How to Replace a Saturn Car Radiator

by Jody L. Campbell

It's not the easiest job in the world, but if you have some mechanical abilities and some tools around the garage, you can save a ton of money on labor charges by putting the new radiator in your own Saturn. Allow yourself some time to perform this repair. If you've never done it before, it's not something you're going to have done in an hour, so don't block your driveway if you have to get another vehicle in or out. Once the radiator starts coming apart, you won't be able to start the Saturn until it's all put back together. Take your time, do it right the first time and reap the benefits by keeping your wallet fat.

Park the Saturn on a flat, level paved or concrete surface. Allow the engine to cool. Release the hood latch and apply the parking brake.

Place a wheel chock behind one rear tire. Lift the hood and remove the radiator cap.

Lift one side of the car by the rocker panel and place a floor jack under the front frame rail. Repeat this procedure for the other side to elevate the front axle.

Place a drain bucket under the radiator and open the drain valve. Squeeze the clamp on the bottom radiator hose with the channel locks and slide it backward onto the hose away from the radiator. Pry the hose off with the screwdriver and allow the antifreeze to drain into the bucket. Wipe up any spills immediately with shop rags, as antifreeze is highly poisonous to children or household and neighborhood pets and animals.

Close the drain valve on the radiator and remove the drain bucket. Lower the Saturn back to the ground.

Remove the upper-radiator inlet hose in the same fashion you removed the lower one. Slide the clamp away with the channel locks and pry the hose off of the radiator.

If you Saturn has automatic transmission: Remove the upper transmission cooler line with a hand wrench, remove the left front wheelhouse liner with a wrench, remove the splash shield and remove the lower transmission cooler line. (If you have a Saturn with standard transmission, skip this step.)

Remove the cooling-fan assembly from the radiator by pushing up on the fan shroud to unsnap the retaining clips. Set the fan on the motor away from the radiator.

Remove the air-dam retainer and remove the air dam.

For Saturns equipped with air conditioning: Remove the condenser bolts and slide the condenser down to remove the upper mounting tabs from the radiator. Set the condenser away from the radiator and support it on the motor. Remove the radiator baffles from the left and rights sides. (Non A/C-equipped Saturns can skip this step.)

Remove the right-engine splash shield to radiator mount push-in retainer. On manual transmission equipped Saturns, remove the left side, too.

Remove the lower-radiator mounts and brackets with a ratchet and socket. Remove the overflow line from the reservoir. Remove the radiator by tilting it forward and lifting it upward. Remove the upper-radiator air baffle.

Install the upper-radiator air baffle to the new radiator, tilt the condenser forward and insert the radiator into the engine compartment. Be sure the upper-radiator mount pins align with the mounts.

Reinstall the lower-radiator bracket mounts and bolts and tighten them.

Reinstall the right-engine splash shield to the radiator mount push-in retainer. If your car is equipped with a manual transmission, reinstall the left-engine splash shield in the same manner.

For A/C equipped Saturns: Reinstall the left and right side air baffles. Slide the condenser to hook into the upper mounting tabs on the radiator. Reinstall the condenser bolts and tighten.

Reinstall the air dam and press-in retainers to the radiator.

Align the cooling-fan shroud retainer clips to the radiator. Press down on the cooling-fan assembly to snap the shroud onto the radiator.

For Saturns with automatic transmission: Reinstall the lower-transmission oil-cooler line and tighten. Reinstall the left-engine splash shield. Reinstall the left front wheelhouse liner. Reinstall the upper-transmission oil-cooler line and tighten.

Reinstall the lower-radiator outlet hose to the radiator and replace the clamp. If it makes it easier to reach, lift the vehicle again, but you should be able to reach down from the top.

Reinstall the upper-radiator hose and clamp.

Reinstall the overflow reservoir tube.

Fill the radiator, preferably with fresh 50/50 mix antifreeze. However, if the antifreeze was okay, just add it from the drain bucket with the spout. There may be a little automatic-transmission fluid that mixed in, but it's petroleum-based and will not harm the coolant system.

Start the Saturn when the radiator is full and allow it run until the thermostat opens. This will burp and purge the air pockets out of the system. Allow it to run to normal operating temperature and add coolant as necessary.

Tip

  • check On automatic-transmission Saturns, check and add transmission fluid to the vehicle as necessary to make up for the little bit that dribbled out from the transmission cooler lines when they were disconnected. On 2.2-liter motors, you will have to uninstall the air-cleaner outlet resonator first and reinstall it lastly.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.