When it becomes necessary to replace a car radiator, it is not extremely difficult to do it yourself. The process can be made a little more complicated by the amount of equipment that must be removed to reach the radiator. On some cars, the radiator is very easy to access and replace.
Start by assembling the tools needed for the job.
The tool list required is not lengthy. You will need several sizes of some tools in case some tight places require shorter or smaller versions. You will need a 3/8″ drive ratchet and socket set. It will be better if you have both SAE and metric sizes on the sockets. Get Phillips an flat screw drivers in a couple of different lengths. A good pair of pliers may come in handy. For tight places, you may need some end wrenches in addition to the socket sets. If the engine is still very warm, a pair of gloves will protect your hands from burns.
Survey the area above and around the radiator.
It is important to have a reasonable understanding of what will be removed to access the radiator. Knowing what has to be disturbed at the beginning will be critical for knowing how to reassemble things at the end of the job This survey should also assist in making certain that you have the correct tools for the job.
Remove any parts that are in the way of the upper portion of the radiator.
Keep track of all hardware as various parts are removed. It is best if you can keep the nuts, bolts, and clamps with the parts they attached to the vehicle. These parts will include braces and supports that must be loosened or removed.
Unplug the cooling fan or fans before removing them.
Some cars have one electric cooling fan. Larger vehicles often have two. These need to be unplugged and then unscrewed from the radiator frame. Carefully lift them from their mountings and set them aside.
Remove the radiator cap.
Place a large pan under the radiator drain to catch the coolant. The drain is located at the bottom inside of the radiator. It may be either on the left or right side. This drain is opened by unscrewing the valve. Two or more gallons of coolant may drain out. When the coolant has drained, tighten the drain.
Disconnect the upper and lower radiator hoses.
You should only have to disconnect the end of the hoses that attach to the radiator. Leave the clamps on the hoses for convenience. Us a small bucket to catch any coolant remaining in the hoses.
If the car has an automatic transmission, you will need to disconnect the cooling lines.
There are usually two cooling lines that run from the transmission through the lower part of the radiator and back. You will need an open end wrench to loosen these couplings. Use a small container to catch any transmission fluid that runs out these metal tubes.
Find and remove any screws that are holding the radiator in place.
The screws or bolts are usually at the top of the radiator near the sides. some radiators may have fasteners at the bottom, also. Most units have tabs or pegs at the bottom that slide into openings in a cross piece to anchor the lower half in place.
Once the fasteners are out, lift the radiator from the vehicle.
Make sure that the radiator is completely loose and disconnected from the car before lifting it out. This is not the time to demonstrate how powerful you are. If the radiator offers any measure of resistance, search for additional parts or screws that may be holding it from coming loose.
After removing the old radiator, compare it to the new one.
The two radiators should match on size. The ports for coolant and transmission lines should be positioned in the same place. check to make sure the pins or tabs on the bottom are the same size and in the right place.
After verifying that you have the correct replacement part, set the new one in place.
Reverse the steps needed to remove the old one to install the new radiator. Take care to connect each item in its turn to keep from blocking access to some area later in the process. When all of the parts have been restored to the car, the job should be complete. Refill the coolant and start the car. Check for leaks. With the engine warmed, check the transmission fluid level before moving the car.