Can You Drive A Car With A Cracked Radiator

Can You Drive A Car With A Cracked Radiator? Let’s Find Out!

Do you know that over 20,000 people are hospitalized each year due to car crashes caused by defective radiators? That means many drivers either ignore this issue or are unaware of driving with a cracked radiator. Whatever it’s, you better get to know the facts. 

So, can you drive a car with a cracked radiator? No, it’s dangerous to drive. The radiator in the cooling system maintains the temperature of your engine. If it’s damaged, coolant may seep out, and the engine may overheat, leading to engine failure and even road accidents.

In this article, we will learn more about radiator cracks, watch out for warning signs, and determine whether it is safe to drive with a cracked radiator.

Can You Drive A Car With A Cracked Radiator?

No. It can be dangerous to drive with a cracked radiator. That’s because it can badly injure your car’s engine and cause it to break down in the middle of the road. The extent of the problem, however, is determined by the crack’s size and location of the crack.

Typically, a tiny crack in your radiator can result in leaks and coolant loss. This could lead to overheating your car engine and possibly harm the engine block or other parts.

Contrary to common assumptions, a study claims that more engines are damaged due to overheating than any other factor. Moreover, a coolant leak might result in poor fuel economy and higher emissions.

Can You Drive A Car With A Cracked Radiator

According to an EPA study, a 10% loss of coolant can result in a 2% increase in fuel usage and a 25% increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

However, if your car’s radiator has a large crack in a critical location, like near the seams or joints, it can cause a more significant leak and lead to a complete loss of coolant. Because of this, the engine may quickly overheat and suffer significant damage.

Keep in mind that driving with a cracked radiator also increases your chance of experiencing engine failure and getting stuck on a busy highway, which can be quite risky.

What Are The Hazards Of Driving A Car With A Cracked Radiator?

Driving with a cracked radiator carries a variety of risks. They are as follows. 

What Are The Hazards Of Driving A Car With A Cracked Radiator

The Engine Uses More Fuel

Your car’s radiator leaks coolant when it develops a crack, making the engine run hotter than usual. You may notice decreased engine efficiency in your car as the engine needs to burn more fuel to maintain performance.

Malfunctioning Transmission System

In some cars, the radiator is used to cool the transmission. If the radiator gets cracked, it could overheat the transmission system causing it to malfunction.

Leads To An Accident

A damaged radiator may leak coolant onto the road, making it slippery and unsafe for other vehicles. This is especially true for motorbikes and cycles, which have less stability than cars.

Can You Drive A Car With A Cracked Radiator

Engine Failure

When an engine fails due to a cracked radiator, it might lose power, develop braking and steering problems, and make it dangerous to drive.

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Impaired Visibility

If the cracked radiator is located at the front of the vehicle, coolant leakage may make it difficult for the driver to see the road. This is because of smoke rising from the engine.

Potential Reasons For Radiator Cracks In Automobiles

For any car owner, a crack in the radiator can be a major hassle. Check out the list below if you’re having problems identifying the reason for a cracked radiator in your car.

Potential Reasons For Radiator Cracks In Automobiles


When an engine overheats, it produces heat that the radiator cannot handle. Hence, the coolant expands, and there is an excessive amount of pressure inside the radiator. This can cause the radiator to crack, particularly if it’s already weakened due to wear and tear.

So, it’s important to prevent engine overheating by maintaining correct coolant levels, doing routine engine maintenance, and addressing any issues with the cooling system promptly.

Use of impure coolant

In a study, it was discovered that impurities in the coolant might cause corrosion. This could lead to cracks and other forms of damage to radiators. This is particularly true in older vehicles where the coolant hasn’t been regularly flushed and replaced.

Damage from external impact

If your car ever encountered a frontal collision, the radiator probably suffered damage. A crack could develop in the radiator’s metal or plastic casing as a result of the impact.

Additionally, the force of the impact can cause damage to the radiator’s internal structure, leading to leaks and, ultimately, a cracked radiator. Thus, it’s essential to take precautions to prevent impacts to the radiator, especially in the front of the vehicle where it is frequently located.

