How to Replace a Radiator in Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

The radiator is the main component of the Ford car cooling system. If the radiator is not working, the truck will overheat in a hurry, leading to engine breakdown, which can prove to be a very costly proposition. The exact process of removing and installing the radiator can vary, depending on the year of the truck and the engine type.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace a Radiator in a Kia Spectra

Be sure the ignition is in the "Off" or "Lock" position, and disconnect the negative battery cable to prevent short circuits.

Loosen the radiator drain on the bottom of the radiator. If there is a splash guard, remove it. Open the drain and let the fluids empty into a resealable container. Remove the connecting pins and clamps on the lower radiator hose, and remove the hose.

Remove the connections and clamps on the upper radiator hose, and unfasten the mounting bolts on the upper cooling fan. Remove the upper radiator hose. Inspect the hoses, and if they're damaged or worn, replace them.

Take off the mounting bolts and brackets on the upper radiator mount. If you plan to remove the cooling fan along with the radiator, disconnect the electrical connector. If you don't plan to remove the cooling fan, remove the upper mounting bolts on the fan.

Lift the radiator up and out of the vehicle, being careful not to damage the radiator fins. Install the cooling fans and other attachments to the new radiator, and make sure the blades turn freely before you install the new radiator.

Install the new radiator and reconnect the radiator hoses, and all clamps, bolts and other attachments, in the reverse order in which they were removed. Fill the new radiator with a combination of half antifreeze and half distilled water.

Start the engine and let it run for several minutes with the radiator cap off. Add more coolant mixture if needed, put the cap on and check for leaks.

Items you will need

  • Resealable container

  • Replacement hoses, if needed

  • Replacement radiator

  • Antifreeze

  • Distilled water

 How to Replace a Radiator on a PT Cruiser

Disconnect the battery by turning the positive terminal screw counterclockwise. Set the wire aside and do not let it touch any metal.

Jack the vehicle up and place it on the jack stands.

Place the drain pan underneath the front bumper and turn the radiator petcock counterclockwise. Unscrew the radiator cap and allow the unit to drain completely.

Disconnect the transmission fluid lines by turning the steel line bolt counterclockwise. There are two lines, top and bottom, that must be removed. Some fluid may drain out so catch it in the drain pan.

Remove the coolant hoses, top and bottom, by turning their hose clamp screws in a counterclockwise direction. Some types of hose clamps may need to be pinched with pliers to disengage. Coolant will splash out when removing the hoses and can be collected in the drain pan.

Disconnect the A/C line bolts from the condenser with the line bolt wrench after draining the A/C of all freon. This evacuation must be done by a licensed mechanic, and most shops will do this without charge. Set the lines aside so they are not in the way.

Disconnect the fan's electrical wiring plug adapter by disengaging the small clip and pulling it free.

Unbolt the radiator assembly from the top frame mounts, and it will slide out toward the top of the engine compartment. The "radiator assembly" is the twin-core main radiator, the A/C condenser, and the fan housing. These are one complete unit and must be removed as one piece.

Slide a new radiator assembly into place and bolt it to the frame mounts.

Reconnect the transmission lines, the A/C lines, and the top and bottom hoses.

Reconnect the fan electrical adapter by pushing it until a click is heard.

Turn the radiator petcock clockwise, then refill the radiator with coolant from the top fill opening. Cap the radiator when it is full.

Lower the Cruiser from the jack stands. Reconnect the battery.

Replace any lost transmission fluid by filling the system at the transmission dipstick opening. The car must be running when this check is performed.

Items you will need

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Drain pan

  • Socket set

  • Screwdrivers

  • Pliers

  • Coolant

  • Line bolt wrench

  • Transmission fluid

 How to Replace a Radiator in a VW Beetle

Jack up the front end of the VW Beetle and put it securely on a jack stand.

Open the drain on the bottom of the radiator and drain the fluids into a resealable container. Remove the front wheels and inner fender liners. Take off the splash pan.

