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Chevrolet Cavalier Radiator

Troubleshooting Common Problems of the Chevrolet Cavalier Radiator

The Chevrolet Cavalier utilizes a heavy-duty radiator to keep its inline-four engine cool and prevent it from overheating, but the constant heat and stress will eventually take its toll. And once it starts to wear out, the radiator will start to exhibit a variety of problems which, if left unattended, can lead to serious damage to the engine. The following are some of the more common problems of the Chevrolet Cavalier radiator and how to deal with them.

Radiator overheating

Overheating is a frequent problem in any radiator and is usually due to a lack of sufficient coolant in the radiator. So if you see smoke coming out of the engine compartment or the temperature gauge in the dashboard is higher than normal, turn off the engine, pop open the hood and allow the engine to ventilate and cool down. Check if the auxiliary fans are running properly and the coolant hoses for leaks; a greenish or bluish fluid means that the hose is leaking somewhere and needs to be replaced. Check the exterior of the radiator as well for signs of rust, punctures and cracks in the epoxy. If the fans, hoses and the radiator appear to be in good condition, check the coolant reservoir to see if there's enough coolant circulating to and from the radiator and refill it if necessary.


The stock radiator in the Chevrolet Cavalier is made of carbon steel and is highly vulnerable to corrosion. If the radiator's is extremely rusted, replace it immediately even if it appears to be working fine. Also, check the color of the coolant inside the radiator; a brownish fluid indicates the radiator interior is heavily rusted and needs flushing.


Often occurring in the older first-generation model of the Cavalier, leaks are usually caused by punctures and other types of damage from flying stones and debris from the road or wear due to age. Leaks can also occur in the various seals and seams in the radiator, especially after several years of use. Make sure to check the radiator regularly for signs of leakage and have it repaired or replaced if necessary.

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  • Tips on Maintaining the Chevrolet Cavalier Radiator

    The radiator of the Chevrolet Cavalier helps prevent wear and damage to the engine due to overheating, but it is not invulnerable to wear. And how long the radiator wears out depends mainly on how well it is maintained. Proper care and maintenance can significantly increase a radiator's service life, and caring for the Chevrolet Cavalier radiator isn't that difficult either. All you have to do is to follow these simple tips:

    Inspect the radiator for leaks and damage regularly.

    Ideally, the radiator should always be checked before driving. Look out for cracks particularly in the seams, as the epoxy that holds the seams of the radiator together tend to get brittle over time. You should also inspect the radiator seals and hoses as well, as these are also where leaks often occur. Finally, check for rust on the radiator body. Corrosion can slowly eat the steel away if not addressed immediately.

    Avoid refilling the radiator with coolant when it's still hot.

    While it might appear to be common sense to refill a smoking radiator, doing so will cause the radiator body to contract rapidly from the sudden onset of cold coolant - a behavior known as temperature shock - and weaken it. Instead, switch the engine off and let the radiator cool first before refilling its reservoir.

    Don't use tap water as coolant.

    It's a common and costly mistake for car owners to use plain tap water as coolant for the radiator. This is because tap water contains minerals which can accumulate inside the radiator tubing which, over time, can impede coolant circulation. In addition, water can cause the interior of the radiator to rust, corroding not only the insides of the radiator but also the water pump and other metal parts connected to the Cavalier's cooling system. So unless it is an emergency, swap the water for synthetic coolant instead.

    Flush the radiator.

    Flushing cleans the innards of the radiator of rust and other deposits and prevents it from contaminating the next batch of coolant you fill up the radiator with. Radiator flushing is relatively easy and requires only a couple of hours and simple tools, although you can also bring your vehicle to a repair shop and have the radiator flushed there.