Basically, there are two radiator designs: DOWNFLOW and CROSSFLOW.
Salt Lake City, Utah Radiator Repair and Service blog by J-Mac Radiators. 3520 South State Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84115.
Basically, there are two radiator designs: DOWNFLOW and CROSSFLOW.
Radiators on older model cars were made of copper and brass alloys. This made them easy to repair by soldering the cracks or holes that caused leakage.
However, a number of later model cars include radiators with aluminum cores, which have plastic top and bottom tanks. These newer radiators can be damaged by forcing off a hose, over tightening a clip or even by improperly removing the pressure cap.
Damage to the new radiators is impossible for a home mechanic to repair, usually resulting in the replacement of the whole radiator. The one good thing about replacing the newer radiators, is that they are lighter than the old ones and usually have simple fittings which make them easier to remove.
Before starting, disconnect the battery to remove any radiator that has electrical connections.
Drain the radiator
Make sure the engine is cold, then take off or release the pressure cap on the radiator. Some cars have a tap or drain plug in the bottom of the radiator, open it and the radiator should drain.
If no water comes out, poke the drain-plug hole gently with a piece of wire, or unscrew and remove the tap. However, if there isn’t a plug, or you are unable to clear the blockage with the wire, disconnect the bottom hose where it attaches to the radiator.
Drain the coolant into a clean container, then strain it through muslin to remove the rust or dirt so that you can save it and re-use it in the new radiator if its still good. Check the strength of the solution with an antifreeze hydrometer.
While you are disconnecting and removing the radiator from the vehicle, pay close attention to the parts you remove and how you remove them. When installing the new radiator you will be attaching the same parts, in the same way you removed them from the old radiator. You may want to make notes, draw a diagram or even take a picture of the radiator before removing it. This will save you a headache later, if you forget how to attach something or if you forget to attach something.
Remove the hoses
Loosen the hose clips and ease off the hoses by gently twisting them back and forth. Don’t try to pry the them off with a screwdriver: you may wind up damaging the hoses, if you plan to reinstall the current ones. If you plan to replace the rubber hoses, it is much easier to just cut the old ones off.
Oil and transmission fluid cooling lines
Before disconnecting the oil and transmission fluid cooling lines, get another container ready to catch any oil or transmission fluid that will leak out. Next, unscrew both lines from the bottom of the radiator and let the oil, left in the lines, drain into the container. Place plastic sandwich bags over the ends of each line and fasten them with rubber bands. This will keep oil from leaking out onto the ground or garage floor.
Make sure you check, and top off, the oil and transmission fluid when you are finished installing the new radiator.
Clear the way
See if there are any fan-shroud pieces to remove, that will allow you to remove the radiator from the vehicle. However, there is a chance that you will only need to unscrew the radiator mounting clips. After the clips are removed carefully remove the radiator from the vehicle, making sure it doesn’t get hung up on any other parts and that there isn’t anything else attached to it.
Install new radiator
Before starting, set both radiators side by side and check the new one over carefully to make sure it is a match to the old one. Gently guide the new radiator into place, be very careful not to bend any of the cooling fins. Damaged fins will diminish the radiator’s ability to cool the engine properly.
Next install the clips and make sure the radiator is secure. Screw in the oil and transmission fluid cooling lines, being careful to line them up properly so you don’t strip the threads, which cause a leak.
When reattaching the hoses, tighten the clips firmly, but don’t over tighten them, which could cause the clips to cut into the hoses or crush the plastic stubs on the radiator.
Refill the radiator
After you are sure everything is connected properly, fill the radiator with the mixture of coolant/antifreeze recommended by your specific auto company. Also check and refill the oil and transmission fluid as necessary, due to leakage.
With this blog post, I am NOT personally advocating that you should go out and replace your car’s radiator. I personally would take my car into the professionals at J-Mac Car Care, but for all you DIY-ers out there here’s how to do it yourself!
Step 1: Gather your tools! You will need a 3/8″ drive ratchet and socket set, Phillips and flat screw drivers, a good pair of pliers, end wrenches, and a pair of gloves. J-Mac Car Care professionals recommend having both the SAE and metric sizes on the sockets and screwdrivers in different lengths.
Step 2: Survey around your radiator. You need to note what’s around your radiator. Knowing what’s around it and what will be disturbed will be critical for knowing how to put it back together after you take it apart. It’s also important to make sure you have the correct tools for the job. J-Mac’s experts recommend making notes on where everything goes to make sure it goes back in the right place.
Step 3: Remove the parts around the top part of the radiator. Make sure you keep track of all your hardware! This includes all the nuts, bolts, clamps, braces and supports.
Step 4: Unplug the cooling fan(s) and remove them. Some cars have one electric cooling fan while others have two. Whether your car has one or two, both will need to be removed before replacing the radiator. First, unplug the fan(s). Then, unscrew them from the radiator frame. Last, carefully lift the fan(s) from the mount(s) and set the fan(s) aside, keeping track of the corresponding hardware.
Step 5: Drain the radiator. To drain your radiator, place a catch-pan underneath the radiator. Take off the radiator cap and unscrew the valve to the drain. You can expect two or more gallons of coolant. Please make sure you dispose of the coolant safely. It’s toxic to animals, so save a little furry creature’s life!
Step 6: Disconnect the upper and lower radiator hoses. Unless you’re replacing the radiator hoses as well, you should only have to disconnect the end of the hoses that attach to the radiator. Make sure to leave the clamps on the hoses for your convince. Catch any excess coolant left in the hoses in a small bucket. Remember, save a furry life!
Step 7: If your car has an automatic transmission, disconnect the cooling lines. Located along the lower part of the radiator back, disconnect using an open-end wrench to loosen the couplings. Make sure to catch any transmission fluid that runs out of the lines.
Step 8: Remove any screws holding the radiator in place. Most of the screws or bolts will be found near the top or sides of the radiator. Also check the bottom of the radiator; sometimes there will be fasteners at the bottom. There are also tabs and pegs at the bottom.
Step 9: Remove the radiator. Once you have removed all the fasteners, hoses, and cables, then you can lift the radiator out. If you can’t are having any difficulty lifting the radiator, don’t force it – stop and look for any additional parts or screws that may still be attached.
Step 10: Compare your new radiator to your old one. This seems like common sense, but really, if more people remembered step 10, less people would have problems! Match the size, tab locations, ports, and screw holes are all located in the same places. If not, don’t try to install that radiator. Get a new one.
Step 11: Install your new radiator. If everything checks out with your new radiator, put it right into place. Make sure to reconnect everything back to your radiator, including hoses, lines, clamps, braces and supports.
Step 12: Refill your coolant. Check for leaks by starting your car. Make sure you warm the engine and check your transmission fluid before hitting the streets and showing off your hard work!
Again, this job isn’t for the faint of heart, but it can be done. If you’re feeling up to the task, give it a whirl, but for all of you other folks, bring in your car to the professionals at J-Mac Radiator. They’ll take care of you and your car!
Schedule an Appointment
Get a Call Back...
Enter your details and we will call you back.