Radiator hose detached

Had to have repair work done after rear-ending someone. As the body shop got into the repair they decided the radiator needed to be replaced. 3 months/3000 miles after the repair, the bottom radiator hose disconnected while cruising at 75 mph on the interstate. As a result of the loss of all radiator fluid, the engine was fried. The mechanic where the car was towed found the hose had not been clamped in place. The body shop claims that if it was totally their fault, it would have failed sooner and that anything could have happened over the 3 months. My question is whether it is possible that the hose could have been shoved on tightly enough, without clamping, to take 3 months to work loose? I have photos of the car afterwards which clearly show the detached hose with the clamp a couple inches down from where it should have been. I’m trying to determine how strong my position is when negotiating a settlement with the body shop.

Pretty strong. Much depends on the correctness and honesty of that mechanic’s opinion. Was the clamp within 1/4 inch or so from the end of the hose where the hose meets the radiator? That’s where it should have been. It should have stayed there if it had been tightened correctly. If it had been in that position but not tightened enough, the hose could have pulled away from the radiator right away or after an unpredictable mileage or time.

Did the mechanic loosen the screw on the clamp before taking the photo? Or slide the clamp further away than it had been from the radiator, without loosening it? I don’t think the clamp was likely to move away from near the end of the hose unless someone slid it there.

OK, If I am the body shop, I would take the position that

  1. 3000 miles and 3 months later, ANYthing could have happened in that time to cause the problem.
  2. Why didn’t you notice the engine was overheating (coolant temp gauge, red idiot lights…ect) and pull over BEFORE major damage occurred?
  3. How do you know your engine didn’t blow a head gasket FIRST, over pressured the cooling system and popped the hose off with pressure??.. after all, back to #1

Subarus are known for head gasket failures. You don’t tell us the year, mileage or engine the car has so impossible to say how likely a blown head gasket would be.

I think the body shop has a strong argument… It will take you, or your lawyer, addressing these 3 points in rebuttal if you expect to get the body shop to pay.


I can see their point, and yours. Wish you the best, but keep the thought of small claims court open as an option if needed.

I doubt a hose without a clamp would stay on for a day of driving, much less 3 months. I think it’s more likely #3 happened on @Mustangman 's list.


Clamp left loose, slow leak until coolant drops low enough to cause overheating, hose gives up due to severe overheating which raises the cooling system pressure faster than it can leak, and continued operation with zero coolant fries the engine.
You will not like this comment, but some of this is on you for not stopping immediately.

An engine does not fry due to coolant loss in a few seconds. A few minutes of slight overheating is not so bad. Severe overheating takes a bit to get there and a few minutes of that can take a serious toll.


I’ll just say this is a legal issue and the decision of the judge may not be correct or fair.

A loose hose though should have developed a small leak before falling off though so there should have been some evidence. Two other things, the temp gauge or light should have indicated a problem before the engine failed. The other thing is, I always check the work someone else does just to make sure.

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That was my first hunch when I read “Subaru” and “radiator hose detached.” But when the mechanic determined the hose clamp had not been correctly installed, I reconsidered.

I would guess the radiator cap would release pressure before a radiator hose blew off.

This would be a valid argument for the OP to use as well as the “mechanic says” comment.

Like I said I dunno, but there should be a witness mark on the hose if it was clamped tight. New hose, or old hose that would show where the old clamp was?
I don’t think I have ever put the clamp 1/4 inch from the end though. Usually more in the center of the fitting. Then we don’t know exactly why the engine is toast. Pistons seized? Mechanic might have been a little premature in his diagnosis after he thinks about and was it a body man or actual mechanic mechanic that would be assumed an expert. Questions I guess to nail down whether it makes any difference or not. If it were my shop I guess I would deny deny saying can’t warranty work forever.

Can you post those photos?

Those edpm-rubber hoses (which I presume Subaru uses) are a pretty tight fit. I’d guess if it was put over the fitting properly, it wouldn’t come off anytime soon, even if not properly clamped. The fitting usually has a sort of barb on it to prevent the hose from coming off, and to prevent leaks. The clamp goes between the end of the hose & the barb. With no clamping force, I’d expect it might leak coolant tho, esp true for the lower hose, and owner would find a small puddle on the ground in that area the next morning.

As far as who’s to blame, legal-wise or otherwise, no idea. As a diy’er, if my car’s radiator was replaced by a shop, and I picked it up after the repair and verified there were no visible leaks, drove home, then as a routine precaution I’d inspect all the hoses and clamps the next day. I know from experience it is very easy to install a cooling system clamp, and then forget to give it the final tightening.

As Bing suggested, look for “witness marks” where the clamp should have been placed on the hose, sufficiently close to its end to prevent the hose from slipping past the barb on the radiator nipple. It is easy to overlook tightening clamps after placing them. Lack of marks can provide convincing evidence for negotiating with the shop, and in court if it goes that far.