How to Remove the Radiator from a Ford Explorer

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The radiator in your Ford Explorer is part of a closed cooling system that helps lower the temperature of hot coolant. The process allows the engine in your sport utility vehicle (SUV) to operate at a predetermined temperature. After miles of service, however, the radiator may develop leaks, small passages inside the unit may accumulate rust and mineral deposits could lead to serious cooling system problems. In this case, you can remove the radiator from your Explorer in your driveway for replacement or service and save on repairs costs at the same time.

Things You'll Need

  • Wrench set
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • 18-inch piece of vinyl hose
  • Large drain pan
  • Fan clutch removal tool (optional)
  • Small catch pan
  • Line wrench (optional)
  • 2 clean plastic sheets
  • 2 rubber bands
  • Ratchet
  • Ratchet extension
  • Socket
  • Lift the hood and detach the negative battery cable with a wrench.

  • Loosen the clamp holding the air-cleaner housing end to the throttle body with a flat-head screwdriver and release the spring clips holding the other end to the front of the engine compartment. Remove the air-cleaner housing. On some Explorer models, you will need to unplug the intake-air-temperature sensor attached to the housing as well.

  • Install an 18-inch piece of vinyl hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the radiator. Position a large drain pan under the radiator and point the vinyl hose to the pan. Open the drain valve, loosen the radiator cap and drain the coolant from the radiator. When finished, close the valve and cover the pan to keep the coolant clean for later reuse.

  • Loosen the clamps holding the upper and lower radiator hoses to the fittings with a flat-head screwdriver. Slide the clamps back a few inches and detach the hoses from the radiator fittings.

  • Pull the coolant reservoir hose off the radiator neck by hand.

  • Unfasten the cooling fan shroud from the radiator with a wrench and move the shroud toward the engine to gain clearance to remove the radiator. If you have a 2001 Explorer or later model, detach the cooling fan and clutch assembly from the water pump, using a fan-clutch-removal tool and take the fan-clutch assembly and shroud out of the engine compartment.

  • Position a small catch pan under the two cooler lines at the radiator if you have an Explorer with an automatic transmission. Hold the line fittings with a backup wrench and disconnect the line-retaining nuts with a line wrench. After disconnecting the lines, plug the line openings with clean, plastic sheets and rubber bands to prevent contamination of the system.

  • Unfasten the radiator mounting bolts with a ratchet, ratchet extension and socket. Look for any hidden fasteners at the bottom of the radiator and remove them. When ready, carefully lift the radiator up and out of the engine compartment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Many auto parts stores have fan-clutch-removal tools for rent, which you may return after completing the repair on your Explorer.
  • When servicing the cooling system in your Explorer, never open the radiator or reservoir cap with a warm or hot engine. Boiling coolant under pressure may spray out on your body and cause serious injuries.

References

  • "Ford Explorer, Mazda Navajo, Mercury Mountaineer and Explorer Sport/Sport Trac Automotive Repair Manual"; Jay Storer and John H. Haynes; 2005
  • "Modern Automotive Technology"; James E. Duffy; 2003
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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