How to Remove a Radiator from Your Vehicle

  • 1-3 hours
  • Beginner

It is not often that a car owner finds it necessary to remove a radiator from his vehicles. But when his car or truck becomes old, and he finds that his radiator is beyond repair, it just may be time to remove it and replace it with a newer one. If you need to remove your car's radiator and you have the necessary tools to perform simple mechanical functions, here are 5 steps that will help you complete this project in a matter of minutes.

Things You'll Need:

  • Large drain bucket
  • Channel locks
  • Needle nosed pliers
  • Ratchet socket set
  • Shop rags
  • Quick release tool
  • Screwdriver set
  • Car ramps or wheel blocks
  • Drop light

Step 1 – Park your Car Safely

Choose a flat surface to park your car on while you are working on it A garage floor or a level concrete parking space will work best. Place your car's shift lever in the "Park" position, and place chock's behind the car's rear tires. It will save you lots of clean up time if you place a tarp or piece of cardboard beneath the radiator to catch any drips or greasy parts that might fall from the car. If you plan to work inside your garage where the light may be dim, you will need a drop light.

Step 2 - Work with a Cool Radiator

If you have driven your car or have let the car's engine run, you should let the engine, radiator, and its coolant cool before working on the radiator. Be careful when removing the radiator cap. To be safe, use a thick rag to cover the cap when you unscrew it. Turn the cap slowly and allow any pressure in the radiator to release gradually.

Step 3 – Drain your Radiator

Position your drain bucket beneath the drain plug of your radiator to catch the coolant that will drain from the radiator. Then, locate the radiator's drain plug at the bottom of the radiator and turn the plug with a wrench. The drain plug will likely turn only enough to open and let the coolant drain, so don't expect to remove the plug. If your radiator doesn't have a drain plug, or if you are unable to open the plug, you can drain the radiator by loosening the bottom end of your radiator hose. Allow all coolant to drain before moving on to the next step.

Step 4 – Disconnect Radiator Attachments

Examine the radiator and locate any attachments such as cooling fan mounts. If your car has an automatic transmission, you will likely find transmission cooler lines attached to the radiator. You may need to remove a quick connect insert, if there is one. You will also need to remove the radiator's fan shroud if it interferes with your work. Remove the upper radiator hose, the coolant reservoir hose, the lower radiator hose, the upper cooling fan mounting bolts, and any transmission cooler lines that might exist.

Step 5 – Remove the Radiator

When all attachments have been detached, remove the radiator's mounting bolts and lift the radiator out of its position.