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A Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Radiator

By Greg Gordie

The internal combustion process that occurs within your engine’s cylinders generates an enormous amount of heat. If this heat were left unattended, it would quickly cause damage to the assembly. Your radiator helps to control the heat. It keeps the temperature from rising above a certain point, so your engine can continue to operate efficiently. Coolant flows through the engine and absorbs heat before returning to the radiator. There, small fins allow the heat to dissipate. The newly-cooled coolant then returns to your engine to repeat the process.

Like all components, the radiator will eventually need to be replaced if you keep your vehicle long enough. If your mechanic performs the job, you’ll need to spend up to $500 for the replacement assembly, new coolant, and the labor (the job requires two to three hours). That said, replacing the part yourself is easier than you might think. We’ll take you through the entire process below.

Your Radiator, Piece By Piece

First, it’s important to identify each of the parts you’ll be working with. The assembly itself is located at the front of your car, truck, or SUV. On its topside, you’ll see the cap that covers the hole in which you add coolant. You’ll also notice holder brackets near the top corners; these secure the component in place.

A radiator hose connects the top of the assembly with a section of housing in which a thermostat is located. The thermostat’s job is to manage the engine’s temperature, which it accomplishes by controlling the flow of coolant between the two assemblies.

Your radiator may appear a little differently when compared to the description above. Most are similar, though. Once you have identified the individual pieces, you’ll need to drain the fluid. As a side note, it’s a good idea to remove the battery cables from the posts. Doing so will prevent a short.

Drain The Coolant

Take a look at the assembly from the ground up. You’ll see a valve located on its underside. In order to drain the coolant, you’ll need to loosen this valve. Before you do so, however, make sure you have a pan or container situated underneath to catch the old coolant. Depending on your vehicle, there may be a plastic shield covering the valve; if so, you’ll need to remove it.

Draining the coolant from the radiator will likely take several minutes. Wait until it has drained completely before disconnecting the hoses.

Disconnect The Hoses And Mounts

Start with the hoses on the underside of the assembly. They will likely be secured in place with clamps; if so, you’ll need to remove the clamps with a pair of pliers before disconnecting the hoses. Also, look for mounts along the base of the component near the corners. They will need to be unfastened. Once the clamps, hoses, and mounts on the bottom of the radiator have been removed, you’ll need to do the same along the top.

You’ll find mounting brackets near the corners on top of the assembly. They’ll be held in place with bolts, which need to be removed prior to removing the brackets.

Extract And Replace The Assembly

At this point, all connections between the radiator and other components have been removed. You should be able to simply lift the assembly out of its cavity. Before you do so, however, take another look to verify there are no remaining connections that might prevent its removal. Then, lift the radiator out, set it aside, and prepare to install its replacement.

Installation of the new radiator is simple. Follow the steps used to remove the old one in reverse order. If you’re using the cooling fans from the original model, install and test them to ensure the motor works properly. Then, drop the new assembly into the vacant cavity, connect the hoses and clamps, and replace the mounts (don’t forget those on the bottom). Replenish the coolant and check to make sure the level is sufficient.

Replacing your car’s radiator can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, especially if you lack experience working on cars. That said, the job is simple, and thus can be completed successfully without paying a mechanic’s hefty repair bill.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Gordie, Greg "A Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Radiator." A Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Radiator. 4 Jul. 2010. 18 Jun 2015 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Gordie, G (2010, July 4). A Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Radiator. Retrieved June 18, 2015, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Gordie, Greg "A Guide To Replacing Your Vehicle’s Radiator"

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