How to Clean Radiator Fins
You're driving down the road, and suddenly find yourself passing through a swarm of insects. While the sounds of this hailstorm are gross enough, the bird's buffet of squashed bugs on your car is another level entirely. Needless to say, cleaning dirty, clogged radiator fins is among life's less-appealing maintenance chores.
A radiator is an important part of your car engine's cooling system, allowing water or coolant to circulate through small tubes that are cooled by incoming air. This liquid cycles around the hot engine, cooling off the metal parts by moving the heat into the radiator to be cooled before circulating again.
Buildup from the heated metal and the evaporating water can clog the radiator over time, while radiator fins can accumulate dirt and road grime, as well as bugs, pebbles and other objects from the road. A clogged or blocked radiator can lead to an overheating vehicle, which can damage or even ruin your engine.
Many manufacturers suggest that you clean the outside of your car radiator at least once a year. You should also give your radiator a complete flush once every five years to improve the functionality of your vehicle's cooling system (here's how to clean it).
To avoid damaging your radiator and potentially your engine, your choice of cleaning product is important. Avoid using vinegar, because the acetic acid makes metal susceptible to rust. Additionally, bleach should never be used, because sodium hypochlorite (bleach) will corrode metals such as steel and aluminum. This can result in damage to the vehicle's intake manifold, block, or engine head as well as degrading rubberized gaskets and seals.
A safer option to harsh chemicals and solvents, Simple Green Pro HD Ready-To-Use Heavy-Duty Cleaner is a professional-grade, engine-safe cleaner/degreaser that breaks down grease, grime, automotive fluids, and yes - bug guts. The powerful, clean-rinsing formula is non-corrosive to metals including aluminum, stainless steel, chrome, and alloys.
Directions for Cleaning Radiator Fins:
Check your vehicle Owner's Manual before cleaning the radiator. Always follow the manufacturer's complete instructions for cleaning and maintenance. Make sure the radiator is cool to the touch before cleaning.
- Mix the solution. Mix 1-part-Pro HD with 3-parts-water in a spray bottle or pump-up sprayer.
- Apply cleaner. Spray the radiator with the Simple Green Pro HD Ready-To-Use Heavy-Duty Cleaner solution.
- Remove foreign objects. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently remove any little rocks, bugs, or other items caught in the radiator fins. If the fins are bent, use a flathead screwdriver to gently bend them back into place.
- Rinse. Using a low-pressure hose or bucket of clean water, gently rinse the radiator, flushing from the engine side toward the front of the car. If water doesn't run clear after rinsing, repeat steps 1-3.
- Dry. Allow to air dry.