The radiator on my Peugeot 106 has started leaking very badly and needs replacing. I don't have time to fix it at the moment, so I'm taking it to a garage. How far can I drive it without damaging the rest of the car? Or do I need to get it towed?

  • 7
    If you must drive you should stop very often and fill the radiator, cf. @Kjartan Þór Kjartansson's answer. This can be impossible (if the water literally spills out at the same rate that you can fill it) and/or dangerous (opening the radiator lid on a hot engine). Really, you should get it towed.
    – jensgram
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 9:24

6 Answers 6


In the case where you run it too hot, you could start messing up your head gasket or warping the head itself. If you have to, in a warm climate, use distilled water or just keep replacing the antifreeze until you can get it somewhere, after which you'll have to have the whole system flushed.

If you live in a cold climate your engine block could freeze and crack. Definitely do not use water in this case.

Are you just leaking from a hose or the radiator somewhere? You might already have a blown head gasket and you could be burning off the antifreeze in the engine. Is there any film or other liquid in your oil?

I would tow it if it's as bad as you say; head gasket repair can run $600 - $1,000 or more. A few bottles of antifreeze to get you there is obviously a considerably smaller investment (though I'm not sure how much your city will like you leaking antifreeze all over).

  • 2
    +1 for good analysis of secondary issues. It's also worth noting that depending on the nature of the leak, it could get worse on the way to the shop.
    – S_Niles
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 0:09
  • 1
    Why suggest putting antifreeze in a leaking cooling system?! If the weather is warm, there's no use and it's just pollution/mess. If the weather is cold enough that freezing is a concern while the engine is running (keep in mind, OP was planning to drive straight to the shop...), the ambient air temp with no liquid coolant would prevent the engine from overheating... Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 16:45
  • @R.. Ambient air temperature might also not be enough to keep engine from overheating as empty water lines inside engine would actually act as insulation and will cause greater temperature differencies, potentially causing head and/or block fracturing/transformation. Depends on engine type though (how much iron, clearance tolerances, thermal coductivity between parts, ...). At least one should check oil levels before trying to run engine with only bare engine block and oil transfering heat around.. Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 21:00
  • It not high temperature what destroys your engine, it is high differences and rapid changes in temperatures locally. Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 21:03
  • Keep in mind my comment was qualified with "if the weather is cold enough that freezing is a concern while the engine is running". I'm not actually sure how cold it would have to get for that to be an issue, so maybe I'm wrong, but my (reasonable, IMO) guess is that it's so cold that you'd have significant heat transfer rate from the engine block to the ambient outside air, regardless of any internal air in the system. Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 21:11

I would not recommend driving with an empty radiator, that could cause the engine to overheat as well as damaging the water pump.


It depends on how much you are leaking. I've had a leak in a radiator and had to take it somewhere a few times, here's what I usually do.

  1. Fill the radiator completely full of water. If you can get it loaded, and it takes more than a few minutes to drain, you can proceed to step two.
  2. Drive slower than normal to your destination. Keep a spare gallon of water in your vehicle. Keep glancing at the temperature gauge. If you see it go above the mid line, then pull over immediately. Wait for the vehicle to cool down, and replace the antifreeze. Or else just call a tow company.

You should be able to take a vehicle at least 5, maybe 10, miles by following this advice. I should say that I live in an area that never freezes, so...

  • 1
    ...or just use pre-mixed coolant if water is not an option. I've also had some severe radiator and hose leaks that I've had to limp to the shop. Fill the system and the overflow, and get going. Lowest RPMs in the highest gear that you can get away with. Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 13:54
  • Also check for gauge reading to low, as the water level may be below the sensor. Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 12:10

A much cheaper option then towing, but which will ensure that nothing gets damaged, is for you just to fix the leak temporarily on the spot with some putty. I've seen cheap putty specifically for the purpose of fixing leaking radiators sold at many gas/petrol filling stations.


As with many things, it depends. I was once in the car when my dad drove about 15km at highway speed, not taking any special care, before remembering that he’d drained the coolant system of his Saab 900 and forgotten to re-fill it. The engine was up to temperature by that point, but we stopped straight away, found some water, and filled it up, and no obvious damage occurred — the car still runs fine years later.

On the other hand, you could drive a few hundred metres and blow your head gasket. In your situation, I would get a friend to tow the car to a garage, or maybe ask the garage if they can tow you — maybe New Zealand garages are just friendly but a lot of them are happy to!

If towing is not an option for some reason, and it’s not leaking too quickly, I’d just pull over regularly to top the radiator up.


How much you are safe to drive?

You are alright to drive till the thermostate opens the valve to the radiator and the leak starts to drain the coolant liquid, I can not say an exact time, cause it depends on the outside temprature, but if outside temp is 10 degree of celcius(43f) you may have about 10 minute, you are safe to go till the coolant temp gets to 70 degree of celcius (about 110f) afterward you do not have a lot of time, depend to size of the leak and the capacity of coolant liquid in your car

How can you temporary fix the issue to get to a mechanic?

Chew a gum and stick it to where you see the leak, move the car and check the drive path carefully for a new leak

If you have refilled your water reservoir then you need to bleed coolant system, some cars allow it to be done without starting the car(BMW) check your repair manual.

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