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How to clean a car radiator with vinegar

Updated February 28, 2019

A car's radiator can become clogged for a variety of reasons, including debris and bugs, which can block the flow of air and cause the car to overheat. In addition, corrosion and limescale inside the radiator can cause similar problems. Vinegar works well in removing these culprits because it is a mild acid that is safe to use on all metals. If you don't want to pay someone to do a radiator flush, try using vinegar to get your car's radiator back in good running condition.

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  1. Place a shallow pan under the radiator to catch the coolant you are draining. Do not allow the coolant to soak into the ground, as there are regulations regarding the proper disposal of coolant and antifreeze.

  2. Remove the radiator cap and loosen the radiator drain valve to allow all of the coolant to drain into the pan.

  3. Refill the radiator halfway with water. Add a gallon of white distilled vinegar. Fill the rest of the way up with water.

  4. Replace the radiator cap and start the car. Let the car run for several minutes to reach normal temperature.

  5. Leave the car to sit overnight. Drain the radiator by removing the radiator drain valve. As its contents are draining, use the hose to flush out the radiator.

  6. Fill the radiator with the proper mixture of coolant and water for your vehicle.

  7. Tip

    Call your local waste disposal company to find out how to properly dispose of coolant or antifreeze.

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Things You'll Need

  • Large shallow pan
  • 5 litres (1 gallon) white distilled vinegar
  • Hose
  • Water
  • Coolant

About the Author

Jess Jones has been a freelance writer since 2005. She has been a featured contributing writer for "Curve Magazine" and she teaches English composition at a small college in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She received her Master of Arts in English language and literature in 2002.

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