Unhook the headlights and take them out.

Remove the bolts and screws holding the front bumper and fender, remove the front clips. Carefully pull off the fenders and bumper covers.

Unfasten the radiator mounting bolts and remove the radiator carefully from the car. Replace it with a new radiator and reattach the fenders, bumper covers, headlights, and all associated components in the reverse order. Be sure the electrical connections are connected properly.

Fill the radiator with a mixture of half engine coolant and half distilled water. Start the engine and let it run for a few minutes with the radiator cap off. This will bleed the air from the system. Check the fluid level and add more if necessary, then put the radiator cap on securely.

Lift the car enough to pull out the jack stand, then lower it and remove the jack.

Items you will need

  • Jack and jack stand

  • Resealable container

  • Engine coolant

  • Distilled water

 How to Replace a Radiator in a Honda Accord

Loosen the plug on the bottom of the radiator and drain the engine coolant into a resealable container.

Remove the upper radiator hose and lower radiator hose. If your Honda Accord is equipped with an automatic transmission, disconnect the automatic transmission transaxle cooling lines. Plug the lines and radiator fittings and drain the tubes into a separate, resealable container.

Unhook the radiator cooling fan electrical connectors. Remove the support brackets on the upper radiators and cushions and lift the radiator up and out of the engine compartment.

Unfasten the clips or screws that connect the cooling fan to the radiator and connect them to the new radiator.

Install the new radiator and reconnect all engine components in the reverse order in which they were removed. Open the valve on the thermostat housing a half turn, and set the heater to the "Full Hot" position.

Fill the new radiator with a mixture of half engine coolant and half distilled water, squeezing the hoses to force out air. Once you see a steady stream of coolant, close the valve.

Put the radiator cap on very loosely and start the engine. Allow it to run a few minutes, then turn it off and top off the engine coolant, if necessary. Put the radiator cap on securely.

Items you will need

  • 2 resealable containers

  • Replacement radiator

  • Engine coolant

  • Water

 How to Replace a Radiator in a VW Passat

Remove the sound insulator and disconnect the negative battery cable. In order to replace the radiator it's necessary to remove the front bumper cover. In preparation to remove the cover, remove the turn signal and the hood latch release lever.

Ask somebody to help you remove the bumper cover. First, remove the radiator grille bolts and the screws holding the bumper. Ask your helper to assist you in pulling the bumper cover from the guides. Detach the harness connectors for any electrical components.

Unscrew the drain on the bottom of the radiator and drain the coolant into a resealable container. Release the couplings on the coolant hoses and disconnect the thermal switch from the harness connector. If your Passat has an automatic transmission, disconnect the ATF lines.

Remove the power steering and let it hang loose. Don't disconnect the fluid lines. If your Passat doesn't have an air conditioning unit, detach the clips and remove the radiator, pulling it towards the front of the vehicle.

Remove the refrigerant line clips if your Passat has air conditioning unit, and pull the condenser from the radiator, pulling it forward and maneuvering it between the lock carrier and the condenser.

Replace the radiator, and reconnect and reinstall all engine components and bumper elements in the order in which they were removed. Tighten all clips, bolts and screws securely.

Fill the radiator with a mixture of half distilled water and half antifreeze. Leave the radiator cap off, start the engine and let it run long enough to warm up, which will help to remove air from the system. Top off the coolant mixture, if necessary. Replace the cap securely.

Items you will need

  • Resealable container

  • Replacement radiator

  • Distilled water

  • Antifreeze

 How to Replace a Radiator in an Oldsmobile Alero

Turn the car off and leave the ignition in the off or lock position before beginning the process of removing the radiator, and disconnect the negative battery cable. Remove the battery and the battery tray.

Drain the coolant into a resealable container, and remove the upper radiator hose, upper transaxle cooler line, coolant surge tank hose, condenser inlet fitting and cooling fan electrical connection.

