Radiator replacement DIY?

Is this nuts to try? The mechanic says two hours to replace the radiator in a 1999 Toyota Camry 4cyl. Should I allot 4 or 6 hours to do it myself? I am using a after market radiator and changing the thermostat at the same time.

The old radiator is cracking on the front of the top plastic (coolant housing).

It depends on what you’re comfortable doing. Do buy a manual at the car parts store if you haven’t done this before.

However, I think you may have a bigger problem. My ES300 (Camry-based) radiator broke the same way because the motor mounts were bad, allowing the engine to rock back and forth cracking the radiator. So if you have to take it in for the motor mounts, might as well have them do the radiator. Or you do it after they check/fix the motor mounts.

This is pretty easy.

Remove the upper/lower radiator hoses. Remove the transmission cooler lines if it has an automatic transmission. Remove the two upper radiator supports. Remove the radiator.


Allow 6 hours for the job. There are always little things (clamps, connectors, shields, etc.) which take far, far too much time; but, they happen.

Just as a matter of convenience and preventative maintenance, you may want to go ahead and install new fan switch(es) as well.

Beyond that, if you’ve got A/C, be careful with the condenser/compressor components around there. I’m not familiar with that Toyota’s set up, but if there’s any compressor piping in your way, don’t get tempted to loosen it up! A face full of refrigerant and a dead AC system awaits.

Not sure how similar a 99 is to a 93, but you may find this helpful:

Evidently, dude posted like 18 short vids about his radiator extracting experience.

Thanks for all of your comments.

The replacement went well. The radiator was replaced in 1.5 hours. The coolant was a little longer to get the air bubble out of the top hose. We took the hose back off of the radiator and filled it with coolant. Then, with a splash put it back on a second time. That fixed the air bubble.

The thermostat bolts were frozen and so were we so that was left alone. Maybe it will get replaced in warmer weather.

The hardest thing was releasing the wiring connectors. ?Press-click-pull?? HA! The press and click went fine but the pull was a different matter. It was more like wiggle, wiggle, wiggle… We ended up leaving one on until the radiator was free and we could see what we were doing on top of the engine. Thanks go out to Toyota for installing long enough wires.

Conclusion: Easy job, definitely DIY! Saved $180.00. Cost, $120 parts and 2 hours for two people. Remaining: Flush and fill and change the thermostat.

Texases: The car had a new motor mount when it was purchased. The mechanic said he had installed it because he did not like the “look” of the old one. He sells a lot of high mileage cars for really low prices and he stands behind them. This car was driven for three years since the motor mount was replaced before the leak started. The crack was in the front center of the top plastic cover of the radiator. It did not look to be related to the hose connection. Thanks for the comment.

Congratulations - sounds like you saved a good bit of $$. Yep, those electrical connections are NEVER easy!