Radiators are a fairly common item that needs replacement. If your car starts emitting steam, the temperature rises extremely quickly, or you smell something that is strange and sort of sweet while you drive, you’ll need to check your radiator system right away. In most cases, if the radiator is made out of plastic and begins leaking, it’s more cost-effective to replace it.
Step 1: Getting Started
Make sure your engine cools down completely before getting started. You’ll need to have a clean pail, a set of line wrenches, hose clamps, pliers, a screwdriver, and a ramp or jack. Work on your car only in properly ventilated areas, and use protection such as grade zero gloves and safety glasses as you are working with hazardous liquids.
Step 2: Drain the Radiator
Jack up the car (or use a ramp) to reach the drain plug underneath the radiator. Put the pail directly below and drain all of the antifreeze into it. Properly dispose of the liquid, as it is a hazardous waste.
Step 3: Unplug the Electrical Cooling Fan and Remove the Hoses
The hose will have a clamp on it, which you can move with pliers to remove the upper and lower hoses. If the hoses are cracked or corroded, they need replacing too. Make sure all electrical connections to the radiator are disconnected before continuing, including the cooling fan and the battery. Remove the coolant reservoir from the engine bay area.
Step 4: Unmount the Radiator and Remove From the Engine Compartment
Generally, upper radiator mounts require a screwdriver to take out and lower ones do not. When all of the electrical connections, hoses, and hardware are removed, the radiator should slip right out of the engine compartment. With an automatic transmission, you’ll need to use a wrench to loosen and remove the two transmission cooling lines.
Step 5: Check the Old and New Radiators
Lay the radiators side by side to check that they are roughly the same size and that the connections are all in the same place.
Step 6: Swap all of the Old Parts onto the New Radiator
Put on the bottom mounts, radiator hose, the fan, and the transmission cooling lines. Put the new radiator back in the engine compartment and remount it.
Step 7: Hook Up Your New Radiator
Put the transmission lines back on, plug in the electrical cooling fan, and put the radiator hose back on (including moving the clamp back to the front of the hose). The installation is the exact reversal to the removal.
Step 8: Refill the Antifreeze Coolant
Remember to replace the drain plug at the bottom of the car. Refill the radiator tank with coolant until it’s visible. Start the engine (but don’t rev it) until the engine sucks in some of the coolant, and then add to the marked levels on the tank.
Replacing your radiator yourself can be easier than you think. You may find YouTube tutorials helpful, but also remember; always ask the experts if in doubt.