How to Clean Oil from the Radiator Fins – Things You Never Know Before

This article is majorly concerned about educating and briefing us on how to clean oil from the radiator fins, cleaning our radiators, procedure for radiator cleaner, and lots more.

Cleaning the radiator is a simple maintenance task that will help remove accumulated dirt, allowing better performance.

Engine performance is directly related to the radiator’s activity and condition, so carrying out tasks that improve the conditions under which it works will help extend its useful life and optimize our vehicle’s performance.

How to Clean a Radiator

It is recommended that you change the radiator’s coolant to keep the engine running smoothly for about 4 to 6 years or after driving 40,000 to 60,000 miles (64,000 to 97,000 km). Changing the coolant requires draining existing fluids and cleaning the system before adding a new antifreeze solution. With standard tools used in the shop, you can wash and empty your radiator in an hour!

Drain Old Fluids

Start working when the engine is cool to the touch. Wait at least 30 minutes after driving the vehicle to begin cleaning the radiator. Hold your hand on top of the engine block to determine how hot it is still. Liquids inside the car will be scalding if you try to drain them after turning it off.        

How to Clean a Radiator

Wear Rubber Gloves and Goggles

UsingRubber gloves helps keep hands clean while working with dirty liquids and the vehicles interior. Wear goggles to cover yourself while under the car to prevent liquid splashes from getting into your eyes.  

  • Antifreeze is poisonous and could cause severe irritation or damage if swallowed or comes in contact with the skin and eyes.

Raise the front of the vehicle so that you can insert a drain pan underneath.

  • Position the jack to lift the metal frame under the car. Use the lever to lift the vehicle off the ground. Ensure you set the parking brake so the car won’t move while you work. Slide a large tray or bucket that can hold at least 2 gallons (8 liters) under the radiator.  
  • Use stabilizer jacks to secure the vehicle further.
  • Don’t let old antifreeze get down a drain or onto the street, as it could be harmful to the environment.
  • Use a bucket with a built-in nozzle so you can quickly pour the old antifreeze into another container.

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Raise the hood of the vehicle and locate the radiator.

  • The radiator is a long, narrow metal tank, usually in the vehicle’s front next to the engine. Check the tubing for cracks or rust. If you see these problems, take the car to the mechanic or find replacement parts at a local auto parts store. 
  • If the radiator is visibly dirty, use a nylon brush and soapy water to clean the exterior surface.

Twist the pressure cap on top of the radiator.

The pressure cap is a sizeable disc-shaped cover where you will add the new antifreeze once it drains completely. Twist the cap slowly counterclockwise to loosen and remove it.  

  • Keep the lid in a place where you can easily access it to fall between the vehicle parts.

Release the drain plug or petcock at the bottom of the radiator

Reach under the bumper on the driver’s side of the vehicle. And check the valve or plug in the corner of the radiator. There will be a tiny opening at the bottom of the metal tank. You may need a screwdriver or socket wrench to remove the plug altogether. Slowly open the valve on the tray.

how to clean oil from radiator fins

Let the liquids drain completely before resealing the plug

  • They may drain up to 2 gallons of antifreeze from the radiator. Let the tray you placed under the cap fill up; when you noticed that the liquid stops, seal the drain valve again. 
  • Ensure that you pour the drained antifreeze into old plastic jugs and label them clearly. You can ask well to check your local hazardous waste control to find out how to dispose of antifreeze.
How to clean radiator fins PC

Procedure for Radiator Cleaner

Pour the radiator cleaner and distilled water into theradiator. 

  • Add the liquids in the reservoir of the radiator were to remove the pressure cap. Use a funnel to make all the cleaner and water get inside. Ensure that you pour a full bottle of cleanser into the radiator first, followed by 1 gallon of distilled water. Replace the pressure cap once you have filled the radiator.  
  • Radiator cleaner can be purchased at a local automotive store.
  • Distilled water does not contain added minerals and will increase the life of the radiator.
  • Make sure the funnel you use is strictly for automotive work. Don’t use the same horn that you would use in the kitchen.
  • Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see if it recommends a specific cleaner or amount to use.

