Coolant, head gasket and radiator sealant. Quick fix? Or bigger problem?
If your car ever develops a coolant leak, it may be tempting to buy one of the various products out there to try to seal it up. Although these products at the onset seem very cheap, they will cost you greatly in the long run. For less than $20 you can purchase a container of Bars leak, Stop leak, or another brand for your cooling system. Sometimes they will work for small leaks, but the long term consequences are not worth the temporary band aid fix.
The method in which these products work is this: When the sealant reaches a hole in the system, the sealant contacts oxygen then coagulates. Whenever the system is opened, such as when the radiator cap is removed, oxygen is let into the system. This clogs up small passages in the system such as the small tubes in the radiator and heater core. Eventually, all the sealant that is now in the cooling system attaches itself to some random internal part of the engine, radiator, heater core, water pump etc. and makes a big mess.
When the heater core gets clogged up it becomes less effective and the heater will not blow warm air into the vehicle anymore. Heater cores are typically located under the dash and are a big, expensive job to replace. Radiators will get clogged up by the sealant as well. When this happens, they become less efficient and will not cool the engine properly. Radiators are also fairly expensive to replace. Modern engines are complex and many have small passageways for coolant to travel through. Sealant in the cooling system will eventually block these passages and cause portions of the engine to run too hot and eventually cause premature engine wear. Replacing an engine is always expensive and is the biggest mechanical repair that will ever happen to a car.
Companies that sell sealant make big money and leave a wake of damage behind them. The proper way to deal with coolant leaks is to find the leaky component and repair or replace that component with good quality parts, instead of relying on quick fixes.
Unless you have experience with auto repairs, it’s best to take your vehicle into a repair shop so the experts there can replace components if necessary. Mechanics will rarely use sealant to repair coolant leaks in most cases. You’ll find handy ways to seal leaks in various parts of your car, such as epoxy, but the work of a skilled auto repair specialist can resolve your leakage problem permanently.
Radiator cutaway after use of sealant
Cutaway radiator hose clogged with sealant