Tip Sheet

Car ownership 101: Radiator repair

When the budget is tight, there's an affordable solution
PHOTO: Paulo Rafael Subido

Most modern radiators consist of an aluminum radiator core, flanked or topped by plastic coolant tanks on either side, or on the top and bottom. The main role of the radiator is to cool the engine. Coolant passes through the engine block where it picks up heat, and then transfers to the inlet tank of the radiator.The coolant then moves along the core, exchanging heat in the process. The coolant then passes through the engine block again, and the cycle continues.

How can a radiator be damaged? A punctured core is fairly common, but even on a car that is maintained well, the plastic tanks can age and become brittle. Once a crack or fissure appears, it is only a matter of time before coolant is lost and an overheat happens. This can be a very catastrophic and costly scenario.

If you manage to catch a leak early, don’t fret. What is unique about the Philippines is that radiator repair shops are as common as vulcanizing shops. You can find them almost anywhere. This industry was born during a time when the cars available were limited to a few brands, and car owners needed all the help they could get to keep their cars in running condition. That’s why lateros (tinsmiths) are fairly common in the Philippines—or they were until fairly recently.

Now back to the radiator. Once any of the tanks are shot, they can easily be replaced by copper ones. It isn’t a pretty repair, but it can extend the life of the radiator by a couple of years. At most, the job will cost P1,000 per tank. That’s not bad at all. And you also support an industry that gives work to skilled welders. We don’t recommend doing something like this as a DIY project if you have no prior experience.

We see this as an interim, solution, though. If the budget allows, it is best to get an new radiator. But in the meantime, enjoy watching how the radiator repair man brings your car’s old and busted radiator back to life.

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PHOTO: Paulo Rafael Subido
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