Why has my car's radiator cracked 3 times in 3 years?
April 10, 2015 6:25 AM   Subscribe

The radiator on my 2009 Honda Civic has cracked yet again. Why does this keep happening?

Around three years ago, I was in a crash in which a large part of front of my car was crushed. It was in the body shop for a few weeks, but came out driving fine. At that time, they of course had to put a new radiator in the car.

Then, almost exactly a year later (December of last year), my car started to overheat while I was driving. I took it to a AAA mechanics' shop, and they found that the radiator was cracked. They put a new one in, and I managed to get the body shop to agree to cover some of the costs, as the radiator they had installed was still under warranty.

Three days ago, my car overheated yet again. I checked the coolant level and it was practically nothing. When I tried to refill it, it started to pour out of the radiator after I'd gotten a few cups in. I took it to another mechanics' shop. Again, they say that the radiator's cracked. They want $545 to put a new one in.

So, how does this keep happening? These things should last for years, right? Is the one I got at the AAA shop also still under warranty?
posted by matkline to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
I imagine that the front end of the car is flexing and cracking the radiator. That's... not exactly dangerous, but the car isn't structurally sound. There is zero reason for it to crack if the car was fixed properly.

I would have them look over the work done on the front end and find whatever isn't right. I don't know much about Honda's and their frame in particular, so I can't be more specific than that.

I would also trade the car in.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:36 AM on April 10, 2015

What else was replaced/repaired after the crash? It sounds like the supports that hold the radiator aren't straight, and the radiator is being torqued or stressed in a way that it isn't supposed to. Normally, radiators have a little front-to-back leeway, but almost no lateral movement.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:36 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would suggest that the next radiator be installed with some sort of additional bushings of some sort on the mounting points, as I agree that the accident may have caused these points to have moved a bit.
posted by boilermonster at 9:24 AM on April 10, 2015

There is an upper and a lower support for the radiator. The lower support is actually part of the main cross-member of the front of the car. If, in the accident, that piece was bent in any direction, and not corrected, your radiator is very probably being severely torqued, especially in relation to how it's mounted to the upper support.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:33 AM on April 10, 2015

Repeatedly heating up and cooling off is one of the worst things you can do to basically any substance. Everything i'm thinking of off the top of my head gets brittle, cracks, or somehow decays from that.

Radiators are obviously built to withstand that, but if they're not mounted square then they're heating up and cooling off while being bent. It's like bending a pencil someone is filing away at the other side of slowly.

I imagine the body shop got the surfaces the radiator bolts to "close enough", but not actually properly aligned. This kind of thing is exactly why cars that have been in accidents are worth less.

I'd go back to the original body shop and say "you fucked this up, make it right".
posted by emptythought at 3:08 PM on April 10, 2015

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