Question about the radiator on a used car i'm thinking about buying

I am looking at a 97 Toyota Corolla with 67,000 miles on it. I had it checked by a mechanic and there were a few minor things wrong, all easy fixes and the seller said he’d take the cost off the price of the car. One question though, the mechanic said that the radiator may need to be replaced because the coolant looked rusty in color–at the very least it needed to be flushed out. Anyways, should I be concerned about possible damage to the engine that may have occurred already? Appreciate the help, i’m really not certain if this is a big deal or not. THanks…

I have been looking for a used car far too long and it’s nearly impossible to find a reasonably priced used car in California with less that 100K on it.

There’s probably nothing long-term that’s been damaged. The rust is probably from the radiator itself and all that will happen eventually is the radiator will rust out and start leaking. The water pump might be damaged, but if the coolant is only vaguely rust colored, as opposed to having big pieces of rust floating in it, a flush will probably take care of it.

Though, speaking of the water pump, has the timing belt service (including replacing the water pump) ever been done on this car? If not, you absolutely have to have that done the instant you buy it.

I would also suggest that you expand your search beyond the 100k mark, especially if you’re looking at brands like Toyota. Pretty much any modern car will stay cost-effective to operate way past 200k miles if maintained properly. The number of miles on the odometer is no longer the sure-fire indicator of a car’s remaining life-span it once was. A car with 200k miles that has had all the scheduled maintenance done has a lot more useful life left in it than one with 50k that’s been neglected. And, as you’ve learned from this Toyota, often a car with unusually few miles for it’s age will end up with a lot more neglect issues because people who don’t drive very much very rarely follow the time-based maintenance requirements and wind up with things like rusty coolant.

I would worry most about the heater core if coolant has been ignored. Find out how much that will cost to replace and it might cause you to walk away from any car with nasty-looking coolant.

The radiator is aluminum with plastic tanks. The head is made from an aluminum alloy. The only place the rust can be coming from is from the engine block because it’s made from cast iron. And when the engine block rusts, there’s a chance a head gasket and/or a frost plug can fail.