I have 170,000 miles on this car. This is a 4 cylinder. The seam at the top of the radiator has cracked, causing a small leak. I have confirmed it is not leaking from the cap if you are curious. So it’s time to replace the radiator. My question is: is the radiator easy to replace? I have worked on my car before with basic maintenance (oil, transmission, etc) I was thinking it would be straightforward to replace the radiator myself. Can someone like me do it or would it be safer/smarter to take it to a shop? Any advice would be appreciated. I’m an often-reader of this forum and have learned a lot from you guys. Thanks!!
Get a repair manual (or procedure from the dealer’s parts department), review the process, and see if you feel up to it. It’s a good DIY project, and I’m pretty sure that in that car the AC condenser is separate from the radiator, so you may not have to mess with the AC system at all. Chances are that the process will require removing the fan shroud assembly, splash shields, and other peripheral stuff, but it isn’t major surgery. My preferred way to drain the system is to disconnect the lower hose at the radiator…even if there’s a petcock (little valve) in the bottom tank.
In view of the car’s age, you may want to replace the radiator hoses too.
If it has an automatic transmission, it may be a little difficult to remove the two spring clamps for the transmission cooler lines on the lower tank. But this is why they make this tool.
Other than that, It’s just a matter of removing the upper/lower radiator hoses and the upper radiator mounting brackets. Then lift the radiator out.
Of course you’ll have to swap the fan assembly.
Along with those^ two excellent comments, when you get ready to refill the system I’ve found it best park the car under a slight angle, nose up. Leave the top radiator hose off the radiator but on the engine and refill the engine from that top hose using a funnel.
Then, when you’re close to getting it topped off, quickly move that top hose onto the radiator.
You get a better fill that way and it is less likely for you to have air bubbles in the system.
Tester, I know what I want for Christmas now. The clamps are always oriented in the most awkward position at the factory. Once I have removed them, I always put them back in a more convenient position, but that first time is a problem.
I agree, it is pretty easy, replace your hoses and thermostat, including the heater hoses and if the new radiator does not come with a new cap, replace it as well. Once and done for ten+ years (except for coolant changes every 5 years or so).
Only thing I would add is to check the motor mounts. My radiator cracked because the mounts were worn, letting the engine rock back and forth, with the hose flexing the radiator tank and cracking it. Is the crack near the hose inlet?
If you’re going to ask Santa for a spring clamp hose removal tool, ask for this.
There’s not a spring clamp you can’t remove.
Santa, I’ve been a really good boy this year.