When it comes to taking care of your vehicle, sometimes preventative maintenance is the best path that a driver can take. The idea behind preventative maintenance is to take care of an issue before it becomes a problem. Usually this means replacing a part that may be working fine now, but could cause a major issue in the future.
That being said, those who want to engage in a bit of preventative maintenance on their vehicle will have to narrow their list of targets. You simply can't replace every part in the vehicle just because your car is getting up there in age - it's far too time-consuming and expensive. However, there are a few key parts that are much more painless to deal with now than if they break later.
The radiator hoses are a prime example of this. For those who don't know what a radiator does, its job is to keep your engine cool. Think of the radiators that you have to heat your house in the wintertime. The radiator in your car works in essentially the same way, taking heat from the engine and then dissipating it into the air. The heat is transferred to the radiator through coolant, which cycles through a number of hoses.
Thus if your hose is leaking, the coolant can't take the heat from the engine. And that means it's just a matter of time before your engine overheats and you're looking at a steep repair bill. Replacing the radiator hoses before they begin cracking and leaking is a smart idea and one that most amateur mechanics can accomplish.
First, any time you're dealing with the radiator it's important to ensure that your car is completely cool. Don't touch any component of the radiator until a few hours after you last drove your vehicle. Use your owner's manual to locate your radiator and begin to inspect all of the hoses attached to it. The lifespan of these parts vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle, but drivers should definitely pay close attention after their car is five years old. It's very possible that the hoses will last longer, but the whole idea behind preventative maintenance is "better safe than sorry."
Look for any cracks or wear that may already be present on the hoses, as this is a sure sign that the parts are at the end of their rope. Pay close attention to the upper radiator hose especially. This hose carries the absolute hottest coolant, so it's more prone to degradation over time and is usually the part that ends up leaking. If you don't want to replace all of your hoses, the upper one is where you should spend your money.
When you replace any hose in the radiator system, you have to drain the coolant first. This is a good time to replace your radiator coolant while you're at it. Put a drain pan underneath the system and open the valve until the coolant is gone. Now, before you refill the system as you normally would, remove the clamps attached to the upper hose. Make sure that the new hose you buy is the correct version for your make and model of vehicle. Repeat this process for the lower hose and any other radiator lines you're replacing as necessary.
Attach the new hose where the old one was and tighten the clamps. Ensure that there's no looseness and that the hose remains on their tight. Close the valve and refill it with no coolant, paying close attention to the new hoses you installed to ensure that no fluid is seeping out the edges.