1997 Buick LeSabre

Need advice on radiator repair or replacement.

In trying to wrestle a bad a/c compressor out of my '97 Buick, I just poked a hole in the radiator! (I’m going to scream!) It’s a 3.8L Series II. I think it’s too big to repair with stop leak, but not sure. Outflow seems to indicate a little bigger than a pin hole, but not much bigger. Maybe about 1/16 in. diameter. Could be a little smaller, or a little larger. I’ll try a good stop leak but I fear hole might be too large. Short of buying a new radiator and replacing, another rather desperate option might be to a radiator swap out with the 3.8L in a 1999 Town&Country. However, the T/C 3.8L is “Supercharged.” The radiator on it seems to vary quite a lot from the radiator on the 97 LaSabre. IF I can remove the 99 T/C radiator, I’m not sure it would swap over to the LeSabre. Plus it’s been sitting for 2 or 3 years.

Any advice here much appreciated. I’ve spent several days on this 97 Buick LeSabre a/c compressor removal, all in effort to install a false a/c pulley, just to get back on the road. It’s been one roadblock after another…not right tool, wrong part sent out, maddening difficulty to even reach necessary bolts/nuts, etc. I’m losing it!

If the radiator has never been replaced, pretty good chance you will be replacing it soon. When manufacturer’s switched from copper to aluminum radiators, while the aluminum versions are lighter and cool better, they don’t last as long. I had to replace my 92’s radiator at about the 20 year mark. some recommendations are a pro-active radiator replacement every 10 years, to minimize overheating incidents and resultant engine damage.

Replace or repair? Replacement aluminum radiators are inexpensive, so repairing an old radiator like that isn’t usually a practical option $$$ - wise.


Yes, engine will run hot without it…

Plastic tank/aluminum radiators are not worth trying to repair with the low cost of aftermarket new rads…

Now if you have an all aluminum rad (mostly race car stuff) then I would see about repairing it…

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OK, thank you to both respo dents so far. Sounds like my best bet here is go ahead and install a new radiator, rather than try to swap with the T/C.

As well, I’d be inclined to try stop leak first. But of course while I’m at it, sounds like a new radiator is the best way to go.

I know GM has to use stop leak in there new cars cause they don’t know how to seal an engine without it anymore… (I’m just waiting on the hornets nest I will stir up with that comment lmao)
But remember that stop leak does not have a brain or AI, it does what it is supposed to do, finds a small hole and stops it up… Not used correctly can stop up heater cores, rads and any small hole(S)…


No offense, but with a 26-yr old car, I’d just buy the cheapest radiator possible, and locally

You might visit one of those “mom and pop” radiator shops that specialize in radiators and condensers, and it’ll be significantly less expensive, versus buying a similar part from autozone, o’reilly’s, etc.


Why would you try and fit a radiator from a Chrysler into a Buick when you can buy a NEW radiator for your Buick from Rockauto fot $120?


OK, thank you, Sir! That’s a good lead.

Auto Zone quoted me a new one, with tax, at $188.

So I’ll definitely check out Rock Auto prices or other options.

OK, thank you “Old Mopar Guy”!

Your question is on point and much appreciated.

Fact is, I simply mis-spoke. Or had another senior moment…again!

This other car is not a Town/Country, it’s a '99 Park Avenue! In any event, its been sitting two years +. And the 3.8L in it is “Supercharged.”

Also, the radiator in the PrkAv seems to be a good bit harder to get to…a lot more added on stuff compared to the LeSabre Custom.

I don’t know enough about cars to know fully if the radiator in the Park Avenue could even be a viable replacement at all. Given the age of it, I suspect I’d just be buying myself more headache.

In any event, thanks for your comment.

OK, thanks again to all here for your prompt and very helpful comments.

Here’s a little more background on how I got in this fix, along with my current plan of action.

All of this started 4 or 5 days ago with my effort to install a false a/c pulley on the 3.8L in the LeSabre because can’t yet afford a new a/c compressor. A/c has been out for sometime. Don’t know full extent of repairs/cost to get it back in action.

