How to Clean Radiator Fins? – Find Out All Easy Steps

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to clean radiator fins

Going for a ride is fun and all but imagine all the dirt and unwanted particles your car has to confront every time you go for a spin.

If you’re unlucky you may even find a bug or two stuck in the front of your car. Or worse, grime and dirt may have buildup in your radiator!

Dirty and clogged radiator fins can reduce the effectiveness of your heater and can even lead to overheating and engine damage.

So if you are looking for how to clean radiator fins by yourself, we have listed the best ways to help you.

What You Will Need for This Tutorial

  • Radiator Cleaner – Inspect the product ingredients and instruction manual to check if the commercial cleaner is compatible with your radiator. It should be able to clean aluminum radiator fins which is the most common material for fins.
  • Spray Bottle
  • Brush with Soft Bristles
  • Toothpick – A quick fix for straightening bent fins.
  • A Water Hose/pressure washer

How to Clean Your Car’s Radiator Fins

Step #1: Getting Started


Since we will be working near the engine, make sure that your car is turned off and the engine is cool. If you recently used your car, it is essential that you wait for about an hour.

Gather all the cleaning materials you will need and prepare the radiator cleaning spray. Depending on your cleaner, you may have to mix and dilute the cleaner with water at a certain ratio to create your final radiator cleaning solution.

If you are using a car radiator coil cleaner, read the directions first before proceeding with the next steps.

Lastly, you will need to have access to the radiator fins to be able to clean between radiator fins. You may have to remove some car grilles or open the hood on tractor in order to have a clear view of the radiator.

Step #2: Apply the Cleaning Solution


Pour the radiator cleaning solution into a clean spray bottle to help spread the solution much easier and maximize the effect on radiator fin cleaning.

Spray a good amount of solution all across the radiator and ensure that you have no dry spots left. It is better to overspray than lack a douse of cleaning solution to avoid leftover dirt after.

You can double spray on thick layers of dirt or on bugs to emulsify and loosen them so you can easily clean out radiator fins later on.

Then, let it sit for a few minutes for the solution to effectively do its job before moving on to the next step.

Step #3: Clean the Radiator Using a Brush


With a soft-bristled brush, gently clean any dirt and debris that has accumulated and clogged into your radiator fins.

Don’t brush too hard because the fins on them can get bent if you use too much force.

We highly suggest you work your way from the top to the bottom so as to not get the cleaned area dirty as you move along the radiator fins. You can clean car radiator fins faster this way without reintroducing the dirt you removed.

If ever you bend a fin, do not panic and pick up your handy dandy toothpick. Use the toothpick or any stick you have to bend it back into its original shape. You can even do this on bent fins that you chance upon when cleaning.

Step #4: Spray Down with a Hose


It is time to rinse the solution along with the dirt that you have removed!

Set up your water hose or pressure washer to the lowest setting to avoid bending the fins. Gently rinse your radiator until you can see that clean sparkle with your eyes.

Now and then, you can also spray water into the bumper to remove any excess cleaning solution that accidentally spilled. Some cleansing solutions have chemicals that can remove the car’s paint if left to sit so hosing them down can protect the paint from any damage.

In the event that there is still some noticeable and stubborn dirt, feel free to repeat the steps until you can see the difference.

Step #5: Leave to Air Dry


Lastly, let your radiator fins dry naturally.

You must let the radiator fins air dry and NEVER use a towel to avoid any lint or fiber from sticking to the radiator fins. They are highly flammable so they should not be used especially on radiator fins that naturally heat up.

Once dried, you can now pop back any grille or hood and grab yourself a glass of cold soda because you earned it!

You have finally finished cleaning radiators exterior.


How Often Should You Flush Your Radiator?

You should check your car’s manufacturer manual to see the recommended schedule for when to flush your radiator. Some say that you may have to do it once every two years or when your car reaches 50,000 miles while others recommend it every five years.

The only best way to ensure that your radiator is ready for flushing is to check your owner’s manual or get a professional radiator cleaning and ask for a professional’s advice.

Why Should You Flush Your Radiator?

A radiator is one of the most vital parts of your car’s cooling system. It takes the heat from the engine and cools it by passing it through the radiator core.

With all these tasks, it is understandable why the radiator has a lot of gunk in there. And it will only get worse over time as more contaminants accumulate.

Flushing your radiator removes these contaminants that have to build up and even gets rid of old antifreeze in the system. This ensures that your cooling system performs at its best keeping your car in tip-top shape.

Can You Clean Radiator Fins With Water?

Yes, you can hose down your radiator fins with clean water to remove any clogged dirt without ruining your radiator fins.

This is a great alternative for those that are always on the go or if you only have a little dirt in your radiator that you want to get rid of.

How Do You Clean Radiator Fins Without Removing Them?

The steps that we have listed above to help you do not require any removal of your radiator fins.

As long as you have access to the radiator fins and you have the right equipment to do the job, you can freely clean them while still attached to their place.

Can I Use Baking Soda to Clean My Radiator Fins?

You can also do a DIY radiator fin cleaner with baking soda as stated on some internet tips. But it is best to stick to the genuine steps on how to properly clean your radiator to avoid any damage.

Most of the radiator fins are made from aluminum and although it is okay to use baking soda on this material, baking soda can cause oxidation which may cause corrosion.


Your cooling system is essential to prevent your engine from overheating. This is why your radiator needs to be cleaned regularly in order to avoid corrosion, which can lead to leaks and other issues.

Don’t skip on your car maintenance schedule and teach yourself how to clean radiator fins so your car gets the care it deserves.

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