Will A Radiator Flush Fix My Overheating Car?

Radiator Flush, Overheating Car, Clogged Radiator, Dirty CoolantI don’t mean to brag, but I’m really good at sticking to all the factory-recommended service appointments for my car. But even with all that, I occasionally find myself in a situation where I need to schedule a service for a problem I didn’t see coming. This summer, my car started overheating. I checked coolant levels and looked for leaks but found nothing wrong. So, now I’m wondering if a radiator flush will clear out a clogged radiator, and replacing the dirty coolant will fix my overheating car. Let’s break it down and explore why a car overheats and how to resolve it.

Why Does A Car Overheat?

All cars can overheat under the right conditions, even the most advanced, high-tech cars on the road right now. There are numerous causes for a car to overheat, including mechanical failure, low or dirty coolant, and excessive deposits (like rust and scale) in the cooling system. If you find yourself with a car whose temperature gauge is maxing out and the dashboard warning lights illuminate, schedule a cooling system diagnostic service immediately. A qualified service technician will determine the root cause by examining the cooling system components.

Mechanical Failure

Automotive parts wear out and require repairs or replacement. Depending on your vehicle, these repairs may be minor and relatively inexpensive, or they may require dismantling your engine, and those costs add up quickly.

  • Bad thermostat – A bad thermostat cannot open and close as needed, allowing coolant to flow. The cooling system cannot maintain the engine’s ideal operating temperature without freely flowing coolant.
  • Broken cooling fans – The fans are located between the radiator and the engine, pulling air through the radiator to cool it. Broken fans cannot cool the radiator when the car is stationary, causing the engine to overheat.
  • Clogged Radiator – Over time, deposits clog the radiator tubes and prevent the coolant from circulating properly.
  • Faulty radiator cap – Also known as a pressure cap because it helps maintain the correct pressure in the cooling system. Once faulty, it requires replacement.
  • Malfunctioning water pump – The water pump should continuously circulate coolant throughout the cooling system. When it malfunctions, the fluid doesn’t move or cool down, causing the engine to overheat.
  • Damaged Head Gasket – A head gasket is made from steel, copper, or a composite material. It acts as a barrier for the fuel, oil, and coolant between the head of each cylinder and the engine block. When damaged, the fluids mix together, compromising the integrity of both the oil and the coolant. If you suspect a damaged head gasket, schedule a service right away.

Dirty Coolant

All automotive coolants are glycol-based (ethylene or propylene) antifreeze with chemical additives mixed with distilled water. The coolant absorbs heat, helps reduce corrosion, and lubricates the cooling system components. It is also resistant to freezing or expanding in extremely cold temperatures (unlike plain water). The glycol and chemical additives in the coolant get used up over time and become ineffective. When this happens, you may notice the coolant turn a darker, murky color or even smell bad. Dirty coolant, past its usefulness, contains acidic contaminants that are harmful to your car’s cooling system and require replacement. 

These contaminants can include:

  • Rust
  • Scale
  • Foam (air bubbles)
  • Oil – (from a leaking gasket or seal)

Coolant Leaks

It is a bad practice to operate your car with low coolant. If you regularly top off the coolant reservoir, you have a leak. The water pump requires adequate amounts of coolant to work correctly. If your car has low fluid, the water pump sends air through the cooling system. Too much air in the system can create an overheating engine, many cascading problems, and expensive repairs. Common areas where coolant leaks occur are:

  • Bad seals or gaskets
  • Cracked or squishy hoses
  • Damaged radiator
  • Loose connections
  • Ruptured coolant tank

What Is A Radiator Flush?

A radiator flush removes dirt, sludge, rust, and other contaminants from your car’s cooling system and engine. The process removes all the coolant in the radiator and reservoir under pressure (usually using a cleaning agent) before adding new fluid. A technician also checks the cooling system for signs of wear and damage that can hinder engine performance. Be aware that a radiator flush is the same as a coolant flush but different from a coolant change.

What Is A Coolant Change?

A coolant change service focuses on just draining the old coolant (leaving behind possible sediments) before adding new fluid. This service works fine under certain circumstances but is inadequate when the cooling system malfunctions or performs poorly. If you need help deciding which service to schedule, discuss it with your auto service technician. 

Radiator Flush Benefits

Following the manufacturer’s suggested service intervals helps the cooling system operate correctly. Once corrosive materials build up in the coolant, the various metal, plastic, and rubber components can wear and degrade. Old coolant and excessive sludge can cause irreparable engine damage.

  • Fresh coolant prevents rust, scale deposits, and other corrosions, extending the life of your car’s cooling system components.
  • Improved coolant circulation reduces engine wear and tear, enhancing engine performance.
  • New coolant controls heat build-up and prevents freezing more effectively.
  • Compliance with manufacturer-recommended cooling system maintenance intervals prevents an accidental voided warranty.

Factory-Suggested Radiator Flush Intervals

Check your owner’s manual for your car’s manufacturer’s coolant change and radiator flush intervals. A typical interval is every 30,000-50,000 miles or every 2-5 years. 

Exceptions that may require a coolant flush outside your manufacturer’s recommended service intervals include:

  • The corrosion inhibitors have deteriorated (the fluid looks rusty). 
  • You accidentally topped off the coolant reservoir with the wrong antifreeze type (NEVER mix antifreeze types).
  • The coolant is milky, oily, or foamy (indicates a leak that requires immediate service).
  • Engine gasket replacement or other major coolant component repair.

Radiator Flush Service in San Diego, CA

Wentworth Automotive hires only ASE-certified and Master mechanics and uses only high-quality auto parts in all repairs and replacements. Our auto repair technicians will gladly discuss possible reasons for an overheating car. We can test your car’s dirty coolant and ascertain if the problem is a clogged radiator requiring a radiator flush service. 

Schedule Your Service

Call us at (858)541-1044 or visit us online to schedule an appointment.