Your car may be telling you that its radiator isn’t working properly.

And you may be worrying what that might cost you. But don’t panic yet: there’s a simple way to ensure your mechanic doesn’t overcharge you.

Average radiator repair cost

An auto mechanic explains papers on clipboard to woman in the auto shop
Lopolo / Shutterstock

According to David Bennett, manager of repair systems for AAA, the average cost to repair a car’s radiator is $1,000. But what you’ll pay depends mostly on the make and model of your car.

AAA offers a handy tool that allows you to estimate the cost of a repair on your personal vehicle’s model.

As a test, we ran three of the most common cars in the US through the estimator.

For a 2017 Ford Fusion, you can expect to pay:

  • $225 to $368 to replace the coolant thermostat;
  • $131 to $197 to replace the lower radiator hose;
  • $119 to $180 to replace the radiator hose; and
  • $609.03 to $935.79 to replace the radiator completely.

For a 2017 Ford Explorer, you can expect to pay:

  • $212 to $308 to replace the coolant thermostat;
  • $208 to $310 to replace the lower radiator hose;
  • $207 to $315 to replace the radiator hose; and
  • $734 to $1,132 to replace the radiator completely.

For a 2017 Hyundai Elantra, you can expect to pay:

  • $313 to $500 to replace the coolant thermostat;
  • $345 to 539 for a radiator fan replacement;
  • $108 to $154 to replace the lower radiator hose;
  • $78 to $112 to replace the radiator hose; and
  • $595 to $919 to replace the radiator completely.

Labor costs account for about half of each of these estimates.

Bill Gates made a splash in 2017 when he bought $520 million worth of U.S. farmland, and he’s continued to invest since. What’s in it for Gates?

Read More

What does a radiator even do?

Full length shot of man looking under the hood of his broken car
BAZA Production / Shutterstock

A radiator is a heat exchanger. It’s designed to cool your engine by transferring the heat it produces from the fluid inside to the air outside.

As your car runs, the engine warms up. Coolant liquids circulate through the engine, but that liquid heats up, too.

That’s where your radiator comes in.

Radiators work by passing those fluids through through thin metal fins, allowing the heat to escape more easily. Some systems also have a cooling fan that blows air across the radiator to help direct heat outwards.

Radiator construction

A mechanic replaces a radiator.
ShutterStock

Most radiators consist of two metal or plastic header tanks. These tanks are connected by a series of narrow passageways, giving the device a high ratio of surface area to volume.

The core is typically made of metal sheet layers soldered together to form a tight connection.

Radiators used to be made of brass or copper cores, but modern construction favors aluminum. Manufacturers also save money and weight by using plastic headers with gaskets. This construction is also less likely to fail and easier to repair than the brass or copper models.

It seems like a tricky time to get into real estate, and being a landlord isn't as passive as you think. Look at these low-stress options instead.

Read More

What happens when my radiator isn’t working?

Woman listens to mechanic talking in front of open car
Mr.Music / Shutterstock

Your cooling system is essential to your car’s health.

If your radiator isn’t working properly, you risk overheating your engine. This can lead to aluminium parts warping, swelling, expanding and even cracking. Warped cylinder heads can start to separate from the engine block, causing a leak in the head gasket.

A blown head gasket can result in very expensive engine damage.

Should I replace or repair my radiator?

Mechanic with a car radiator out
Nejron Photo / Shutterstock

Whether you should try repairing or replacing the radiator depends on the severity of the damage. Bennett says it’s best to just replace plastic radiators. Metal radiators, on the other hand, are easier to repair, and that route may save you some money.

Bennett recommends having your local auto repair shop inspect the radiator and make a recommendation on whether you should repair or replace.

How to maintain a radiator

Man filling antifreeze fluid in his car
Artur_Nyk / Shutterstock

The best way to keep your radiator running properly and avoid costly repairs is to get a radiator flush approximately every 36,000 miles. You can either do this yourself or bring it into the shop.

Over time, radiator coolant can build up debris and corrosion inside a radiator. A flush can help remove old antifreeze along with the coolant and contaminants, which can cause engine overheating.

Flushes can also help lubricate and lengthen the life of your water pump and prevent future coolant leaking, foaming, corrosion and debris buildup.

This is a fairly simple process:

  • Remove the radiator cap and drain the current antifreeze.
  • Once drained, pour in some cleaning solution until the radiator is full.
  • Start and run your car for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Allow your car to cool for a few minutes.
  • Repeat the process.
  • Pour in your new antifreeze solution.

If you bring your car to the shop, make sure you ask them to do a full inspection, including checking for leaks.

Are you thinking about saving? Well, stop thinking about it!

Take the change out of your piggy bank and make it work for you.

Acorns is a financial wellness tool that automatically rounds up your card purchases to the nearest dollar and puts those savings into an investment account. It takes the worrying out of investing and matches you with one of five investment portfolios.

Take five minutes to sign up for Acorns today and collect a $10 bonus.

What's Next

About the Author

Sigrid Forberg

Sigrid Forberg

Reporter

Sigrid is a reporter with MoneyWise. Before joining the team, she worked for a B2B publication in the hardware and home improvement industry and ran an internal employee magazine for the federal government. As a graduate of the Carleton University Journalism program, she takes pride in telling informative, engaging and compelling stories.

What to Read Next

5 wise money moves before the Fed starts raising interest rates again

Time's almost up on ultralow rates, so don't be caught off guard.

Want to Earn Big Returns Without the Shaky Stock Market? Try Art

Art investment is no longer reserved for the wealthy

How to get a free credit score

Whether you know your credit score or not, it’s probably having a big impact on your life.

7 Millennial Money Struggles — And How To Start Dealing With Them

Many millennials will likely be able to relate to more than one of these issues.

Disclaimer

The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.