Start the vehicle with the temperature at full power for 5 minutes. 

Turn the key in the starter, so the engine starts. The cleaner and water will run through the car’s entire cooling system to remove any old antifreeze residue.  

  • Make sure you are going to work in a well-ventilated area. If you are going to work in a garage, make sure the door is open so the gases can escape.

Please turn off the engine and let it cool for 15 minutes. 

Make sure the engine is cool to the touch before continuing. The cleaner and water get hot once you park the vehicle, which may hurt you if you touch them.

Open the pressure cap and petcock to drain the radiator.

Make sure the drain pan is under the petcock to collect the cleaner and distilled water. The water may be brown or rusty after it passes through the entire cooling system. 

Rinse the radiator with tap water until the drain is clean.

Repeat filling the radiator with 1 gallon (4 liters) of tap water, leaving the car with the heat on and draining once cool. When the water runs clear, flush the system with distilled water. 

  • Tap water has minerals that could oxidize the inside of the cooling system earlier than expected.

Read More: How to Clean the Outside of a Camper Trailer

Tips for Cleaning the Radiator Grille and Fins

ATTENTION: Compressed air can blow dirt out at great distances.

  • Do not allow anyone in the workplace.
  • If you are using compressed air for cleaning, wear eye protection.
  • Reduce the compressed air pressure to 210 kPa (30 psi).

A clogged air grill can lead to engine damage from overheating. Always keep air louvers and other external surfaces, including cooling fins, clean to allow adequate air inflow.

  • Stop the engine before removing the air louvers to prevent dirt from entering the radiator.
  • Park the machine safely (see Parking Safely, in the SECURITY section).
  • Raise the hood.
  • Push the tab forward (A), and remove the grill (B) located on the left side of the machine.
  • Remove the radiator grill and clean it with compressed air, vacuum cleaner, or brush. Cleaning with water is not recommended.
  • Reducing air intake can cause overheating. Keep the radiator cooling fins.

The radiator cooling fins must not be pressure cleaned. The force produced by the pressure cleaners will damage the cooling fins and radiator.

Compressed air pressure should be reduced to 210 kPa (30 psi) when cleaning the radiator and cooling fins. Make sure you direct the jet of compressed air into the radiator. Do not direct the compressed air at an angle, as the cooling fins will bend.

  • Check radiator cooling fins for dirt or insects (C). Clean them with compressed air.
  • Clean cooling fins (D) on both sides of the oil cooler (D).
  • Install grill (B).
  • Lower the hood.

Materials Needed for Cleaning a Radiator

  • Rubber gloves

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  • Goggles

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  • Hydraulic jack and stabilizer jack

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  • Drain pan or bucket

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  • Funnel

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  • Radiator cleaner

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  • Distilled water

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  • Antifreeze

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  • Empty containers

How can I Clean the Dust Out of my Radiator?

Sometimes we can find vehicles that present a large amount of corrosion, reflected in the radiator either when removing the cap or checking the level in the auxiliary tank. In these cases, using water or coolant will pass to the background because the damage is done. In many of these cases, when they are very severe, constant refrigerant replacements will be needed until somehow this brown color that indicates the presence of oxide disappears.

Once the constant presence of oxide appears in the radiator or auxiliary tank, there can be two obvious scenarios. The first would be that the cooling system’s internal deterioration is not so deep, and with a single replacement of the coolant, it is eliminated or slow down this process.

The other scenario, usually the most common, is the appearance of more rust despite having replaced water with coolant; in almost all cases, this is the preamble to many headaches and engine overheating.

The first accessories or devices to show deterioration are the radiator, both the engine radiator and the one used to heat the air inside the cabin or passenger compartment, the constant appearance of pores that allow the coolant to escape temperature engine starts to rise.

This means constant repairs to the radiator, welding that will damage this component more; in these cases, it is best to choose to buy a new radiator since the periodic repairs will always end in a new leak. But the problems are not limited only to the radiators; on the way, there will also be pores in all the metal pipes that make up the cooling circuit showing the same tendency to repair and that new pores appear simultaneously as the previous welds.

