through the end pipe, it means there’s a leak. 


The temperature measure will cross over to the red zone, indicating that the cooling system is unable to keep the temperature regulated.


Rust or faded paint under the hood can also be a sign of the radiator failing. If there is an external leak, the liquid will spill onto the hot engine and evaporate taking the paint along with it. 


This one is a no brainer! If your coolant levels are low, it may be because of leaks, which can put your car under the risk of over-heating. You must conduct routine car checkups to ensure everything is functioning as itshould be. 

Overheating can cause engine damage which is cumbersome and expensive to fix. A stitch in time saves nine. Looking out for these signs can help you catch the problem early on avoiding it from escalating. Seek professional help when needed. Auto air-conditioning service can help you with your radiator woes as well. 

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