Raise the vehicle with jacks and remove the lower closeout panel, lower radiator hose, lower transaxle cooler line, evaporator line, and lower radiator mounting panel.

Remove the radiator from the vehicle, and take off the fan and condenser. Unhook the condenser and fan shroud from the radiator.

Install the fan shroud and condenser on the new radiator and tighten the bolts according to specifications. Install the radiator assembly and the radiator mounting panel, and tighten the bolts according to specifications.

Reconnect the lower radiator hose and the lower panel. Lower the vehicle with the jack and install the cooling fan connection, and the lower transaxle cooler line, tightening the bolts according to specifications. Connect the condenser inlet to the discharge hose and install the coolant hose and upper transaxle cooler line.

Attach the upper radiator hose. Fill the radiator with a mixture of half engine coolant and half water, and check the level to make sure you've added the correct amount. Install the battery tray and battery, and reattach the negative battery cable.

Items you will need

  • Resealable container

  • Replacement radiator hoses, if necessary

  • Replacement radiator

  • Engine coolant

  • Water

 How to Replace a Radiator in a Saturn VUE

Disconnect the negative battery cable. Locate the plug on the lower part of the radiator, loosen it, and drain the engine coolant fluids into a resealable container.

Remove any plastic shields that surround the radiator. Disconnect the fan's electrical connection and loosen the bolts retaining the fan assembly. Remove the fan.

Use a Flathead screwdriver to loosen the hose clamps on the radiator hoses, then take off the upper and lower radiator hoses. Take a close look at the radiator hoses, and if they need to be replaced, this is a perfect time.

Dislodge the transmission coolant lines from the lower part of the radiator, and take off the brackets and clamps retaining the radiator. Lift the radiator carefully out of the engine compartment.

Install the new radiator and reconnect the brackets and clamps securely. Reconnect the transmission coolant lines very carefully, and reattach the cooling hoses.

Replace the fan assembly and reconnect the electrical connection. Replace any plastic shields that were removed.

Fill the radiator with a mixture of half engine coolant and half distilled water. Start the car and allow it to run several minutes to warm up the engine. Check the fluid levels and add more if needed.

Items you will need

  • Resealable container

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Replacement hoses, if necessary

  • Replacement radiator

  • Engine coolant

  • Distilled water

 How to Replace a Radiator in a Ford Explorer

Disconnect the negative battery terminal to prevent damage to any electrical parts. Open the drain cock on the lower rear of the radiator, remove the radiator cap and drain the coolant into an empty container. Remove the overflow tube from the radiator and the coolant recovery bottle.

Unbolt the shroud with a 10 mm socket wrench and position it over the fan, out of the way. For a 5.0 liter engine on a 1991 through 2001 Explorer, also disconnect the electric fan wires and remove the radiator shroud. For a 4.6 liter SOHC engine, remove the A/C tubing from the retainer clips on top of the radiator.

Use a Ford model specific disconnect tool to remove the transmission coolant lines on an automatic transmission. You can use two crescent wrenches as a substitute for the disconnect tool, just be careful not to twist the lines.

Remove the four bolts holding the radiator in place with a 10 mm socket wrench. Place a piece of cardboard on the side of the radiator facing the engine as you remove it, to prevent damage to any engine components.

Crawl under your Explorer and take the cooling fan out for 2002 and newer models. Again, you need some Ford specific disconnect tools to do this. Remove the fan bolts as well as the shroud, followed by the 4 radiator push pins. Also remove the A/C condenser brackets near the rear of the radiator, and wire the A/C condenser in place to keep it from getting damaged.

Remove the radiator from the engine compartment. Models made between 1991 and 2001 will let you lift the radiator out by itself. For a 2002 or newer model, pull the radiator up, rest it on the wall of the engine compartment, and separate the A/C condenser from the radiator.

