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radiator - car repair
Old 06-10-2009, 09:31 PM   #1
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radiator - car repair

Car problems, my favorite!

My trusty 94 Acura Integra with 140k miles is having a leaky radiator. The radiator is only 3 years old. I replaced it when I bought the car at 115k miles. The owner before me replaced his as well.

I'm not sure if theres an inherent problem with the car that makes the radiator go. Or I could have had a dude radiator. It's all rusted and leaking towards the bottom.

Things that could have caused it - I lose some coolant when I had to remove the hoses. I replaced it with the regular old green prestone coolant and brita filtered tap water. I wasnt aware that 1. you shouldnt mix coolants, and 2 you should use distilled water... and 3, I never "flushed" my coolant/radiator.

So now I have a new aftermarket "racing" radiator thats all aluminum. (i think the older one was all aluminum too).

The issue is, I'm in DC (arlington, VA) and dont have a drive way. So I had the radiator sent to Philadelphia, bc I was going to visit my parents and work on it in their driveway with help from my brother. However, the radiator is leaking more than before. I'm not sure it can survive the trip to Philadelphia (3hr drive 200miles?). I have a gallon of distilled water in my car. The coolant level is still to the neck of the filler, but I can definitely see coolant leaking out very very slowly.

Are there any rules on working on it on the side of a public residential street? If I work on it here, I won't have my brothers help. I'm no pro just a learning DIYer and I'll be doing it on a residential street. If I can make it to Philadelphia, I have my brothers help and a driveway to work in. If I don't make it to Philadelphia, I may have an overheated engine. but I do have AAA and my trusty gallon of water.

What do you guys think? Any one have issues with their radiator? (btw, I'm replacing it with Honda Type 2 Coolant - blue stuff - supposed to be the best and very long lasting)
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Old 06-10-2009, 10:05 PM   #2
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You aren't driving very far. I'd pour a can of Alumaseal or Barr's Stop Leak into the radiator. These harden up when exposed to air and heat (thereby sealing the leak) and you can test it out before you go. If you can see where the leak is, you could also try a temporary repair from the outside using JB Weld, but that's even less likely to work. Take a few gallons of water with you, don't open up a hot radiator if you do overheat, and be sure to drain out everything when you do the radiator swap in the driveway. I'd worry about the stop-leak stuff eventually clogging up something else if you left it in the car long-term.

If you decide to do it in the street in front of your house--depends on the local laws. Some places frown on this, but even in a deed-restricted nightmare community I would imagine you could probably get away with a two hour repair with nothing worse than a dirty look. Clean up any spilled coolant--the green stuff (glycol) tastes sweet to dogs and they will drink it, poisoning them. I think most auto parts stores will take used coolant and dispose of it properly.

Good luck!
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Old 06-10-2009, 11:56 PM   #3
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I second the use of Barr's Stop Leak. It works wonder for small leaks. My son's junky car got the same small radiator leak. As the car is worth perhaps $500, and he only drives it to school that's 10 miles away, we decided not to bother with replacing the radiator. It has been 4 months, and the leak has not returned. Never having used this Barr's stuff before, I researched the Web and found other people having the same good experience. The maker also claims it will not clog up your radiator.
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Old 06-11-2009, 07:00 AM   #4
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Your radiator should last much more than three years. Something else is causing them to fail. Go ahead and make the trip but leave at an hour with very little traffic and fill up many more gallons of water. Your mom will be glad to see you and you can have some home cooking and visit with your brother. You really should check out the entire cooling system, are you running a themostat and is it the correct one? Do your heater hoses get hot when heat is turned on? Put your hand on them and feel, they should be so hot that you can only stand it for a second. Perhaps there is a restriction? Did you replace the fan shroud and protective underneath guard for the radiator on your last replacement? Perhaps there is too much snow and water building up on the bottom. Is your bottom hose collasping due to suction and resticting flow? Some bottom hoses incorporate a spring inside them to prevent this and old hoses without a spring don't have sufficient strength in their walls to prevent it. Could someone have left out the spring on a previous installation? And lastly, are you sure its not the water pump leaking down the bottom hose, collecting in the radiator pan and rusting out the rad? Get under there and see if there isn't a whitish stain on the inside of the bottom hose running all the way down. If it turns out to be the pump, don't make the trip.
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Old 06-11-2009, 07:27 AM   #5
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A cheap solution to having fluids leak on the ground - go to the dollar store and get the widest flattest under-bed storage plastic container you can find. A plastic funnel will come in handy also to pour the fluid from the big container to an empty plastic jug.
dh2b uses a flat metal sheet (approx 3'x5') he got at the auto parts store. It only has a 1 inch lip, so he will place a lot of rags underneath where he is w*rking to catch the spills.
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:37 AM   #6
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Early failure of radiators is usually the result of corrosion as result of electrolysis. Should check all grounding straps from engine/battery to car body and frame. Poor grounds cause current to find a path through the coolant.

