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Car Radiators: What NOT To Do

Published Oct 24th 2006, 5:59am by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Small by Sandra Bissex
Do you remember having days of breaking everything mechanical you touched? For me, May 11, 2006 was one of those days. First thing in the morning my cell phone flashed a message that it needed service. As it is my only phone, I immediately planned a trip to Burlington to my cell phone's doctor. On the way I stopped at a rest area for coffee. Turning off the car engine, I suddenly saw lots of steam seeping out from under the hood of the car; a real "gee whiz" scene nobody wants to see. I decided to open the hood to see exactly where the steam was coming from. The steam seemed to increase and was rising in billows. Along the top of the radiator was a seam oozing extremely hot greenish yellow radiator fluid.

CarradiatorStupefied, I stood there looking at my car's sick radiator sizzling and steaming. It was clear I was going nowhere fast. Suddenly two men materialized and began talking about the need to pour cold water into the radiator to cool it down. They bustled inside and talked the attendant into giving them a bucket filled with cold water. They hustled back outside, gingerly removed the cap of the radiator and heroically began pouring the water into the radiator. Mission accomplished, the two men continued on their journey. I called AAA for the car to be towed to a nearby garage for repair. By the end of the day, the car had a new radiator and seemed to run smoothly, and the cell phone received its repairs too.

Two days later our family took the car on a trip to Maine. Upon driving into the hotel parking lot and turning off the engine, there was a repeat of Thursday's steaming radiator scene. To shorten this long story, this time the car's diagnosis was that its engine was in Big Trouble. I called Auto Craftsmen for their input on the situation. They asked for the whole story from the beginning. When I told them about the two men pouring the cold water into the radiator in Williston, They said, "When a car radiator is overheating, give it an hour or two to cool down. NEVER pour cold water into an overheated car radiator because the sudden change in temperature will crack gaskets in the engine."

And now, dear readers, we know what NOT to do with overheated, sizzling and steaming car radiators. The bottom line is that replacing a car engine, or part of a car engine can be well over $1000. This is on top of the $300 plus for the new radiator. Now...where are those two men when I really need them...with their checkbooks?

About Sandra Bissex:
Sandra Bissex is a bi-coastal grandmother, living in Montpelier, Vermont for 6 months and southern California for 6 months a year. Her two Heller sons and their families live in San Diego; hery Bissex step-family lives in the Northeast. She is having an art exhibition in the Vermont Governor's Office in August or September of 2007. After the 1994 vehicle died in Maine, she donated it and decided not own another car while living in Montpelier, Vermont.
About a month after her car died, a second-hand two-seat electric GemCar was for sale in Montpelier. Top speed is 25 MPH in a GemCar. It seemed to be a relatively inexpensive solution for getting around Montpelier where the speed limit is 25 MPH. A few times a month if and when she want to do things outside Montpelier, Sandra rents a car or rides with friends and contributes to the cost of their gas. For lots more info on Gem Cars go to

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