You’re driving down the road when you suddenly come upon a swarm of insects. While the noises of the hailstorm are disgusting, the bird’s smorgasbord of squished bugs on your car is on a whole other level. Needless to say, cleaning filthy, blocked radiator fins is one of life’s most unpleasant maintenance tasks.
A radiator is an essential component of your car’s cooling system, enabling water or coolant to circulate through tiny tubes cooled by incoming air. This liquid circulates through the heated engine, cooling the metal parts by transferring heat to the radiator to be cooled before recirculating.
Over time, buildup from the heated metal and evaporating water can block the radiator, while radiator fins can acquire dirt and road grime, as well as bugs, stones, and other road debris. A clogged or blocked radiator can cause your car to overheat, which can damage or even destroy your engine.
Many automobile manufacturers recommend cleaning the outside of your radiator at least once a year. You should also cleanse your radiator once every five years to optimize the operation of your vehicle’s cooling system (here’s how).
The cleaning product you choose is critical to avoiding damage to your radiator and, perhaps, your engine. Avoid using vinegar because the acetic acid in it causes metal to corrode. Furthermore, because sodium hypochlorite (bleach) corrodes metals such as steel and aluminum, it should never be utilized. This can cause damage to the intake manifold, block, or engine head, as well as deterioration of rubberized gaskets and seals.
Simple Green Pro HD Ready-To-Use is a safer alternative to harsh chemicals and solvents. Heavy-Duty Cleaner is an engine-safe cleaner/degreaser that dissolves grease, filth, automotive fluids, and, yes, insect guts. Aluminum, stainless steel, chromium, and alloys are not corroded by the vigorous, clean-rinsing solution.
Cleaning Radiator Fins
Before cleaning the radiator, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Always follow the manufacturer’s thorough cleaning and maintenance recommendations. Before cleaning, make sure the radiator is cold to the touch.
- Combine the solution. In a spray bottle or pump-up sprayer, combine one part Pro HD and three parts water cleaner should be used.
- Apply the Simple Green Pro HD Ready-To-Use Heavy-Duty Cleaner solution to the radiator.
- Take out any alien items. Remove any small pebbles, bugs, or other things caught in the radiator fins with a soft-bristled brush.
- If the fins are bent, gently bend them back into place using a flathead screwdriver.
- Rinse. Gently rinse the radiator with a low-pressure hose or a bucket of clean water, working from the engine side toward the front of the car. Repeat steps 1-3 if the water does not run clear after rinsing.
- Dry. Allow drying naturally.
Chris Miller is an auto journalist who specializes in reviewing new cars and providing helpful advice on family vehicles. He has a passion for cars and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with others.