Damage from external impact

Freeze damage

The coolant in the radiator may freeze and expand as the temperature falls below freezing level, increasing pressure on the radiator’s walls. Thus, the radiator may break or split due to the additional pressure, especially if it is already weak.

A study found that freeze damage can reduce an engine’s efficiency by up to 30%. And it can seriously harm a car’s radiator.

Buildup of rust

Rust can chip away at the metal of the radiator, weakening it and making it more prone to cracking. Over time, the weakened metal can develop small cracks, which can grow larger over time and eventually result in a major crack in the radiator.

It’s crucial to routinely change the coolant, to prevent the accumulation of rust in the radiator.

Car Drive With A Cracked Radiator

Faulty radiator fan

The radiator fan maintains the optimum temperature of your car’s engine as it draws air through the radiator to cool the coolant as it passes through the system.

When the radiator fan malfunctions, the coolant’s temperature may rise, putting more pressure and strain on the radiator. The radiator may crack as a result of the increasing pressure.

Obvious Indications That Your Car’s Radiator Is Cracked

It’s vital that you recognize the early warning signs of a broken radiator before things get worse. Use the table below to learn the typical indications of a cracked radiator.

Obvious Indications That Your Car's Radiator Is Cracked
Low coolant levelsIf you see coolant pooling under your car or a low coolant level in the radiator, it could be a sign of a cracked radiator
Engine overheatingA cracked radiator may leak coolant, which can cause the engine to overheat
Gurgling noiseIf you hear gurgling or rattling sounds coming from the engine, your radiator may be damaged and leaking coolant
Improper accelerationIf your car isn’t accelerating smoothly, it may be a sign that your radiator is cracked

To learn more about the signs of a damaged radiator, check this YouTube video.

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What Steps You Should Take If Your Radiator Is Cracked?

  • Step 1: If you notice any signs of a cracked radiator, you should stop driving your car immediately
  • Step 2: Allow the engine to fully cool down before checking the radiator. You shouldn’t remove the radiator cap or touch the engine while it’s still hot
  • Step 3: Carefully check the radiator for any obvious damage or cracks
  • Step 4: If the coolant level is low, top it off using the proper coolant mixture suggested by your mechanic
  • Step 5: Your radiator needs to be changed right away if there are significant cracks and corrosion. Install a new radiator asap by calling your local mechanic
Radiator Is Cracked
If you’re interested in learning about driving a car with a cracked radiator, MotorAdvices provides valuable insights and information on automotive topics. While it’s important to address the issue of a cracked radiator promptly, you may also find our article on driving a car with a dead cylinder helpful. This article discusses the potential causes and consequences of a cylinder misfire and provides guidance on necessary repairs. Additionally, our article on driving a car with low oil pressure explores the risks associated with insufficient oil pressure and offers insights into proper maintenance practices. By exploring these resources, you can gain a better understanding of various automotive scenarios and make informed decisions regarding your vehicle’s maintenance and safety.


Some FAQs regarding driving with a cracked radiator are listed below:

Q: Is there a short-term repair for a cracked radiator?

Radiator sealant can be used to temporarily repair a cracked radiator. This, however, is not a long-term fix and may still need to install a new radiator.

Q: Does a damaged radiator impact the air conditioning in my car?

A broken radiator may make it more difficult for the engine to maintain a constant temperature since it may allow coolant to leak. As a result, the AC system may run less efficiently because it depends on the engine’s cooling system to function properly.

Q: When a car radiator is cracked, is it safe to add water to it?

If water seeps through the crack and mixes with the engine oil, it could damage the engine. So, don’t add water in this situation. 

Final Words

Finally, although it could technically be possible to operate a vehicle with a cracked radiator, it is not a safe choice. Many issues, such as engine overheating, coolant loss, and probable transmission issues, can be brought on by a cracked radiator. 

While driving, a damaged radiator causes the engine to fail, resulting in road accidents. A leaking radiator can also endanger your safety because it can make your car skid or even catch fire. You should handle any radiator-related problems right away.

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