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According to the Butterfly Effect theory, if a butterfly flaps its wings in China it can create tornados in Wisconsin. Who knows if this theory really holds water; but here in the prairies, we experience our own little “Butterfly Effect”. Every summer, butterflies and other bugs clog radiators, causing vehicles to overheat.

Senior man by broken down car on roadside


Pieris Rapae, known more commonly as the “Cabbage White Butterfly”, is one of the main culprits; but how can you avoid being stranded by an overheated engine?

How Can Bugs Disable My Vehicle?

Bug populations peak during the summer months and their sheer numbers make it impossible to avoid them on the road. When bugs hit the radiator, they become “baked on” and eventually your radiator will no longer be able to cool your engine efficiently.



When butterflies and other bugs clog your radiator, it can no longer absorb, transport and dissipate the heat generated by your engine. Just as it’s harder for you to work in sweltering heat, your engine also struggles. Prevention is the key.

Regularly Clean Your Radiator

It takes a lot of bugs to clog your radiator so, preventative maintenance should become part of your routine. Simply stop by a local wand-wash and give your rad a thorough cleaning. By directing the spray diagonally, the water pressure will “scrape” the bugs off rather than forcing them deeper into your radiator. Exercise caution by testing the water pressure first and approaching the rad carefully to prevent damaging the radiator fins.



You can also clean your rad at home using a garden hose and some bug-and-tar remover. Once your radiator is cool, spray on the remover, let it soak for a minute, then rinse it off. It should be noted that, since bug-and-tar remover has a tendency to fade paint, you’ll want to ensure that you wet down the car’s paint prior to applying the remover. After you’ve finished cleaning the rad, wash the paint thoroughly to eliminate any bug-and-tar remover residue, and wipe it dry. Taking extra care in this step will help to preserve your vehicle’s paint finish.

Profile of young girl washing car


Another alternative to clean your radiator is by using compressed air. If you don’t have access to an air compressor, a leaf blower will usually suffice. When cleaning with air, direct the pressure diagonally to blow the bugs off and away from the radiator, rather than forcing them into the rad. When using an air compressor, approach the rad carefully, as high air pressure applied directly at close range can damage the radiator fins.

Install a Radiator Screen

A radiator screen is designed to keep debris, such as rocks, sticks and bugs, out of your radiator. It is typically made of a fine mesh, which is particularly effective in preventing bugs from clogging your rad.

Closeup image of a metal car grill.


Our Parts Department can assist you in choosing the proper screen for your vehicle or, if you’re feeling particularly handy, you can make your own using a fine mesh from the local hardware store. Your radiator screen will require regular cleaning, as a clogged screen will starve your radiator of the cool air it needs to cool the engine effectively.

Got any other techniques you’d like to share? Post them below in our comments section!


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