Install the new radiator in the engine compartment. Once you have it resting in place, reattach all components in reverse order. Use a flush treatment, then replace the coolant. Turn the car on and let the car idle, with the heater on and the radiator cap removed, until it reaches normal operating temperature. Top off your coolant as needed.

Items you will need

  • New radiator

  • Container for old coolant

  • Set of socket wrenches

  • Ford disconnect tools or crescent wrenches

  • Flush treatment

  • Coolant

 How to Replace a Radiator in a Ford Taurus

Drive your Ford Taurus up a set of ramps onto a pair of jack stands, if it is a 1996 model or newer. Remove the lower splash shields. For 1986 through 1995 models, you can remove all necessary components from above.

Begin by disconnecting the negative battery terminal and draining the radiator into a transportable container. Open the plastic draincock on the lower rear of the radiator and crack the radiator cap.

Remove the overflow tube from the coolant recovery bottle and disconnect it from the radiator. On SHO model engines, remove the recovery bottle as well. Next unscrew the shroud and remove it from the retaining clips. Disconnect the wires to the fan motor, and remove the fan assembly and shroud in one piece.

Squeeze the hose clamp ends together on the radiator side, and remove the upper and lower hoses. For automatic transaxle models, use either the custom Ford disconnect tool T82L-9500-AH or two crescent wrenches to remove the transmission coolant lines.

Disconnect the radiator supports. 1986 through 1992 models will have two upper retaining screws for 3.0 liter and SHO engines. 3.8 liter engines will have two driver's side hex nuts and two passenger side screws. All other models have either the upper screws or the combination of right hand hex nuts and left hand screws.

Tilt the radiator backwards toward the engine and lift it out. Fit the new radiator into the support and replace the support screws and nuts. Reattach the hoses and wires in reverse order.

Flush the new radiator with either water or a commercial flush treatment. Connect your battery terminals and replace the coolant and let the engine idle for 5 to 10 minutes with the heater on and the radiator cap removed. Top off the coolant as necessary.

Items you will need

  • Ramps and jack stands

  • Phillips and flat head screwdrivers

  • Container for used coolant

  • Crescent wrenches or Ford disconnect tool T82L-9500-AH

  • Hex nut screwdrivers

  • New radiator

  • Flush treatment

  • Coolant

 How to Replace a Radiator in a VW Jetta

Unfasten the drain plug on the bottom of the radiator, and let the engine coolant drain into a resealable container. Unhook the electrical connectors from the coolant fan and thermal switch.

Detach the release lever holding the front bumper, and take off the radiator grille. Remove all bolts holding the front bumper and take off the bumper. Disconnect the temperature sensor connector and if necessary remove the spoiler.

Unhook the quick release couplings holding the coolant hoses to the radiator. Removing the screws securing the headlights and disconnect the headlights. If your Jetta is equipped with A/C, unfasten the A/C mounting bolts and the condenser bracket bolt on the left of the radiator.

Remove the radiator mounting bolts and slide the radiator and fan by sliding them downward. Don't disconnect any refrigerant lines, if your Jetta has an air conditioning unit.

Take the retaining clamps off the refrigerant lines and remove the bolts securing the refrigerant line from the side of the radiator. Be very careful that no hoses or lines are stretched or bent. Swing the radiator down and remove it from the vehicle.

Replace the radiator and replace and reconnect all engine and electrical components and the fender and bumper in the reverse order.

Fill the radiator with a mixture of half distilled water and half engine coolant. Start the vehicle and let it run for several minutes with the radiator cap off, in order to bleed air from the lines. Check the fluid level and top it off if necessary, then put on the radiator cap.

Items you will need

  • Resealable container

  • Replacement radiator

  • Distilled water

  • Engine coolant

 How to Replace a Radiator in a Hyundai Santa Fe

Remove the air duct and disconnect the negative battery cable. Take off the air cleaner assembly, and drain the cooling system into a resealable container. Take off the radiator's inlet hose and remove the transmission's cooler lines.

