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Crack in my coolant line?

My '96 Honda Accord started smoking from under the hood as I pulled into my garage today. Upon closer inspection it seems like it was steam, not smoke, and it came from a crack in what I assume was some portion of my coolant line. The crack is in a solid, plastic tube that runs right along the fore-most part of the car, right along where the latch to unlock the hood. There is an escape valve that warns not to open it while the engine is hot because of the coolant that will be under pressure, hence the supposition that it is leaking heated coolant.

Obviously this needs to be fixed. So I have a few questions.
What could have caused the crack?
Is there a way to repair the crack without replacing the part?
How serious if this / How far can I get away with driving?

Edit: Apparently it’s a crack in the radiator. Same questions apply.

Plastic gets old and brittle. The most probable thought to me is it is a line that goes to the coolant recovery system, Replace the part, it should not be too expensive if it is a coolant return line.

It seems like it’s the radiator. I don’t know for sure, but some research makes me think so. Granted, I can’t be sure. Most car functions are beyond me.

The ‘part’ will be the radiator. It needs to be replaced. There is no other fix that will work.

Can you post a picture?

There you go.
I might not even be plastic, I really have no idea.
You can see the crack, but it’s in the glare from the flash. It’s cloudy in Portland so there’s no such thing as good lighting conditions for this.

The car is 18 years old, stuff happens. You will need to have the radiator replaced. If you have never replaced the hoses, you ought to get them replaced at the same time. A new radiator with fresh coolant shouldn’t cost more than about $300. New hoses for about $50 more.

Just for the record, the modern plastic and aluminum radiators typically have a 10 year life span. Then, the plastic fatigues and fails. The aluminum core does transfer heat better than the old-fashioned brass radiators. But the brass ones can last forever. It is generally cheaper in the long run to relace the whole radiator than to try and replace just the plastic jugs

I recommend calling one of those small mom and pop radiator shops. They have all the radiators for the most common cars in stock, and they usually have the lowest prices

If you go that route, get a new cap from them also

Agree with others, this is a common problem on 10+ year old cars, and is relatively inexpensive to fix by simply installing a new radiator. No need for a dealer shop for this job.

My Corolla had the same problem, and I shopped around at the local auto parts stores and found a new radiator for $90 and installed it myself. Simple job on the Corolla 4-banger, took about 45 minutes. This job isn’t equally as easy on other vehicles though. It depends on how the radiator situated.

As part of the process be sure to double check all the cooling fans are working correctly. And you should probably replace the thermostat at the same time. One other thing, it is possible you have a compromised head gasket. Ask your mechanic if he/she thinks it needs to be tested prior to installing a new radiator. Best of luck.

I live in Portland so just about everywhere is a mom and pop place.

I’m not necessarily opposed to doing the work myself, I just fear that I either won’t be able to do it at all or that I won’t do it properly and thus make it worse. I’m no idiot, but I would never call myself a car person.

I’ll cast around and see what I can find.

I will just that this really needs to be fixed ASAP. The danger with driving a car with a tiny crack in the plastic tank is that it’s entirely possible for the tiny crack to fracture suddenly and become a chasm.
That can lead to immediate dumping of most of the engine coolant and possible engine destruction if the car is not stopped immediately.

This would be an easy fix for even a novice to tackle.

Remove all the hoses and the top bracket bolts and the radiator should just pull up and out.

Pretty simple.

Replace the hoses, and the cap and you should be back on the road in a few hours.
It will save you a boat load of cash.

Go to the Pep Boys website and select “online store.”

They sell almost all parts at wholesale this way (I’m not sure why). You can get a new radiator and all associated parts for under $100 on almost all standard makes.

I’ve bought radiators for less than $70 for a Corolla from a local mom and pop radiator shop, just last year.

I’ve bought many radiators there over the years, all for different cars.

In every case, the big name parts stores either didn’t have the radiator in stock, or it was SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive. And even the big name parts stores sold chinese radiators.

Whoa boys. If the OP cannot identify what the radiator is in the first place, the OP is not about to go buy one and install it themselves. And there are things like oil cooler lines that may not exactly match up, etc. Been there on and Acura. It needs to be replaced period, right away. Call a shop and tell them. They’ll give you an estimate, then drive it down there and have it replaced. (If its not too far to drive.)

Concur w/ @Bing … this radiator should be installed by a pro. A well recommended pro at a local inde shop would be a good choice. A dealer shop – while they could do it – isn’t required. The comments from the posters here that it is usually a fairly simple job tell the OP that the labor to do the job shouldn’t be overly expensive is all. @db4690 's idea to use a local radiator specialty shop is probably the first choice as those folks do this every day, day in and day out, assuming a well recommended one is nearby to the OP.

To get the proper radiator…you remove it from the vehicle and take it with you. The most difficult part is removing the old radiator.

One thing not mentioned, if this engine overheats, then you are looking at a head gasket repair which is really going to cost you. Call some repair shops and get estimates, beware of any that are too low, select one. If it is close, you may be able to get there if you fill the radiator before your leave and carry an extra gallon of water just in case. Do not let that needle get to the red.