Did we destroy our car by dropping a test thermometer in the radiator opening?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband was checking the anti-freeze in our '87 Cadillac, and he
accidentally dropped the test thermometer into the radiator opening. The
bulb was floating at the top, but he was having trouble removing it. So,
trying to be "helpful," I squeezed the bulb, and the whole thing sank to
the bottom of the radiator. I called a radiator shop, and the gentleman
told me "nothing could be done -- just forget about it; it won't hurt
anything." Did he give me good advice? -- Marybeth

RAY: He's right that there's no imminent danger. It won't lead to a sudden
cooling-system failure or cause the velour to fall off the seats. But it is
impeding the flow of coolant at least a little bit, and for that reason,
it's worth at least trying to get it out of there.

TOM: And I know just the tool you need. Sears hardware department sells a
wonderful device that I call The Grabber. I have no idea what they call it,
but it's a tool used to grab stuff you can't reach.

RAY: It's basically a spring-loaded claw on the end of a 2- foot flexible

TOM: It's wonderfully useful. I've used it to get stuff out from behind
dressers, grab socks that have fallen behind the washing machine, and fish
for change in the heating vents.

RAY: He also got in trouble once for using it in a movie theater, but we
won't go into that.

TOM: There's a 90 percent chance you can get this with a grabbing tool. You
can increase the odds to 98 percent if you drain the radiator first so you
can actually see the thing as you work. Removing it would ensure that none
of the tiny radiator passages are being blocked by this errant tester. And
who knows, you might find the other three testers your husband dropped down

RAY: And on the off chance that you just can't get it out, then I would
take the radiator guy's advice and forget about it. It'll just make the
cooling system a tiny bit less efficient, but he's right that it won't do
any damage.

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