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Radiator Leak after dealer changed coolant

Took my 2009 Subaru Tribeca, 75000 miles, to the dealer for a recall. While there I decided to have the coolant and trans and differential fluids changed.

I was told by the service representative that the radiator was not leaking before being serviced. After the service it began to leak and now they want me to pay for a new radiator.

I have not yet picked up the vehicle so nothing I did after the service can be blamed for the leak.

I am at this point uncertain how to proceed. Is it absurd to believe that it is the dealer’s responsibility to repair what became damaged as result of their service.

I am also curious as to the overall opinion on fluid exchanges and flushes. In person, talking to mechanics or so called gear heads flushes seems to be a debated topic, but experiences like mine are suspiciously absent from an internet search.

I seemed to be under the impression they mostly posed a threat to high mileage or unmaintained vehicles. All three services were last done 3 years and about 15000 miles ago.

10 years old… never changed coolant… what could go wrong here?

check your maintenance schedule, it is very clearly explained by Subaru.
Something tells me you had to replace coolant quite some time before this service and coolant might have damaged the radiator.
Dealer might have something to do or might not at this point, hard to tell.
If they had to work nerby, they might have “disturbed” the radiator, which was on the way out for example.

10 year old radiator’s spring a leak on their own sometimes. Aluminum radiators used on modern cars aren’t a robust as the old copper radiators used to be. Those could last the life of the vehicle. Not any more. I’d just have the radiator replaced and say “good enough”. At least you’ll have a new radiator and should be good to go for a long time. To improve the odds of not having to replace it again change-out the coolant more frequently. Flushing the cooling system isn’t an issue, but flushing the transmission can be.

Coolant was last changed 15000 miles and three years ago.

then it may be a time to pay dealer a visit, take a flashlight and ask them to demonstrate where the leak is located.
if you find any fresh damage on radiator - it would be self-explanatory, otherwise, get it replaced on your dime


A radiator may be much cheaper from an independent source. Even if the dealer offers to split the cost in some manner, get a second opinion/estimate.

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It’s not unusual for plastic tank radiators to fail at round this age (80-100kmi. 8-10yrs, more or less) all by themselves, and some recommend preemptive replacement of all pressurized cooling plastic and rubber components at about this age. Some leak at the crimped junction between the aluminum core and the plastic tank (a rubber gasket there that gets old). Others became porous and weep fluid through the plastic walls - neither of these would be the mechanic’s fault. We’ve replaced the radiators in our late 80’s BMW and early '90’s for these reasons, several times. Hose nipples can crack if one forcefully removes a stuck hose by twisting (rather than cutting and peeling), and this is more likely to occur on an aging radiator. Sometimes a small existing leak is detected by a pressure test, or the pressure test is sufficient to push an aging radiator over the edge, saving one an unscheduled problem on the road.

While it’s conceivable an aging radiator was overstressed during service, at this age the dealer may have done you a favor so I wouldn’t be too upset.

Take care when choosing an independent radiator, some are quite good while others may fail in a year or two. A reliable independent shop can guide you, also check the Subaru specific fora - there’s good information on and, the last I looked, had good suggestions for this. Beware the cheapest.