While replacing any part of your car or engine may seem like a daunting task, replacing your radiator may not be as hard as you have imagined. Doing this job yourself can save you some labor costs and possibly lower the price on the radiator itself if you shop around correctly.
If you have the basic mechanical experience and the proper tools, you should be able to replace a radiator if you are careful and pay attention to detail. The most useful tool you can equip yourself with before starting this project is some basic knowledge about the job. Never dive into a replacement project without knowing what you can expect. Checking over your car’s manual and a little research online can give you a good idea of what to you are getting into. You should be able to find step-by-step instructions on-line. Please note that there are a lot of vehicles that are very hard to work on. Know your limitations and what the job requires. Do the research and do not get in over your head.
Don’t start taking things apart until you have all the tools handy and replacement parts on hand. Also, when you go to the part store double-check the part they give you. Make sure it is the correct part for your vehicle before you dismantle your car and find out you have the wrong part. Check and double-check everything up front.
Ask Yourself the Following Questions:
Do you have all the right tools?
Is the new radiator the same as the one you are removing?
Are the fittings all the same size and do all connections match?
Does your radiator cap fit on the new radiator?
Do you have the proper replacement antifreeze?
Do you have a catch pan for all the old antifreeze and a safe way to dispose of it?
Are your hoses and clamps ok to loosen and then reuse?
Do you really know about the fittings on the transmission lines going into your radiator?
Do you understand air pockets and bleeding a cooling system?
If you answered yes to all of the above and have everything ready, you can start removing your radiator. Go slow and follow the instructions! Instructions are there for a reason and usually written by people who have done this before you. Skipping or modifying steps is probably not the best idea. Also pay attention to where you put nuts and bolts and try not to drop items into hard to reach areas. Radiator repair can be hard if you’re not paying attention.
The two hardest parts of a radiator replacement can be removing the transmission oil lines and bleeding the cooling system. You can strip oil lines if the fittings are not being put in correctly, and you will overheat if you do not remove any air pockets or bubbles from you cooling system. We have an article on bleeding the cooling system and removing transmission oil lines. Check these two articles out before you tackle this job.
Check and double-check your work. Take the extra time to make sure your work is done correctly. A few extra minutes at the end of the job may help you find something as small as a screw loose, or as big as a hose not being connected. By familiarizing yourself with your engine, getting and gathering the right tools, following instructions, and double checking everything, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to replace your car’s radiator successfully. With confidence and a steady hand, you can save some money and become a DIY type guy.
If you do not feel comfortable doing this job, for any reason, stop and get help. You do not want to damage your engine trying to save a few dollars.