Having said that, the only two fixes now are R&R radiator, or use sealant. In aluminum engines and or aluminum radiators use alumaseal.

Good luck.
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:43 AM   #7
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... And lastly, are you sure its not the water pump leaking down the bottom hose, collecting in the radiator pan and rusting out the rad? Get under there and see if there isn't a whitish stain on the inside of the bottom hose running all the way down. If it turns out to be the pump, don't make the trip.
My vote for most likely problem too. Find the leak. trace the leak. fix the problem.
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Old 06-11-2009, 07:04 PM   #8
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Ok, great suggestions from all. Do those barr's stop leak do any damage to the engine? If it's supposed to clog up my radiator... what will prevent it from clogging up the passages within the engine?

I didnt have access to that and am not sure I need it. I just tested my engine in the parking garage of my apt. With the car off and cool (havent driven it in over a week - use metro all the time), I noticed that the radiator was pretty much full. The coolant was still at the neck of the filler. The resevoir was a little low.

I could see coolant on the floor, and some coolant on the plastic under the radiator. Also on the actual radiator, I could feel my hands along the bottom and it was wet. I found a picture from the manual and circled in red where it was wet/leaking. It's also rusted up down there. (I didnt have a jack to get a better look), but the mechanic showed me about a month ago that it was leaking (i wanted to DIY).

Here's the pic with red showing where its leaking. pretty much the bottom of the radiator.


There was no leak, from what I can tell from the water pump. The lower hose was completely dry even at the bottom inlet (outlet?). The top hose was dry as well. What I noticed that was also wet was this section (circled in red) on the engine. I dont know if thats' normal. It was all dirty/grimy/sticky but wet. Like a soggy mess. It's not as clean as the photo. The yellow is the engine drain bolt (picture from the internet). That bolt was completely coverd in the engine dust/grime.



I soaked up and dried the wet area on the engine and also the wet area underneath the radiator. I started up the car and let it run for 10 mins while I watched it with a flashlight. I couldnt see any additional dripping or anything getting wet. The fluid is defintely moving. The top hose is HOTTT, the heat works, comes out hot, and the engine temp is where it usually is when its running.

It's definitely leaking from the bottom of the radiator as in my earlier picture. I definitely need a new one... the only question is, is it a bad radiator fluke, or something else?

(old previous owners leak was actually at the outlet (on the bottom), it was cracked or something.

