How Often Should You Flush Your Radiator?

two people fixing car

We have all seen it before: a car stranded on the side of the highway, smoke pouring out of the engine. A car that refuses to start on a cold winter morning. Maybe you have even been in these situations before. One thing that can help if you have found yourself struggling to keep your engine the proper temperature for smooth functioning is a radiator flush. You may not even be aware of a radiator flush, but this article will answer everything you need to know about radiators and how to keep your car running in tip-top shape. We will help you understand how often should you flush your radiator so that your car never goes too long in between treatments.

While many factors go into your car performance and even into your car’s cooling system, a radiator flush is a quick way to ensure your engine and all of its parts stay safe and clean. When you properly maintain your car, you can put less money into repairs and keep it for a long time to come, until you are ready to sell it or upgrade to a new vehicle. While many often wonder how often should you flush your radiator, we provide answers for you so that your car can continue to keep its engine at the correct temperature. Trust us, once you know how easy and relatively affordable it is, you will be rushing off to flush your radiator yourself!

Purpose of a Car’s Radiator

If you have caught yourself wondering how often should you flush your radiator, you probably wanted to know the function of the radiator to begin with. When your car is running, your radiator helps to keep the engine cool and prevent your car from overheating. But that is not all the radiator does.

In the winter weather, your radiator actually helps to make sure your engine does not freeze up from the cold. Radiators vary in size depending on vehicle and model, but regardless, the radiator has a crucial role in your car’s continued functioning. If you want to avoid being the car with a smoking engine or having to explain to your boss that your car will not start because it is too cold out, you should consider keeping your coolant fresh and flushed regularly.

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What Is a Radiator Flush?

A radiator flush is where you run cleaner through your cooling system to eliminate all dirt, debris, rust, and other contaminants that get into your coolant system. With all of the metal parts in your car’s engine, rusting is inevitable. A radiator flush will help to ensure you keep your cooling system corrosion free so that it can continue running. After flushing the old and dirty coolant out and running the cleaner through, new antifreeze is put back into your system with the proper diluted amount of water. This keeps your coolant fresh and clean, making it different from simply adding more coolant to your engine.

Signs You Need a Radiator Flush

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If you wonder how often should you flush your radiator, you probably want to know what to look for to begin with. Your car may already be overdue for a radiator flush without your knowledge. You can buy a pH litmus strip test from your local auto store and dip it into your radiator to see if you need a test. The color will correspond with the guide provided so that you know if the coolant is too acidic from the contaminants.

If you start smelling antifreeze often, this could be another sign you need a radiator flush. Or, if wondering how often should you flush your radiator, you notice it does not take much for your car to overheat. If you are always adding coolant or notice a leak under your car, you should get your radiator checked in case you need a flush.

How Much Does a Radiator Flush Cost?

Compared to many repairs, radiator flushes are relatively affordable. When you consider the damage you could save your engine from in the future, it becomes an extraordinarily worthwhile investment. Usually, a radiator flush can cost anywhere from $50 to $150, depending on your vehicle and how much coolant you need.

What Factors Affect How Often Should You Flush Your Radiator?

You should flush your radiator more often depending on your car and the temperature of where you live. While different manufacturers use different types of coolant, you can always get your coolant checked when you are getting an oil change or other work done on your car to ensure you need a flush. Different environments also produce conditions that may make one vehicle need a radiator flush more often than another vehicle.

As best practice, regardless of your engine’s coolant type or what environment you live in, you should get a radiator flush every so often. If you’re asking yourself how often should you flush your radiator, most mechanics agree that every 30,000 miles or five years, whichever comes first, will help to keep your cooling system and engine working properly.

How to Flush Your Coolant Levels

pouring coolant in engine

If you would prefer to do the handy work yourself and save some money, learning to flush your radiator yourself is an invaluable skill to have. Without too much effort, you can flush your radiator periodically and make sure your car stays in great condition while saving a pretty penny.

How to Check Your Coolant Levels

As with any auto care, you can always take the car to the professional yourself to check your coolant levels. Or, if you want to do it yourself at home, it is pretty simple to learn. First, wait until your car’s engine is cool. Put a clean container under your car so that it’s below the drain valve. After opening the drain valve, let a small amount of coolant run into the container. Analyze the color and if it shows signs of a rusty brown instead of the color it originally was out of the bottle, it needs a radiator flush.

Now that you know your car needs a radiator, we can start to look at how you can flush your radiator yourself at home.

Supplies You Need to Flush Your Radiator

antifreeze put into radiator

You will need to have the proper supplies if you want to keep your car running properly and flush your radiator yourself at home instead of taking it into the shop. To begin, you will need a flushing agent that is specifically meant for this job. This flushing agent helps to make sure your car is squeaky clean from all contaminants and debris. For the rest of the process you will need distilled water and new, fresh coolant.

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How to Flush Your Radiator Yourself

After gathering all of the necessary supplies, you can prepare to flush your radiator at home. Wait until your car and the engine have completely cooled. Using a jack, raise the front of your car so that you can access underneath the engine. Place a drain pan below so that it is under the radiator’s drain valve. After removing the cap to the valve, let all of your old coolant drain into the pan. For disposal of this old coolant, bring it to an auto care store so that it can properly be recycled.

Put the cap back on the valve. Fill your radiator with the flushing agent and distilled water. Replace the radiator cap and start your car’s engine. Carefully read the instructions on the flushing agent’s bottle so that you know how long to run your engine and monitor your car’s temperature during this time.

Shut the car off and drain the radiator into the pan once again. This time, put the cap back on the radiator valve and fill the radiator with coolant. Take extra care to dilute the coolant if needed, using distilled water. You will need to make sure you use the proper proportions as recommended by the manufacturer. Some of them do not need to be diluted at all.

Finally, start your car’s engine one more time and run it for a few minutes until it reaches normal operating temperature so that you remove any air bubbles that may have formed in the radiator. Add any more coolant you may need to top it off, and you have successfully flushed your radiator yourself at home.

Conclusion – How Often Should You Flush Your Radiator?

vintage blue car

After reading this article, you should hopefully feel a bit more informed about your car’s radiator and just how important it is to maintain its upkeep. If you have wondered how often should you flush your radiator, you should flush it anytime the pH is off balance, or you see signs of rust and debris. You should also flush your radiator every 30,000 miles or every five years.

Flushing your radiator periodically is crucial for your cooling system in your engine to run properly. Now you know how often you should get it flushed, how much it costs, and even how to do it yourself if you’d like to save some money.