How To Replace A Radiator

If you have a leaky or non-functional radiator in your car and would like to save some money by skipping the mechanic, learning how to replace a radiator at home can come in handy. The radiator is one of the most important parts on a car, cooling the engine by circulating coolant throughout the motor. Having a faulty or leaky radiator can easily lead to the engine overheating, which can lead to a multitude of other issues. Replacing a radiator can easily be completed in just a few hours, provided you have the correct tools and replacement parts.

To replace a radiator, you will need:
  • A drain pan
  • A screwdriver
  • Open-ended wrenches
  • A new radiator
  • New hoses
  • Hose clamps
  • Coolant
  1. Drain the coolant from the existing radiator you wish to replace. Be sure the car has been allowed to sit for several hours to allow the coolant to cool off. Attempting to open a hot radiator or drain hot coolant can cause severe burns. Locate the drain plug on the bottom of the radiator. Place the drain pan under the drain plug and unplug the drain, allowing the coolant to fall into the drain pan.
  2. Remove the hoses. Use the screwdriver to remove the hose clamps and hoses from the radiator. Allow the excess coolant in the hoses to drain into the pan. If your vehicle has transmission oil cooling lines that go to the radiator, remove them as well, allowing the coolant to drain into a separate drain pan. Take the used coolant to a repair shop for recycling. Remove the hoses from the engine and discard both hoses and hose clamps. While replacing the hoses is optional, it is recommended as hoses can easily crack and leak.
  3. If necessary, remove the fan. Many cars have a fan or fan shroud that must be removed to gain access to the radiator. Use the open-ended wrenches to remove the fan or fan shroud if necessary.
  4. Remove the radiator. Remove any mounting bolts holding the radiator in place. Lift vertically to remove the old radiator. Be careful as there may be coolant remaining in the radiator.
  5. Install the new replacement radiator. Grasp the new radiator by the sides, taking care not to bend or damage it. Gently slice it into place, making sure the orientation is the same as the previously installed radiator. Reconnect the radiator using the mounting bolts.
  6. Re-install the fan or fan shroud if necessary. Use a reverse process from when you removed these items to secure them back into place.
  7. Connect the new hoses. Using the new set of hoses and hose clamps, connect each new hose to connect the motor and radiator. Tighten each hose clamp using the screwdriver at each connection.
  8. Fill the new radiator with coolant, as well as the overflow reservoir, to the suggested level. Be sure to use the correct type of coolant and the correct mixture of coolant and water for your specified vehicle. Check the specifications on the coolant container for details on which type of vehicles it's designed for.  
  9. Start the engine and check for leaks. Turn on the vehicle engine and allow it to come up to an operating temperature. Monitor the new replacement radiator as the engine is running to check for any leaks. If any hoses are leaking, turn off the car before tightening the hose clamps or adjusting anything.
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