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#954683 - 07/31/07 06:53 AM Vinegar cleaning out a radiator?
82DMC12 Offline

Registered: 12/04/04
Posts: 134
Loc: Fargo, ND
Hey group,

I have a 1994 Lexus ES300 that has been getting hot lately. I bought new upper and lower hoses, clamps, radiator cap, and thermostat. I started taking parts off to replace these items, and until I decided I might as well clean the radiator fins too. I pulled the radiator out and hosed it off, then ran water through the rad. No gunk came out, just water. However, when I looked inside, I could see white deposits inside the tubes. I guess that's the calcium I hear about.

This radiator is made of aluminum with plastic end caps. It is not leaking (yet). I figure since it's probably toasted, I might as well try to clean it out since I have nothing to lose. I have read on the internet that filling a radiator up with vinegar will dissolve this stuff rather easily, since vinegar dissolves mineral deposits. So right now, my radiator is soaking in vinegar.

Has anyone actually done this and had success? Did the radiator leak afterwards? I did see that copper radiators should not be treated this way.

If this doesn't work, I'll see about getting it steamed out before I buy a new one ($300!)


#954684 - 07/31/07 07:06 AM Re: Vinegar cleaning out a radiator? [Re: 82DMC12]
Quest Offline

Registered: 12/19/04
Posts: 7296
Loc: beaver land EH?
vinegar is too weak (typically 3% acetic acid)!

My recommendation is to go get some Prestone radiator flush that is basic (alkaline) and will not eat through your aluminium radiator core for it's much more potent than soaking in vinegar.

"Internet discussion boards act as echo chambers for conspiracy dittoheads" A.Allen

#954685 - 07/31/07 10:06 AM Re: Vinegar cleaning out a radiator? [Re: Quest]
The Critic Offline

Registered: 08/30/04
Posts: 18522
Loc: Walnut Creek, CA
Prestone Radiator Flush isn't very strong. Use Prestone Super Radiator cleaner, it worked quite well for me. Do run it for the full 4-6 hr over a week.

If you are desperate, you can always try some TSP...but it might destroy your radiator. But hey, if you are going to get rid of it anyway...
11 Prius - 118k - M1 EP 0w20/OE
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#954686 - 07/31/07 08:13 PM Re: Vinegar cleaning out a radiator? [Re: 82DMC12]
Tempest Offline

Registered: 03/21/06
Posts: 10491
Loc: Las Vegas NV
RMI-25. Check the coolant section.
“Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts.” --- Henry Rosovsky

#954687 - 08/01/07 01:07 AM Re: Vinegar cleaning out a radiator? [Re: 82DMC12]
gomes512 Offline

Registered: 07/02/07
Posts: 636
Loc: Chicago, IL
Vinegar? Yeah that is to weak. I use Muriatic acid found at hardware stores. It's basically hydrochloric acid, I dilute it to 50/50 with water and dump it then run it for an hour or less. Then I run the system twice more with distilled water to fully flush out the acid and dissolved minerals.

I've done this in three different vehicles. '94 grand cherokee, '00 Chrysler sebring, and a (can't remember year '98 or something) Mercury sable.

I've had great results, especially with the Jeep, since previous owner used tap water to dilute coolant instead of distilled water.

Have had no problems since, I dump the radiators of the two above vehicles at scheduled intervals and all I see is green Prestone come out and I put new stuff in.

#954688 - 08/01/07 01:46 AM Re: Vinegar cleaning out a radiator? [Re: gomes512]
pidster Offline

Registered: 12/11/06
Posts: 548
Loc: ontario canada
Just replace the radiator. Nothing else will give the same results if its that gunked up.
2010 Ford Ranger Sport 4x4, 4.0L Manual 5 speed
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Current fill: Mobil 1 0w40 with Lubro Moly MoS2

#954689 - 08/01/07 04:06 AM Re: Vinegar cleaning out a radiator? [Re: pidster]
widman Offline

Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 3158
Loc: Bolivia
Use the radiator cleaner. Too many different metals to play with, The Prestone or Winns stuff should clean it up while circulating. I've cleaned out some really messed up radiators that way
Richard's Car Restorations

#954690 - 08/01/07 11:33 PM Re: Vinegar cleaning out a radiator? [Re: widman]
shoz123 Offline

Registered: 12/21/02
Posts: 144
Loc: Illinois
Vinegar will work and the hotter the better. You don't want to use it in copper because it will dissolve the lead in the solder.

HCL and aluminum will tear things up fast.