Take off the fan shroud clips on the condenser tubes, and remove the bolts that connect the fan shroud to the condenser bracket. Remove the air deflectors.

Disconnect the coolant hose from the radiator overflow and take off the radiator support brackets on the fan shroud. Disconnect the electrical connectors on the engine cooling fan motor, and remove the fan motor harness from the fan shroud clips. Remove the fan shroud.

Take off the radiator's outlet hose and disconnect the transaxle oil cooler pipes.

Tile the radiator towards the rear and remove the condenser brackets. Lift the condenser brackets and the mounting tabs and position them out of the way. Lift the radiator carefully out of the engine compartment and install the new radiator.

Reinstall and reconnect the engine components in the reverse order that they were removed.

Fill the new radiator with a mixture of half water and half engine coolant. Start the engine and let it run for a couple of minutes, then turn it off and add more fluids, if necessary. Reattach the negative battery cable.

Items you will need

  • Wrench

  • Resealable container

  • Replacement radiator

  • Water

  • Engine coolant

 How to Replace a Radiator in a Ford Mustang

Begin by draining your radiator into an empty milk jug or other suitable container. Twist the plastic spigot on the bottom of your radiator counter clockwise by hand and remove the radiator cap. This process is universal for every make of car, Ford or Chevy, domestic or foreign. Newer Mustangs have a plastic piece of radiator trim on top that you need to remove first.

Remove the transmission coolant lines for automatic transmissions. Use one crescent wrench to hold the line still, and another to loosen the nut. There will be a nut for each line left attached to the radiator. This step applies to every model of the Ford Mustang with an automatic transmission.

Disconnect the fan shroud. Depending on the year of your Mustang, you will either have to use a Phillips head screwdriver or a 10 mm socket wrench. For a Mustang made after 1994, you first need to unbolt the overflow tank bracket with your 10 mm socket. Take the cap off the overflow tank, and remove the tank from the car.

Pull the cooling fan out. The fan on the 1964 through 1979 models will come out in one piece after you've removed the shroud. For later models, unplug the wiring and pull loose the tabs holding the wires to the fan and fan shroud, then remove the fan.

Use a pair of vise grips or channel locks to detach the hose clamps from the radiator. Squeeze both ends of the clamp together, and twist the hoses free. Drain the coolant from the lower radiator hose.

Unbolt the two radiator brackets with your 10 mm socket wrench. With a 1979 or older model, you can proceed to pull the radiator up and out of the engine compartment. For anything newer, there are several wires running across the radiator on the passenger side. Disconnect these, then remove the radiator.

Place the new radiator in its seat. Replace the support brackets, then replace everything you've removed in reverse order. Use a bottle of flush treatment on the new radiator, following the maker's instructions. Drain the flush treatment, and replace the coolant. Let the car idle for 5 to 10 minutes with the radiator cap removed and the heater on. As air bubbles out, top off the coolant.

Items you will need

  • New radiator

  • Container for old coolant

  • 2 crescent wrenches

  • Phillips head screwdriver

  • 10 mm socket wrench

  • Vise grips or channel locks

  • Flush treatment

  • Coolant

 How to Replace a Radiator in a Toyota Camry

Disconnect the negative battery cable before you begin. Loosen the drain plug on the bottom of the radiator and drain the engine coolant into a resealable container. If you loosen the radiator cap, the fluids will flow faster.

Unhook the radiator inlet hose and outlet hoses, and disconnect the oil cooler inlet hose and outlet hoses. Disconnect the connector on the fan motor and the clamps on the fan shroud's wire harness.

Remove the fan mount bolts and the fan, along with the motor, and pull the radiator assembly out of the engine compartment. Detach the fan from the old radiator and transfer it to the new radiator.

Slide the new radiator carefully into the engine compartment and tighten the bolts and claps on the radiator and the fan.

Reconnect the clamps on the fan shroud's wire harness, the connector on the fan motor, the oil cooler outlet and inlet hoses and the radiator outlet and inlet hoses. Reconnect the reverse battery connector.