The waterpump, it either works, or is totally bad and will leak like crazy right?
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Old 06-11-2009, 07:08 PM   #9
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Just a suggestion: try the Acura Integra forum at:

3rd Generation Acura Integra (1994-2001) - ClubIntegra.com - Acura Integra Forum

Peter
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Old 06-11-2009, 07:26 PM   #10
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It appears that you want to keep your car a while, hence replacing the radiator is the way to go. I suggested the use of Bar's product only to ensure you are not going to have an engine overheat while on that trip. For my son's junky car, it may very well become the permanent fix (he only uses the car to commute to school). Before I used it, I wondered if it would plug up the radiator channels, which are a lot narrower than than the engine coolant passages. Researching the Web, I found claims from this company as well as other 3rd parties that it would cause no harm. In fact, some even say that car manufacturers put it in new cars to avoid small gasket leaks that would upset new car buyers. This, I am waiting for confirmation from other members who may have closer association with car makers.

An excerpt from barproducts.com:

Will Barís Leaks plug my heater core?
No, the tiny particles will pass through a 24-gauge mesh screen which is the spec for the BIG 3 car/truck manufacturers. They say that any product installed in the cooling system must pass through this screen. Barís Leaks is the only stop leak to pass this test and to be approved by the vehicle manufacturers.
Note: If using Barís Leaks to stop heater core leaks, make sure you turn your heater control to HOT. Some vehicles have a valve that controls coolant flow through the core.
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:08 PM   #11
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..............I found claims from this company as well as other 3rd parties that it would cause no harm. In fact, some even say that car manufacturers put it in new cars to avoid small gasket leaks that would upset new car buyers. This, I am waiting for confirmation from other members who may have closer association with car makers...............
This stuff has been around for decades and does work as a temporary fix if the hole is small. A little was added to every new car once upon a time, but I'm pretty sure that is long discontinued. I wouldn't worry about the leak stop harming your car, overheating is your biggest risk.

Additives to the oil to stop oil leaks are another story - I wouldn't go there.
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:11 PM   #12
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I get the impression (maybe wrongly) that your car is losing a coolant and you think it's from the radiator. You are wondering about driving it 2-300 miles to meet your brother.

If I had a new radiator, I'd just replace it on the street. What's likely to happen in the hour or so it takes? Cops taser you?

If you decide to go, think about what will happen before and when you get there.
  • Has your car been overheating or just leaking?
  • Does your brother know more about cars than you?
  • Are there lots of places to stop, get more water or just leave the car in the 200 miles trip?

I may be a bit of an optimist but I'd drive it. If you are sure that it is only the radiator, it hasn't been overheating, it's not really hot on the day of your trip and you can get more water, go for it. Worst case is: it's not a leaky rad but something else and you pay a tow truck as well as a repair bill.

Since you intend to replace the rad anyway (which means you will drain all coolant), using plain water will not hurt.

Good luck

BTW, I replaced the water pump in my 50 year old LBC today and and am leaving on a 1700 mile round trip on Thursday. Your car probably has a better chance of completing the 200 mile trip unscathed.
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Old 06-13-2009, 06:57 AM   #13
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Thanks for all the information. The ER forums are my first source of information.

kumquat, I hope your trip goes well and the car drives safely!

Update... So I decided to drive back to Philadelphia and I am back and get to see parents, and brother this weekend. Excellent points on that being more important.

Weird news though. Before I left, I checked the radiator where I wiped down before under the radiator, and under the exhaust pipes... and nothing was wet! I drove back to Philadelphia and checked the car every hour or so to see if anything was leaking but made it back without any issues. This morning as I go out to look into replacing it, I check again, and nothing wet!!! Hmmm, weird. I do remember me tightening the drain bolt while I was fiddling with it the other night. I never knew it was leaking until a mechanic told me to. Now I'm thinking if he loosened the bolt a little, let it drip and then say, we can fix it for $400. Because I cant find any leaks or wetness on it at all after about a 200 mile drive.

I dont think I'm going back to that mechanic. While I'm here, I'm just going to replace the coolant and keep the new radiator till I need it. (It actually didnt have the right parts from the box. The shroud was all bent and won't fit. I'll have to have a talk with the merchant on that one.)

Moral of the story: double check everything and don't trust them mechanics!

I'll update later once I replace the coolant and get under the car to really take a good look at it.

