Dear Car Talk:
I bought a Kia Spectra EX new in 2006, and it's been a highly reliable small sedan. I've always driven the car carefully for its 70,000 miles. A couple of years ago, I took it to the local Kia dealership and had them change all of the fluids and belts in order to keep it running well. Unfortunately, the dealership did not replace the two radiator hoses, saying they seemed fine.
But now, at age 12, I'm very concerned that the old hoses could blow out at any time, possibly damaging an overheated engine. How long will hoses last, and can they be accurately predicted by mechanics as "good to go" before failures occur? -- Iggy
It's an interesting question, Iggy. We used to replace hoses all the time, as preventive maintenance. And we made a pile of money doing it. Ahh, the good old days! Back then, hoses typically would last four, maybe five years, before the rubber would harden up and be susceptible to failure. But something has changed. It may be that with engines running hotter, and everything crammed into smaller engine compartments, manufacturers had to improve the rubber compounds to withstand the extra heat. Whatever they did worked, because we almost never replace hoses anymore.
In fact, recently, a customer with a Honda Accord came in to the shop and asked us to change all of his hoses. Like you, Iggy, he was raised during the Hose Changing Era. So I called our local Honda parts guy, and he said he didn't even have all the hoses. He said they don't stock them all anymore, because they rarely fail. The only time they need to be replaced now is when the car is in an accident and a hose gets physically damaged. Rodents may be a bigger threat to hoses these days than heat and time.
So if you were a customer of mine, and I saw no signs of brittle rubber, cracking or impending failure, I'd tell you not to bother changing the hoses, and just plan to check them next time you were in for service. But since we mechanics are also amateur psychologists, if I knew you were going to be up at night, pacing the floor or waking up screaming from a blown-head-gasket nightmare, I'd order the hoses for you and encourage you to spend a couple hundred bucks to buy yourself a little peace of mind, Iggy. You certainly won't do any harm by changing them.