Can radiators "rot"?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a question about radiators. I own a 1990 Honda Accord EX with 90,000-plus
miles on it. During the 90,000-mile inspection, the technician found a small spot
on the radiator that was "beginning to rot." He recommended the radiator be
replaced for $530. He also said the hose was beginning to deteriorate, and should
be replaced for $30. I talked to my boyfriend, who has some experience fixing
cars, and he thought only the hose should be replaced. He says that radiators
almost never have to be replaced, but he thinks the hose should be replaced,
because it if cracks, it could cause damage to the radiator.

I told the dealership, and they "respectfully disagreed" with my boyfriend. So I
need another opinion. Guys? -- Anne

RAY: We also disagree with your boyfriend, Anne. Albeit not nearly as

TOM: In fact, we often replace radiators on Hondas, but almost never replace
Honda hoses. The last time a customer asked us to replace the hoses on her Honda,
we had to get the dealer to special-order them, because they don't even keep them
in stock.

RAY: Your boyfriend's experience must be on old, American cars. Those radiators
almost never needed to be replaced. They were made of iron, and were practically
welded right into the grille. But that's not the case anymore.

TOM: In parts of the country where it snows, radiators now need to be replaced
when they get old. And 90,000 miles is old. Road salt is primarily to blame,
since it corrodes the external fins, and eventually rots out the tubes that carry
the coolant and causes them to leak.

RAY: And if the radiator is corroding, you should go ahead and replace it soon.
Otherwise, the engine can overheat, the cylinder head can melt, and then you'll
be talking REAL money.

TOM: And if you're replacing a $500 radiator, you might as well replace the $30
hoses that connect to it, too. And you can use that fact to cushion your
boyfriend's ego. Tell him he was right -- that Tom and Ray said you should
replace the hose. Then casually mumble "at the same time you replace the

* * *

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