How to Replace a Radiator Fitting

Lead Image
  • 1-3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 25-125
What You'll Need
Channel lock pliers
Vise grip pliers
Rubber mallet
Wrench kit
Heated torch
Pop rivet tool
Wire brush
Replacement radiator fittings
WD-40 spray lubricant
Gasket/fitting sealer
Clamps for fittings
Pop rivets

You may find one day that you need to replace a radiator fitting on your car. If your radiator is leaking, then this is a good place to start. Depending on where your radiator fitting is located on your vehicle and how old it is, you may be able to do this job for yourself. It may be best to call in the professionals if you are not mechanically inclined or if your car is newer with more computer parts.

You first need to figure out where your radiator fittings are located. They may be near the top and easy to access. Or, they may be underneath or toward the back and harder to access.

Top Mount Fittings

These types of radiator fittings are the easiest kind to replace because they are easy to reach. To begin, locate the leaking fitting by running your engine and visually inspecting for fitting leaks. You may use a flashlight if needed to help you see.

Next, determine what type of fitting you have. There are several types of radiator fittings, depending what make, model and year your vehicle is. Your fitting may be made of plastic, pot metal, aluminum or rubber.

    For plastic and rubber fittings, you will need to use pliers and gently rock it back and forth until it is slightly loose. Then just pull the fitting out. If there is corrosion near the fitting, use your wire brush and WD-40 to clean the surface before you remove the fitting.

    For pot metal or aluminum style fittings, you may have to remove pop rivets (using a rivet removal tool) or actually break the weld using your torch. Some of this style fitting may have clamps that need to be removed with your screwdriver.

    Newer Cars with Computers

    Today's modern cars now come with a lot of computer controls or switches. Some radiator fittings may be fitted with electrical sensors or various wires that feed the car's computer system. You want to be careful when removing this kind of radiator fitting so as not to damage the delicate parts.

    Also, if you do disconnect any sensors or electrical wires, make sure you pay attention to how the parts go back together. Some parts may fit together backwards, but not work until they are connected in the right direction

    Hard-to-Reach Fittings

    Some radiator fittings can be quite difficult to get to for the following reasons:

    Covered by another part of the car

    Underneath the radiator

    Located in the back of the radiator

    It is often the case that these types of fittings will require that several other parts within the engine compartment be removed for access to the fitting. You may want to find a professional to do this kind of work for you.

    Stubborn Fittings

    It is common to have problem fittings. Fittings may be very old and difficult to remove. To start, try using WD-40 to lubricate about 30 minutes before you remove the fitting. You can also use a rubber mallet or hammer and gently tap the fitting from both sides. As a last resort, if your fitting is not soft metal, plastic or rubber, use a torch to heat up the fitting, then remove with wrench.

    Replacing your radiator fittings can be easy to do. If there are stubborn fittings, then a little bit of extra work should get the job done and prevent your car's radiator from leaking.