Nothing is permanent in this world. Everything has an expiration date, even chocolates. Some women even go great lengths and store make-up in the fridge just to get that extra mileage for their cosmetics. The same rings true for your radiator – extra care must be taken in order for you to extend its life. Most mechanics agree that a properly maintained radiator should last for at least 8 to 10 years. Older metal radiators can even outlive the car! However, modern radiators are mostly made of plastic instead of metal, and plastic expands and contracts as the radiator heats and cools. Over time, this action may cause cracks but even so, it is rare for this to occur in less than a decade.
The key to prolonging radiator life is understanding why the radiator is there in the first place. Your car expends a lot of energy in the form of heat, and this heat can cause serious damage to the other parts of the car if not kept at a certain level. This job is not for the radiator but for the coolant system, which pumps coolant (usually mixed with ethylene glycol also known as antifreeze) through the engine to absorb the heat. Then, after it is heated, it goes to the radiator to be cooled and emitted into thin air. This process cools the water and antifreeze mixture, which goes back to the engine for another cycle. So if your radiator is not working in tip-top shape, your car would eventually overheat and the engine would destroy itself.
A vital piece of this puzzle is the coolant because it is the mixture that can effectively cool the engine. Water alone cannot do that as you know that water can easily be heated and can render no effect to the cooling process. Try to regularly flush the coolant system and replace the old with new fluids, or as often as your car maker suggests. If you frequently find the fluid level is not where it is supposed to be, this might be a sign that you have a leak. If you do have a leak, pour radiator sealant into the radiator and allow it to settle in the hole. Make sure to check in with your friendly neighborhood mechanic if you notice more severe symptoms.
Take good care of your radiator and it will surely serve you well.