Flex Your DIY Muscles and replace Your Car’s Radiator

Every car buff has a moment where they fall down what we like to call the DIY rabbit hole. In other words, they get so wrapped up in fixing things on their car that they feel like they can ditch the garage and do a lot of things on their own. If you’re itching for a project, you may want to consider replacing your radiator.

Here’s the deal: leaking coolant sooner or later becomes a major problem that can actually ruin that big nice engine that you just had dropped in. Most people don’t think about the radiator, until they start smelling a smoky sweet smell in the air. That’s your coolant leaking out of the vehicle, and you’re going to have to park the car and figure out what’s wrong.


Popping the bonnet will almost seem like a silly idea, because you may not see anything noticeable for a while. If you get back to your DIY spot and you need to handle the radiator, here’s what you need to do.

First and foremost, look up the radiator just to be sure you’ve got a good source in case you do have to replace it outright or just apply sealant (you know, if you get lucky to avoid the costs). We recommend Advanced Radiators, because they have just about every radiator you can think of. Not only that, but they helped found the Independent Cooling Experts Group, a national entity devoted to upholding standards across the industry. After all, it makes sense: you want to buy from a company that understands exactly what they’re selling and how important it is to maintain quality.

Getting back to the heart of the matter, you can fill the radiator’s water reservoir back up and watch to see if you’re really seeing the leak clearly. Most likely the water will leak out again as you start the car, so turn off your engine again.

You’ll need to let the car cool down fully and then drain all of the coolant out. Multiple drainage pans come in handy, because you need a fresh one for this job. Don’t let any oil get into it, or you’ll have a really hazardous brew to deal with.

Depending on your vehicle, the radiator can usually be removed just by unhooking all of the factory-standard fasteners. Watch out for the blades of the radiator, and ensure that the hoses are pushed back and out of the way. Keep checking to make sure that no clips or hoses are sliding in the way as you pull it out. If you have a friend willing to give you an extra set of hands, take them up on the offer.

After you get the new radiator out, you’ll need to slowly lower it into the housing without bending anything. Keep the clamps tight and put all of the hoses back on. If the vehicle needs to be bled in a specific manner, now is the time to look up that information.

Now comes the moment of truth: if you did everything correctly, you’ll need to start the engine, check for leaks, and then top up the coolant again.

Are there other steps to this? Of course, which is why you’ll look up the procedure in a good DIY manual designed for your make and model of vehicle. But since we’re talking to fellow motorheads, we figured you’d expect that sort of thing! Happy fixing!