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Radiator brand and place to buy

My vintage radiator started leaking - it is the original from Acura been deployed for 30yrs.

On another car, I got one from O’reilly and was defective - didn’t last long and had to use their lifetime warranty - pay mechanic twice. So I have become cautious and wondering what might be the right one? Not planning on keeping the car long but I still want a reliable one.

Denso does not make one anymore for this car. CarQuest has a Denso, believe aftermarket - Aluminum/Plastic - 1 or 2 yr warranty. So Denso had it made by someone else or … PepBoys has Spectre made out of Copper/Brass lifetime warranty but reviews: 4% are giving 1 star and average 4 star.

Appreciate recommendation on brand or place to buy?

On any item some folks will give it one star. 4% wouldn’t worry me. I’m surprised there’s a copper/brass one out there. Have you checked if the dealer has one? This one lasted 30 years…

Congrats on 30 years, and a suggestion not to use that to set your expectations for a replacement.

I had a Chrysler OEM radiator develop a crack in one of the side plastic tanks at about 12 years, replaced it with a PepBoys Spectra radiator about 2 years later, and it’s been good for about 4 years now.

I had a Toyota OEM radiator develop a leak in a corner of the radiator near the lower hose outlet at about 9 years, replaced it with an OEM one which has been good for about 4 years now.

It really doesn’t matter where you purchase a radiator from.

Car manufacturers don’t make the radiators/heater cores for their vehicles. They purchase them from an outside supplier.

So, purchase the cheapest radiator you can find.


@Tester - for my other car, I purchased cheapest with lifetime warranty and it was defective out of the box and no one spotted it. So paid twice to the mechanic. This is what I am trying to avoid.

Denso plastic/Al comes with 2 yr warranty and about 30% more expensive compared to Spectra.

I used a Spectra in my Chevy, that was 7 or 8 years ago, no problems with it. It is noticeably lighter than the original…or the original may have just been heavier from crud build-up. I also used a cheap heater core, no problems with that.

@texases - the comments were like, it failed in 2 months, defective out of the box, metal filling, poorly painted etc.

Let the mechanic take care of everything . If you furnish parts they will not warranty anything. A good radiator shop is going to use parts they have success with .


Do you think vehicle manufacturers purchase the most expensive radiators out there?

No! When they build millions of vehicles a year, they want supplied components at the cheapest prices.

Did you know vehicle manufacturers add a stop-leak product to their vehicles for this very reason?


@Tester - the leak is minor - at the very top, opposite to where the upper hose connects - on the outside edge that faces you when you face the engine. Can it be fixed through stop-leak product or something else?

If I change the radiator, should I also change the cooling hoses for the tranny - Honda nor retail stores don’t have the cooling hose - just needs to get it cut yourself

Try this.

When engine is cold, remove the radiator cap and add a teaspoon of ground black pepper to the radiator and fill with coolant. Start the engine and see how quickly the leak stops.

There’s no reason to replace the transmission cooling hoses.


@Tester - any harm in adding the ground black pepper at all?
Also it takes a while before we could see the leak from fresh engine start.

I used black pepper to stop an external head gasket leak on my old Beretta. The repair lasted over a year until the head gasket totally gave out and had to be replaced.

That’s because the coolant hasn’t heated up to pressurize the cooling system.

Add the pepper, put the cap back on, start the engine and as the cooling system heats up and builds pressure, it’ll force the pepper towards the leak stopping it.


I’ve bought from NAPA, Rockauto, and the radiator shop. Not much difference anymore but the last place I would get one from is Oreily or AZ. Just me though.

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What do u mean by 2 years later? Did the Spectra give in after 2 yrs and you made a warranty claim?

I had some problems w/replacement radiators for my old VW Rabbit. I bought those from VW. The last radiator I purchased was for my Corolla, from a local (not a national chain) parts place. It has worked fine for nearly 10 years now. Sorry, don’t recall the brand name. If you have an automatic transmission and AC, that combo puts more demands on the radiator. Manual transmission and no AC, never tow anything, most any radiator that will fit will usually do the job. I concur with @Bing above, base on prior experience I tend to avoid purchasing auto parts from a national chain.

The leak was initially very slow and difficult to find for about 2 years. When I found it (about 4 years ago), I replaced it with the Spectra. No failure by the Spectra yet, and no warranty claim involved.

And a little additional info: the OEM was a brass/copper radiator and heavier than the aluminum Spectra. One minor side effect is that the needle for normal temp on the gauge is very slightly higher than with the OEM.

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On my Chrysler with the Spectra radiator, another mystery (and very slow) coolant leak developed. Best guess was something to do with the water pump, but rather than assume the need for a new pump, I used Alumaseal (about $2-3).
The leak stopped for about a year, and then became easily detectable as being from the water pump shaft seal. So if the leak was from that seal (with a rotating shaft in it) that product worked in that instance, which would suggest it working in your case.

@Waterbuff - thanks for the clarity
Let me change my direction too - will be exploring temp fix other than replacing

What would be the one for Copper/Brass 30yr old OEM Denso radiator to seal leak?