How to Change a Radiator

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Changing a car's radiator is a relatively straightforward procedure that requires only a few tools. By taking your time and observing all safety precautions, you should be able to complete the task in a single afternoon, even if you're a novice mechanic.

Things You'll Need

  • Radiator
  • Safety goggles
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Plastic container or tub
  • Digital camera
  • Open race wrench

Remove the Old Radiator

  • Allow your engine to cool down for several hours before you change the radiator. Never remove a radiator cap or disconnect a radiator hose while the engine is warm.

  • Disconnect your car battery and remove the keys to your ignition before you change the radiator. You should wear safety goggles whenever you work around the battery.

  • Drain the coolant or anti-freeze from the old radiator by removing the plug at the bottom. Use a plastic container or tub to collect the fluid.

  • Remove any plastic housing around the radiator. This is more common in newer vehicles.

  • Disconnect the electrical fan from its wiring, and remove the entire fan assembly. You may want to use a digital camera to take pictures of how the fan is assembled so that you'll know how to re-install it.

  • Disconnect the radiator hoses, using a screwdriver to loosen the hose clamp rings. Inspect the hoses for cracks or excessive moisture, and replace them if necessary.

  • Disconnect the transmission cooling lines, which are connected to the bottom of the radiator, with an open race wrench. Take care not to bend or crimp the lines or you'll need to replace them, too.

  • Remove any clamps or brackets that are holding the old radiator in place. Gently lift the radiator form the car.

Install the New Radiator

  • Set the new radiator in the car and re-fasten all braces and clamps.

  • Re-attach the radiator hoses and transmission cooling lines. Ensure that all hose ring clamps are tightened and secure.

  • Replace the fan assembly. Be sure to plug the wire connection back into its electrical lead.

  • Refasten any radiator housing or shrouds.

  • Refill the radiator with coolant or anti-freeze.

  • Inspect the new radiator for leaks, especially around the bottom of the unit.

  • Reconnect the car battery.

  • Start the engine and inspect once again for leaks. Pay attention to possible leaks in the radiator hoses.

  • Take the car for a spin around the block to check for any problems.

Tips & Warnings

  • Dispose of all used coolants and anti-freeze at a recycling center immediately after you change a radiator. Anti-freeze can taste particularly sweet to your pets, but it is often deadly to them.
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