Retrieve an Object from the Radiator or Reservoir (without removal)

I went to pour coolant into my radiator reservoir and dropped something in it! Help, how do I get it out? If this has happened to you, never fear, I am here to help share some ideas how you can get a nut, or piece of trash, or the common piece of aluminum foil from the coolant container seal out of the radiator or coolant reservoir!

What is the best way to get something out of the radiator that has been dropped in?

A radiator reservoir can easy be unbolted and drained to retrieve a piece of debris or trash or hardware that was dropped into it. Retrieving something from a radiator can be much more difficult. If a magnet, a grabber, or a turkey baster does not work to pull it out, then the radiator should be removed and drained.

Retrieving Debris from the Radiator

It will be far easier to remove the coolant reservoir or the radiator to retrieve whatever has fallen in than it will be to repair the damage done by whatever has fallen in. If the bit of debris has found its way into the radiator, you NEED to remove it. Even if it means removing the radiator, but here I will present a few creative ideas to retrieve something out of the radiator.

A piece of debris or trash can do more harm than you would think in the radiator. The cooling system does not have a filter and whatever the item is that was dropped in will either end up plugging some of the narrow passageways limiting the cooling ability of the radiator, or it will make its’ way to the water pump where it can cause serious damage to the pump.

Something more common than you would expect is for some car owners to accidentally drop the small piece of aluminum that comes on the coolant bottle as a seal. If the aluminum is dropped into the reservoir or the radiator it should be removed before driving the car.

No matter what has been dropped in your radiator, unless it is dissolvable in water, it should be removed to prevent damage to the radiator or the water pump.

Here are a few of the best ways to try and get it out before removing the radiator

  • Turkey baster – particularly a good solution for something that floats like the top off the coolant bottle. Fill the radiator to the top and draw out the water on the top until you see the aluminum seal appear and you can pull it out.
  • Grabber tool – these are long flexible cables with a claw on the end that is the right tool for the job if you have dropped a bolt or something that is sitting on top of the tubes inside the radiator
  • Magnet – a magnet will be your best resource if whatever you dropped in is magnetic, such as a steel bolt. Lower the magnet in, or if you can get the object on the side of the radiator you may be able to drag the magnet on the outside of the radiator to pull the nut or whatever steel object you dropped in it.

If these things don’t work, you need to remove the entire radiator and flush it out with water until the object comes out.

Dropped Something in the Coolant Reservoir

Radiators have a reservoir to draw coolant from and to deposit coolant into when the engine heats up and cools down. It is a little bucket or container just asking for something to be dropped in.

If something is dropped in the reservoir larger than the hose that draws fluid from it and as long as the object is not going to break down. (Something like a bolt or nut) then you can just leave it if you choose.

Anything else dropped into the reservoir should be retrieved ASAP. Use a grabber, or turkey baster, or fill up the reservoir till it dumps the trash out the top.

If you are unable to retrieve the object from the coolant reservoir, you need to unbolt it and drain the reservoir and remove the debris.

You will be so grateful to take care of this small mistake now rather than a huge repair in the near future if you were to leave it be!

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