How can one check an old radiator’s condition?

Thursday December 12 2019


By Paul Kaganzi

Hello Paul, I am considering buying a used radiator for my car locally. How can one check an old radiator to be sure that it is in good condition? P.B

Hello P.B, buying a used radiator has its pros and cons. On the positive side it seems cheaper than a new one and probably readily available. The downside is that this radiator has a maintenance history you have no clue about.

Worse still, it may have been damaged during an accident in a car it was salvaged from. So you must consider a used radiator with a pinch of salt and examine it very carefully. Look out for signs of sludge or presence of corrosion damage.

When you flush the radiator with clean water and it turns brown with an oily or whitish tinge, this is a telltale sign that the radiator came from a car with a poor engine cooling system maintenance regime. Delay to renew coolant causes blockage of radiator cooling fins by sludge and damage or leakage due to corrosion. Examine the radiator top to bottom for signs of structural damage or attempt to repair. This is a sign of a troubled past, possibly accident damage.

Radiator repairs usually only buy you time, especially if there is evidence of poor maintenance. Any signs of modification or misalignment will point in the same direction. Walk away from that radiator. From my own experience, used radiators cost almost as much as the new ones.

Enquire for the price of an OEM new one before you decide. You are better off spending a little more for peace of mind.