What Causes a Radiator to Burst?

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A few things can cause a radiator to burst, including a blown head gasket and brittle plastic. Discover how a blown head gasket puts pressure on the radiator cap with tips from a certified master mechanic in this free video on car car accessories.

Part of the Video Series: Car Accessories & Maintenance
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Video Transcript

Good afternoon. My name is Tom Brintzenhofe, certified master mechanic, out of Redding, Pennsylvania, and today, we're going to talk a little bit about what causes a radiator to burst? There's a few things that will cause a radiator to burst. We're going to start at the top here. The most causes, the most reasons why, the biggest reason why a radiator would burst, is a blown head gasket, and what happens there a lot of times, it puts a lot of pressure back inside the radiator, and these caps are designed to hold probably, a maximum of about eighteen pounds of pressure, and the newer radiators, the tanks themselves are made out of plastic, so over a period of time, this plastic gets, I'd say it gets a little brittle, it gets a little old, it gets a little worn. As a head gasket does blow, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure back here on this cap, and if this cap doesn't release this pressure, through this hose back in the overflow tank, it builds up inside your radiator, and if you have a weak spot anywhere in this plastic tanks, that's usually the first place it will end up breaking on you. The second cause of radiators blowing, is what I was trying to talk about in the beginning, was as radiators get old, the plastic gets brittle. The seals in between the tank and the core, end up getting worn, and as they get worn, they'll end up blowing out, but other than the head gasket we talked about, and the old tanks, that's about the only two causes that will cause your radiator to blow.


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