Overheating Problems

will also continue to appear due to defects in the water pump; in some cases, these blades disappear because, little by little, the corrosion was releasing material; once this happens in the engine, the coolant flow will disappear. Therefore, the engine’s hot liquid will not be directed to the radiator for proper cooling or lowering of temperature.

When you have already changed the radiators, the metal pipes, and the water pump, you believe that the problem has been repaired or solved. Leaks appear from the round seals located in the engine block, which sometimes have complicated replacement processes. Due to its engine structure position, let us remember that complicated techniques are synonymous with high economic costs for labor.

This is why we cannot use water; now, if we use coolant, remember that this fluid is not eternal. We must replace it in due time; for this, we must consider if the vehicle is new or already has a large number of kilometers traveled. If a long-life coolant or a coolant of less performance is used, let’s remember that the engine coolants must meet specifications printed on the gallon. And this allows us to verify that the coolant’s quality is necessary for our vehicle, or they give us a minimum of acceptable quality or performance.

The advice for those who buy a used car that presents this symptom in the auxiliary tank or radiator will be to opt for another vehicle. It could be that during the first year, no damage is reflected, but it is inevitable that at some point, the defects will appear and when this What happens will be in most cases repair over the repair and more repair and change of components.

Specialized Tools and Chemicals for Cleaning Radiator Coil

For effective cleaning, it is vital to use tools and chemicals designed to thoroughly remove dirt from the elements that make up the heat exchangers. Cleaning chemicals are necessary as water will never dissolve grease, dust, and scale, nor will it kill bacteria. Using tools that are not intended for cleaning air conditioning units can be counterproductive.

In the specific case of coils, not thoroughly rinsing a chemical causes it to remain on the surfaces, forming an insulating layer that attracts more dirt and can also corrode metals. When the right tool is not used to apply the water or cleaner with sufficient pressure and angle of penetration, there is a risk of pushing the deposits into the panel, forming a barrier to air or water passage.

Thorough rinsing with plenty of water is the key to a unit’s long life and energy savings.

  • Long soft bristle clean brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Wet-dry vacuum cleaner. To remove particles deeply, it is recommended to use a HEPA filter or protect yourself with a mask.
  • Comb to straighten aluminum fins. The plastic combs are for the aluminum gauges most used in air conditioning and the refrigeration evaporators’ metal ones with greater separation between fins.
  • Flashlight or lamp to check if there is hidden incrustation; it is crucial to determine the type of dirt and choose the appropriate chemical. Also, to know if the dirt was removed entirely in the end and nothing has remained between the fins.
  • A tool to unclog drains. You need to save a lot of time and effort to ensure that the residue is directed to the condensate drain before applying water and chemical. You can use a wet-dry vacuum adapter or any other instrument that will allow the drain pipes to clear.
  • Funnel-type bags for cleaning mini splits and cassette units. To clean without mess around or having to disassemble. They direct water and chemical into a bucket.


We believe this article has helped you a lot using the radiators, majorly on how to clean oil from the radiator fins, clean radiators, coil cleaner on the radiator, and other important topics discussed in the article.

Alix Johnson Romi

Alix is the Co-founder of Easy Trip Guides. She started with Michael to share her love for the outdoors with people from all around the globe. She started as an outdoor lover while skiing and snowboarding in the backcountry of New Zealand with her future husband, Antonio. They shared a dream to see the world, so in 2013 they set off to cycle from California to Argentina. The freedom of the open ice route, living close to nature, and the total annihilation of her comfort zone fueled Alix's desire to keep exploring long after the bike trip was over. Her adventure addiction has taken her scuba diving with hammerhead sharks, hiking to the K2 base camp, kiteboarding in Sri Lanka, and kayaking in Antarctica. Through these experiences, she has developed a strong belief in the power of adventure to reconnect people to nature, provide meaningful jobs to impoverished communities and promote the conservation of wild places and animals. At Easy Trip Guides, she covers snowing, skating, snowboarding, and skiing as she loves to do these outdoor adventures a lot.

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