Thanks for the suggestions and support.
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Old 06-13-2009, 10:44 AM   #14
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Tiresome having mechanics be vilified. If the mech was the one who suggested you tighten the drain plug and that fixed the problem that would suggest to me that he was the mechanic i would WANT to go too.
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Old 06-13-2009, 11:12 PM   #15
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Tiresome having mechanics be vilified. If the mech was the one who suggested you tighten the drain plug and that fixed the problem that would suggest to me that he was the mechanic i would WANT to go too.
I went to the mechanic for an oil change. At the last oil change he said, at the next oil change you need to replace your brakes. So when I was getting my oil changed, I told them that they told me last time I would need a brake change at the next oil change... but I told them the brakes should be good and he measured again and said oh yeah they're good. We measured them wrong last time... buttt, look at this, your radiator is leaking. And showed it leaking and told me he could fix it for about $400. I told him I didnt have the money at the time and had to do it next time.

I think if he was a GOOD mechanic, he woulda tried tightening the drain bolt and then it woulda fixed. But it might have been coincidental and it was leaking the whole time, I never saw it.

Only when I was fiddling and found the drain bolt, I decided to tighten it and that seemed to work. Loosen a drain bolt and tell a customer their radiator is busted and leaking so you replace it for them... it could happen, but who knows. I'll try someone else from now on.
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Old 06-14-2009, 01:40 AM   #16
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I went to the mechanic for an oil change. At the last oil change he said, at the next oil change you need to replace your brakes.
That's what happened to my daughter, except that afterwards I pulled the wheels off to show her how much braking pad is left. She has not been back to that place.
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Old 06-15-2009, 08:54 AM   #17
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Well I'm glad you got it fixed. Just for your information waterpumps are not "They either work or leak lile crazy" They are made to leak through a thing called a weep hole when they start to wear out. The weeping lets you know it should be replaced. Hopefully it was just the bolt. Also don't be afraid of the brake job, its actually a lot easier than changing a radiator.
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Old 06-15-2009, 09:58 AM   #18
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That's what happened to my daughter, except that afterwards I pulled the wheels off to show her how much braking pad is left. She has not been back to that place.
I got an oil change at a shop in Austin a few months ago and asked them to inspect the brakes because they felt like there was very little left based on how far down I had to push the brake pedal before it grabbed.

They called me back and said that there was plenty of brake pad left but that they only needed to be adjusted. The total cost? $35 for a half hour of labor. And sure enough, when they were done the brakes felt a lot "newer" and are still doing fine today.

Needless to say, I gained a fair bit of trust in this shop based on that experience. It would have been easy to try to sell a $300 four-wheel brake job that wasn't yet necessary.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:41 AM   #19
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This thread is making major points for my own personal mechanic, dh2b.
I will never gripe about doing the laundry, when I think of every time he crawls under our cars and spends hours doing repairs that would cost us a fortune at a garage.
One thing I would definitely recomend is investing in the detailed service/repair manual for your vehicle. All auto parts stores sell them. Put some marker tabs in it so it looks like you refer to it frequently.
Carry it with you when you visit the next garage just to see the expression on their face! Betcha the price goes down !
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:50 AM   #20
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This thread is making major points for my own personal mechanic, dh2b.
I have precious few complaints about my upbringing, but if there is one thing I wish was different, it's this: I'm about as "handy" as a turnip. My dad was not a "handy" guy at all and did almost none of his own home repair or car maintenance/repair.

As a result, I didn't have the experiences many kids had being a "helper" while Dad was doing some plumbing work, or a little bit of carpentry to build or fix something in the house, or replace a bad fuel pump. So I never grew up with exposure to handy work. And as a result, there's very little beyond the very basics I can handle as a DIY job. Yeah, I can change my own oil, but I get dirty and grimy, save less than $10 and wind up dealing with disposal issues for used motor oil and spend filters. Not worth it.
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