How to Flush a Radiator
Most people don't ever think to clean their car radiator, but if not properly maintained, debris and mineral buildup can accumulate and reduce functionality of your vehicle's cooling system. This could result in engine damage.
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.
Your choice of cleaning product is important, to avoid damaging your radiator and potentially your engine. 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, damaging the vehicle's intake manifold, block, or engine head as well as degrading rubberized gaskets and seals.
Simple Green Pro HD is biodegradable and non-corrosive, safe for cleaning aluminum, stainless steel and other metals. The professional-grade, engine-safe formula breaks down tough grease, oil, grime and other automotive fluids.
Check your vehicle Owner's Manual before cleaning radiator. Most 4-cylinder vehicles have a capacity around one gallon. Make sure radiator is cool to the touch before opening radiator cap.
- Dilute cleaner. In a large container, mix 1 part Simple Green Pro HD to 3 parts water.
- Drain radiator. Place a drainage pan or other container beneath the drain cock opening on your radiator. Remove the fill cap from the top of the radiator. Use gloves or pliers to open the drain cock on the bottom of your car's radiator and drain it. Dispose of the fluid properly. Replace the drain plug.
- Add cleaner. Pour the cleaner slowly into the fill hole on the top of the radiator. Let the mixture remain in the radiator for 5 minutes.
- Start engine.Turn on the vehicle and run the engine for 5-15 minutes to allow cleaner to cycle through the engine. The motor needs to warm up to operating temperature to allow the thermostat to open, and let coolant flow from the radiator to and through the motor and back.
- Drain cleaning solution. Turn off the engine. Open the drain cock and allow the cleaning mixture to drain. Then replace the drain cock. Dispose of the used cleaner properly.
- Rinse. Fill radiator with water (if possible, use distilled, non-mineralized water). Turn on engine and allow it to idle for five minutes. Then turn off the engine, open the drain cock again and allow the water to drain. Replace the drain cock.
- Add coolant. Add the recommended amount of coolant to the radiator.