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Sealing That Leaky Hose

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On: Tue, Sep 27, 2011 at 10:55AM | By: Peter C Sessler

Sealing That Leaky Hose

If you’re somewhat casual about automotive maintenance, it’s more likely that your cooling system is going to develop leaks. Under-hood temperatures can really skyrocket in the summer months, but the reality is, leaks can develop at any time.

Radiator Leaks
Obviously, it’s not a good thing to see your radiator developing leaks. Typically, when a radiator starts to leak, there isn’t much you can do but to replace the entire unit. However, sometimes makeshift repairs can prolong its life.

There are various stop-leak products available at your local parts store. I’ve found that the stuff that comes in small clear plastic tubes resembling salt and pepper works the best. Once poured into your radiator, it migrates to the hole and plugs it. It has even stopped the leak in my 1972 Pontiac’s water pump.

Years back, the radiator in my car developed a noticeable leak—in fact, coolant was spraying out from the middle of the radiator. Once the car cooled down, I plugged the leak with JB Weld, an epoxy-type material, which worked great. I never did replace the radiator, since the car was stolen months later. The product is supposed to withstand temperatures of 500 degrees and has a high tensile strength—perfect for use on a radiator.

Hose Leaks
Hoses can leak, even if you’ve just replaced one and used a new clamp. When the coolant heats up, the neck and the hose both expand while the clamp doesn’t. This forces the hose to dig into the clamp. Usually, the heat makes it so that the hose takes a set and becomes glued onto the neck fitting. But because the material some hoses are made of don’t take a set cold leaks can occur.

Generally, if a hose leaks, it’s best to just replace it. However, sometimes the various heater and radiator hoses in your car develop leaks—most often by the connector points. It is here where clamps are used. It used to be that hoses were kept in place with simple hose clamps that could be tightened, but today it’s not so easy. For one thing, it can be difficult to find the hose connections—sometimes they are buried underneath other components and some cars don’t even use clamps, relying on quick-connect fittings.

The oldest type of clamp is the screw-tower clamp. In this device there is a screw perpendicular to the band, and, in theory, you can tighten the band by turning the screw. What normally happens though is that the clamps freeze in place and you can’t tighten or remove them, except by cutting them off. Good riddance!

The double-wire clamp uses a double wire band with a screw on one end that fits into a nut. These are a lot more practical, but they can dig into the hose if they are over-tightened.

The best type of hose clamp is the worm drive or Corbin clamp. It can easily be tightened and removed and the better ones are made of stainless steel and have rolled edges so they don’t cut into the hose. The ones from Europe made by Oetiker are even better.

Most cars today come with a spring-band clamp. This type of clamp can’t be re-tightened, but is designed to maintain the same tension to prevent a future leak. Naturally, it can’t be reused.

Many cars and trucks today also use quick-connect fittings instead of clamps. If they leak, all you have to do is to replace one or two O-rings. If the quick-connect itself is bad and leaky, it too will have to be replaced. Or you can just eliminate the whole thing and use regular worm-type clamps.

Many hoses today have crimped-on sections that can leak (this type of hose is also quite expensive). To remedy this leak, you can cut into the crimp to get it apart and then use a regular hose with clamps. This can be difficult to do, though, when the hose has to fit into a very constrained area.

To make sure you aren’t caught unaware, take a look underneath your car once in a while to check for drips or puddles, and while you’re under there, inspect your car’s hoses.


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