Emergency Roadside Radiator Hose Repair

All it takes is a little bit of duct tape

Calling for roadside help
South_agency / Getty Images

It's no fun standing on the side of the road watching smoke pour out of your car's radiator area. Before you call a tow company or change into your walking shoes, there might be a way to get back on the road long enough to get home or to the shop for a real radiator repair. You'll need some duct tape, which you can purchase anywhere, and a little bit of patience.  

How to Patch Your Radiator Hose 

First, wait for your car to cool off. This is important: never try to work on an engine that is running or still warm. You run the risk of being seriously burned. 

Once the engine has cooled, and the steam has started to dissipate, open the hood and see if you can locate the source of the steam. If it's coming from a rubber radiator hose, look for the exact location of the leak, likely a small hole.

Once you've located the hole, dry it completely before you apply the duct tape. 

Radiator Hose Repair with Duct Tape

Tear off a two or three-inch piece of duct tape and place it over the hole in the radiator hose. Starting at the center (just over the hole) press the tape firmly in place. Now tear off a nice long piece and, starting about two inches above the smaller piece of tape, wrap it around and around the hose tightly and press it in place.

While you have the hood open, this is a good time to check your radiator fluid. You want to make sure you have enough to get where you're going. If it's seriously low, you can add plain old water in the short term.

Another option: You can use an adhesive like super glue to repair a small hole as well. Again: it's important to make sure the hose is cooled off and dry before attempting this fix.

Long-Term Radiator Hose Repair

This method, while perfectly safe, is only a temporary fix. Don't try to get more than a few hours with duct tape on your radiator hose, because when it heats back up again, the duct tape is going to melt and could cause further damage.

The next step is to decide whether to take your car to a shop to replace the damaged hose or try to fix it yourself. If you're handy with cars and know which type of hose to purchase, doing it yourself could save you a couple of bucks.  

Radiator hoses are fairly easy to replace, but it's not a repair you can make while your car is steaming by the side of the road. First, take off the radiator cap, then drain the coolant. Loosen the hose clamps and remove the hose. Then attach the new hose and refill the radiator. 

Be advised that any roadside repair should be treated as temporary. And a hole in a radiator hose usually indicates a bigger problem may be going on inside your engine.