Fill the radiator with a blend of half engine coolant and half distilled water, pouring slowly to avoid air build-up.

Start the engine and let the car warm up to bleed air from the system. Turn off the engine and top off the coolant level.

Items you will need

  • Resealable container

  • Replacement radiator

  • Engine coolant

  • Distilled water

 How to Change the Radiator in a Ford F150

Radiator Removal

Disconnect the truck’s negative battery cable.

Drain the engine coolant by placing a large container under the radiator drain, connecting a hose to the drain fitting and then opening it.

Disconnect and remove the air inlet duct to the air cleaner housing and the housing bracket if the truck has a 5.4 liter engine. For a 4.6 liter engine, also remove the air cleaner housing.

Detach the radiator cover by releasing its seven locking pins.

Remove all hoses from the radiator by loosening their clamps. This includes the upper and lower radiator hoses and the expansion tank hose; pliers will help loosen the clamps.

Remove the cooling fan and the fan shroud--disconnect the fan and clutch assembly with a fan wrench set, letting the assembly rest within the shroud, then remove the shroud’s mounting bolts and the shroud itself.

Disconnect the oil cooler lines if the truck has an automatic transmission--remove and move back the secondary plastic clip on the line, attach the tool onto the line, push it into its fitting and then pull it straight out.

Unbolt and remove the two brackets that secure the top part of the radiator, using a wrench, then lift the radiator out.

Radiator Installation

Inspect the condition of the rubber insulators in the mounting brackets and on the radiator’s bottom mount to the truck frame. Replace them, if needed.

Insert the replacement radiator in place and bolt in the top brackets.

Connect the disconnected oil cooler lines (for an automatic transmission truck only) by using the quick-connect fittings.

Install the cooling fan and fan shroud--bolt it in place and connect it to the radiator using the fan wrench set.

Re-connect all other parts, which can include the radiator hoses, the radiator cover, the air cleaner housing/inlet duct and the battery cable.

Refill the radiator with the engine coolant; if the old coolant is dirty, use a fresh half-and-half mixture of antifreeze and water.

Items you will need

  • Pliers

  • Small length of hose

  • Wrench

  • Fan wrench set

  • Antifreeze

 How to Change the Radiator in a GMC Truck

Drain the coolant into a drain pan. Most models of GMC radiator will have a drain plug on the lower left or right of the radiator body. This plug can be loosened by turning it counterclockwise until coolant comes out. It may not be necessary to totally remove the plug, just loosen it. Uncap the radiator and release the pressure on the radiator to drain it completely.

Disconnect the coolant hoses from the radiator. There are two hoses, upper and lower, that will come off once their hose clamps are loosened with a screwdriver or vice grips. The hoses might have become stuck due to age, and may need to be cut and replaced with new hoses. Some coolant might drip out when the lower hose is uncoupled.

Remove the fan shroud and fan. There are four screws on the back, and once freed the shroud should slide out towards the top of the radiator. The wiring harness will disconnect at the adapter plug at the fan. If the fan is mechanical, then it must be unbolted at the fan clutch and slid off towards the front.

Disconnect the oil cooling lines, if so equipped. There will be an upper and lower line, and they unbolt with line nuts in a counter-clockwise direction. Some oil might drip out, so have the drain pan handy.

Remove the old radiator. Unbolt the top radiator plate, if necessary, and slide the radiator out towards the top of the engine compartment.

Replace the old radiator with a new one. Slide the new radiator into place, and attach the top radiator mount plate. Reattach the fan and fan shroud, and replace the oil lines and hoses.

Fill the new radiator with 50 percent water and 50 percent coolant. Once the radiator is full, crank the truck and continue to pour until the radiator can take in no more coolant.

Items you will need

  • Socket set

  • Screwdriver

  • Coolant

  • Drain pan

  • Vice grips