How to Clean a Car Radiator

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Most antifreeze is naturally corrosive, and thus it needs to be periodically changed before causing damage that must be cleaned with a flushing agent. Perform a chemical flush on a car's radiator with help from an ASE-certified master automobile technician in this free video on cleaning car radiators.

Part of the Video Series: Auto Repair & Maintenance
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Video Transcript

A little know fact about antifreeze is that the fact that the ethylene glycol that most antifreeze is made out of is actually naturally corrosive. So it is something that needs to be periodically changed. But that period typically is two to five years before that has to occur. But sometimes things do get kind of out of hand, and here we have a sample of when that kind of thing happens. And the antifreeze as we can see here is not any of the colors that are typical of antifreeze. Here it is actually brown. And that can occur from being in the car too long, it can also occur from having problems where the system does not remain pressurized. And when this circumstance occurs, you may need more than just a drain and a refill. You may actually have to clean the system by using a flush type of an agent. So here we have a typical radiator, and the coolant will typically flow in one side through the hose into the tank, flow through the radiator core through these little narrow tubes into the tank on the opposite side, and return to the engine on the other side. So sometimes we need to actually perform a chemical flush with some sort of a flushing agent. So what we need to do in that case is first start by draining the radiator of all antifreeze that we can get out. Please note that you must observe local ordinances concerning the disposal of antifreeze. Antifreeze is a toxic substance, and should not be poured in the storm drains. It has to be disposed of properly. So check you local regulations on that. Once we have drained the radiator we then need to refill it with water, and do our best to flush it out with just the water. And then add the chemical whatever kind of flush detergent type of agent that we have in there, and start the engine, and run it to full engine operating temperature typically for fifteen minutes or so. And then shut the vehicle off, and drain the radiator, and actually once again take the hose, and refill the radiator, and let it flow out draining it until it comes out clear. When we are done with that process what we need to do is then refill the radiator with the proper kind of antifreeze for the car. Different manufacturers call for different types of antifreeze, and the different colors kind of illustrate that. Here we have a typical green antifreeze, we have a type of antifreeze for a Ford or Chrysler, a Honda, General Motors, and Toyota. And they all have their own formulas, and you have got to maintain the proper of formula for the proper of car. The one thing that I would say unlike some of our other demonstrations when we would premix the antifreeze typically in most climates you mix it half water, half antifreeze. I would recommend in this case, because of the flushing process you now have an engine block that is full of water. And short of taking the engine out, and turning it upside down you are not likely to be able to get half that water out of there so you need to look up the system capacity, and make sure that you can add half of that capacity in full strength antifreeze in order to refill the system. And that would complete your process of cleaning the radiator.

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