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5 Ways to Fix a Radiator Leak on the Trail

For those of you that do their 4-wheeling in some remote area or in some vegetated sections that typically have tree limbs that poke out, we comprised this list of a few simple tricks that can fix a radiator leak (a small one) with out having to carry a spare radiator with you. Additionally, the items that we talk about here are the kind of things that you may already have with you during a 4×4 outing or something you can get at your local store.

Radiator Quick Fix #1 (Needle Nose Pliers):
This is one of the most common ways to fix a radiator leak, although we find that this solution doesn’t necessarily stop the leak, but does slow it down enough to get it fixed more permanently. The solution is simple but a bit messy. Find the tube or tubes that have a pinhole or tear in them. Clear away the cooling fins in the immediate area and cut the tubes completely in half. Next, pinch and close about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of the tube on each side. (Make sure they are as flat as you can make them) Finally, start rolling/folding the tube over itself. For each fold, pinch and squeeze the tube together. After about 2 or 3 folds, the tubes should be sealed enough to either stop the leak or slow it to a very slow drip.

Radiator Quick Fix #2 (Bubble Gum):
When attempting to repair a small radiator leak, pinch off the offending area as best you can and then chew a piece of gum. When the gum gets good and soft pack it into the area as tight as you can filling the air vents in the radiator and the leak. Remove the radiator cap (this is the important part) as to keep the radiator from building pressure and drive carefully to safety. While you may lose a bit of coolant from the sloshing out the top, you will have enough to get you home. This tip coutesy of the 1999 Mile Marker Atlas Challenge in Morrocco Africa. Submitted by Jody Campbell

Radiator Quick Fix #3 (Egg Whites):
Believe it or not, egg whites will stop most pinhole radiator leaks. If you happen to have some eggs with you, you can separate the yolks from the whites and add it to your radiator. Typically it will take about 3 or 4 eggs worth, but you may need to add more depending on the size of your leak.

Radiator Quick Fix #4 (Pepper):
Same as the “egg whites” trick, you can add pepper to your radiator to fix a small leak. I usually carry some salt and pepper in my recovery box… never know when you might get stranded and have to eat a squirrel or something. In any event, it will take about 1/2 a peppershaker’s worth to fix a leak. A really bad leak or multiple leaks may take more.

Radiator Quick Fix #5 (Bars leaks):
In addition to carrying pepper in my recovery box, I try to carry a small can of something called “Bars-Leaks”. Some people have referred to it as rabbit turds, as it resembles a brownish, messy solution with brown, granular pellets inside. The nice thing about this stuff is that it has a lubricant in it as does Anti-Freeze, which is critical to the life of the water pump.
Silver Seal / Copper Seal – HD Radiator Stop Leak:
Another solution is a product called Silver Seal or Copper Seal. Coming in a small plastic tube, this silver or copper colored product looks like metal powder and works similar to “Bars-Leaks”.

Radiator Quick Fix #6 (Low Pressure Radiator Cap):
If you can, carry a low-pressure radiator cap in your fix-it box. A 7 p.s.i. unit with a pressure-relief valve will help reduce the amount of pressure and strain on your temporary fixes.

All of the above tips should only be used temporarily. After you’ve made it back to town, you should get your radiator fixed properly.

About Rick Webster

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