5 Symptoms of a Bad Radiator Fan (& Replacement Cost)

The radiator fan prevents the car from overheating when driving at lower speeds or at idle. Here's how to tell if you have a bad radiator fan

Radiator Fans

All modern vehicles are equipped with a radiator fan to remove the heat from the coolant circulating through the engine. When you are dealing with a bad radiator fan, it can cause numerous issues. 

We review the top symptoms of a bad radiator fan and look at its purpose. Before you get it fixed, you will also want to know the replacement cost of a radiator fan. Let’s take a quick look at the common signs to look for:

The most common symptom of a bad radiator fan is an overheating car engine. You may also notice that the A/C performance is worse than usual and you can sometimes hear some whirring noises coming from the engine bay.

Here is a more detailed list of the most common symptoms of a bad radiator fan:

Bad Radiator Fan Symptoms

1. Fan Doesn’t Come On

Radiator Fans

The most common symptom that the radiator fan has gone bad is that it will stop working. Sometimes the motor burns up or fails. Other times, the relay stops working. 

Either way, you know there is an issue with the fan system if it is unable to run. If this condition is allowed to persist, it will lead to larger issues, as you are about to see.

2. Blown Radiator Fan Fuse

Relay Fuse Box

Another reason the fan will stop working is if it blows a fuse. Radiator fans will burn out a fuse because it is failing and creating too much amperage. 

When the electric motor surges, the fuses blow to ensure the system stays safe from this extra power. You can change the fuse, but a defective fan will probably cause another one to go out. 

3. Vehicle Overheating

Overheating Engine On Road

The fan is responsible for keeping the coolant at the right temperature. If the fan is failing, engine temperatures will begin to rise. While the fan should turn on as soon as the temperature reaches a certain point, it won’t.

Many times, drivers aren’t aware that the engine is overheating until the temperature light goes on the dashboard. At this point, you must shut down the car and let the engine cool or you could cause irreversible damage. 

RELATED: 9 Causes of an Overheating Car Engine

4. Poor A/C Performance 

When the radiator fan stops working, you might notice difficulty with the air conditioning system. The radiator fan is supposed to pull air through the condenser and remove heat from the refrigerant. In fact, it creates double the amount of air compared with the condenser fan. 

With a defective radiator fan, it isn’t just the engine getting hotter, but also the cabin of the vehicle. What you think might be a problem with the A/C could actually be an issue with the radiator fan. 

5. Whirring Noises

Any strange noises should be a cause for alarm. When the radiator cooling fan motor begins to fail, it can emit a whirring sound or loud clicking. 

These sounds can also occur if one of the fan blades becomes damaged and starts touching other components. If you are hearing sounds, at least you know the fan is still working, even minimally. However, it’s best to have this repaired before it leads to further problems. 

RELATED: 7 Causes Why Your Radiator Fan Is Not Coming On

Radiator Fan Location

Radiator Fan

The radiator cooling fan is mounted directly to the radiator. All late model vehicles are equipped with a radiator cooling fan. 

In some vehicles, there is more than one radiator cooling fan attached to the radiator. It’s possible to have one fail while the other continues operation. 

The Function of a Radiator Fan

The radiator fan pulls air through the radiator to cool the engine. It’s used heavily during lower speeds and idling when air isn’t naturally being pushed through the system. When the engine is running, coolant temperatures rise. If no air moves through the radiator to cool it off, the engine starts to overheat. This operation is powered by the fan’s electric motors.

As with most industrial motors, the electric fan’s motor works the same. It is a replaceable or serviceable component of the assembly. However, because it contains moving parts, it is subject to wear over time and can fail. Sometimes, a defective radiator fan isn’t caused by the fan itself but more often by the motor that powers it. A complete inspection will be required to determine the cause of the malfunction. 

Radiator Fan Replacement Cost

The average radiator fan replacement cost is typically between $550 and $650. In many cases, the radiator fan will cost around $400 to $450, while the labor adds $150 to $200. However, some vehicles can be more expensive, depending on the design.

Most cars have the radiator fan mounted directly on the radiator, making it simple to replace. If you are skilled with basic automotive tools and have some general expertise, you might be able to change the radiator fan yourself and save on the labor costs. 

However, you should never drive with a failing radiator fan. If the fan fails to bring in cool air to the engine, you could cause severe damage to the motor as it overheats. The expense you will pay to replace the engine far outweighs the cost of a bad radiator fan. 

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.