Took me 4 days of off and on effort to finally even get the old a/c compressor off. First time doing this job. Don’t have the right tools which in turn compounds even getting to the various attachment points.

I finally got the last attachment point on the back of the compressor unbolted–very hard to get to! But then in trying to get the compressor out of the motor well, I put a small hole in the radiator! (Anger issues!)

Right now my plan is to first try some stop leak, to get the car back on the road at all. Then go from there.

Given the good advice I’ve gotten here about the need to replace the radiator anyway (in view of the age of the car) I’ll plan to buy a new radiator asap.

A final key point.

All of any repairs I might make on this LeSabre are conditioned by this other critical problem with this car: the automatic transmission seems to be slowly going out.

It works fine in reverse or forward through all automatic gear changes. But I have a heck of a time getting it out of Park and into gear at all.

Has been like this for well over a year. Tolerated it because I can’t afford a new trans axle or even a trip to the shop. It has held up far longer than I thought it would, pain in the backside notwithstanding.

I did change the tanny fluid and filter. That didn’t do it.

I even thought I might try swapping the tranny from the 99 Park Avenue, since they’re both 3.8L Buick models. But I’ve never even gone so far as to check the key ID issues of both car trannys to see if a swap is possible. And by now, the Park Avenue has been sitting quite a while, so I imagine there may be issues there.

Given all this added info, ANY advice on the LeSabre issues is MOST appreciated.


Do you park the LeSabre on any kind of slope? That would be the most common cause of making it hard to get out of Park.

Hi. Thanks.

No, it’s not that. I guess I misled you a little.

It comes out of park easily enough. Just won’t lock into gear. So I go back and forth, in and out of Park into D or R until it finally will lock in.

It’s got plenty of fresh fluid…as noted, I changed fluid and filter. Did not help.

By now, I just dunno. It’s a crazy situation.

It should be possible to solder to the radiator if the radiator is made of copper. That’s a small hole to plug. Sand and use flux / rosin!

As for the park problem, if you you apply the parking brake before putting it in park, and relase it after taking it out of park, does that help?

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Are you checking the fluid while the engine is at operating temp on level ground with the engine running???

If I am seeing this correctly your 97 has the 4T60E trans and the 99 has the 4T65E transaxles in them…
4T60e has a vacuum modulator that controls line pressure where as the 4t65e is fully electronic. So they are not interchangeable with out a lot of work… I am not 100% sure about that without doing more digging but it looks like the 97/99 Park Ave and 99 LeSabre had the 4T65E but the 97 LeSabre only had the 4T60E…

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Dave, you are correct, the two transmissions will not interchange.


Hi. Thanks.

I assume the radiator coil here is aluminum. Cooling fin material is aluminum. I guess this is why it was so easy to puncture.

Thanks “davesmopar” and “oldmoparguy”!

This is very help info. Answers the question I’ve had for some time about any possible exchange of the Park Avenue transaxle with my LeSabre to remedy that problem.

I could have never gotten to that conclusion on my own. Thank you!

Today I am attacking the LeSabre issues as follows:

  1. Get the old a/c compressor out and out of the way in order to install false a/c pulley.

  2. Install false pulley and new serpertine belt.

  3. Try to stop radiator leak with Bar’s Stop Leak per instructions on bottle. See if this gets me back on the road even temporarily.

  4. Install new radiator asap.

  5. Transaxle issue: I dunno. This car seems to be totally worth all reasonable efforts to sustain it for long life. But right now it’s day by day.

Thanks to all for the prompt, helpful replies I’ve received!

  1. Install

I don’t think I can agree with that .

I would suggest not to “try” stopleak… it isn’t permanent, probably will not stop the leak and will make a mess inside the cooling system causing other problems.

As for making an idler pulley to replace the compressor, how about buying a smaller belt and just skip the compressor? Way easier if possible.

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Correct- it is lighter in weight and cheaper to manufacture.