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How Often You Need to Flush Your Radiator

‘Who wants to live forever?’ sang a forlorn Freddie Mercury in the famous Queen song. Life may be just a fleeting moment in time but, if we look after ourselves, we can help to make it last as long as possible.

The same principle applies to vehicles. Maintain them well and they’ll last longer. Some procedures are quite simple to carry out and could add years to your vehicle’s life. How often should you flush your radiator? Here’s what you need to know.

The Purpose of Radiators

A vehicle’s radiator is one piece of its cooling system. It’s there to ensure that the engine operates at the right temperature. It is a heat exchanger made up of two water tanks. These are linked by a core that consists of lots of narrow tubes.

When the engine is switched on, the temperature of the coolant will rise. The coolant then passes from one tank to the other. As the vehicle moves, cooler air is dragged through the tubes. The effect of this is to take the heat out of the coolant.

The cooled fluid is then pumped out of the radiator to cool the rest of the engine. Fans which are thermostatically controlled will also force air through the radiator. This happens when the vehicle is at a standstill or when more cooling is required. 

Understanding a Radiator Flush

Flushing a vehicle’s radiator will help ensure the engine’s cooling system works properly. This is important because failure to do it could mean the engine overheats and causes a breakdown or worse. 

An engine flush will also get rid of dirt and rust which could mount up in the system. The radiator usually contains a mixture of distilled water and antifreeze. If its purity diminishes then it won’t cool the engine properly.

This could also allow parts of the engine to freeze over during the winter months. That could lead to a lot of damage, some of which may be irreparable.

If you leave it too long to change the coolant then it may also lose some of its anti-corrosion properties. That could lead to issues with various parts of the engine.

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Draining the Radiator

You should wait until the car has cooled down before you flush the radiator. Doing it on a day when you haven’t been using the vehicle is best.

Think of flushing the radiator as emptying a kitchen sink full of dirty water and then refilling it with fresh. In order to do this effectively, you will need to buy a flushing agent. That will clean out the radiator. You’ll also need some new coolant.

The flushing agent will get rid of all the dirt particles that could corrode or block up the engine. Start by raising the front of the car with a jack. Put a drain pan or bowl directly under the radiator’s drain plug.

You’ll then need to unscrew the plug and allow the fluid to drain into the pan or bowl. A local garage should be able to dispose of the coolant chemical mixture for you.

Flushing the Radiator

Once you’ve put the plug back, you should fill the radiator with distilled water and the flushing agent. Now you’re ready to go. Turn the engine on and carefully follow the instructions that have come with the flushing agent.

This is important as you’ll need to make sure you don’t overheat the engine by leaving it running for too long. Drain the radiator once again so that it’s free of the mixture of water and flushing agent. 

Open any drain valves on the cylinder block when letting out the cleaning mixture. This will help to completely get rid of the water and flushing agent. 

Now is the time to fill the radiator with the fresh anti-freeze, again following the manufacturer’s instructions. Some anti-freeze needs to be diluted. If this is the case then it’s best to use distilled water.

It’s vital to make sure you get the right proportions of anti-freeze and water. Always consult the vehicle’s manual and the anti-freeze instructions. It’s also important to properly bleed the system when you refill it.

This gets rid of excess air. Check the manual on how to do this. If you don’t do it then you could get some localized overheating. This may then not show up on the temperature gauge and could then damage the engine.

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A Few Quick Checks

Once you’ve added the anti-freeze or coolant, start the engine. When it gets to its regular temperature, turn the engine off again. This will get rid of any more air trapped within the radiator during the cleaning process. 

You can now top up the coolant so that it reaches the recommended level. It really is a very simple process and will add a string to your bow as a DIY car mechanic. 

Being able to perform maintenance like this comes into its own if you have an RV and spend a lot of your life living in your vehicle.

When you buy a new RV, check with the dealer so that you know exactly where the radiator and its tanks are located. It’s always best to use a reputable seller, such as this Offical Entegra Dealer.

How Often Should You Flush Your Radiator?

The optimum intervals between radiator flushes will depend on the vehicle. Other dependencies include how you operate the vehicle as well as the type of weather you tend to drive in. 

The best thing to do is to consult the vehicle’s manual or the dealer if you bought the vehicle in this way. As a general rule, it’s best to carry out a radiator flush once every five years or every hundred thousand miles.

However, you should always keep a watchful eye out for any visible rust in the engine area. That could be a sign that a flush would be a good idea.  

Maintenance Is a Good Investment

How often should you flush your radiator? Check the manual, but once every few years should be sufficient. It’s not going to break the bank and could end up saving you from expensive repairs.

Keep reading our automotive maintenance section. We’ve more car maintenance tips on everything from how to tell if you need an oil change to how to clean foggy headlights.