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J-Mac Radiator Blog

Salt Lake City, Utah Radiator Repair and Service blog by J-Mac Radiators. 3520 South State Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84115.

How to Replace Your Car’s Radiator

Eric Flores - Thursday, October 23, 2014

Radiators on older model cars were made of copper and brass alloys. This made them easy to repair by soldering the cracks or holes that caused leakage.

 

However, a number of later model cars include radiators with aluminum cores, which have plastic top and bottom tanks. These newer radiators can be damaged by forcing off a hose, over tightening a clip or even by improperly removing the pressure cap.


Damage to the new radiators is impossible for a home mechanic to repair, usually resulting in the replacement of the whole radiator. The one good thing about replacing the newer radiators, is that they are lighter than the old ones and usually have simple fittings which make them easier to remove.


Safety first

Before starting, disconnect the battery to remove any radiator that has electrical connections.


Drain the radiator

Make sure the engine is cold, then take off or release the pressure cap on the radiator. Some cars have a tap or drain plug in the bottom of the radiator, open it and the radiator should drain.


If no water comes out, poke the drain-plug hole gently with a piece of wire, or unscrew and remove the tap. However, if there isn’t a plug, or you are unable to clear the blockage with the wire, disconnect the bottom hose where it attaches to the radiator.


Drain the coolant into a clean container, then strain it through muslin to remove the rust or dirt so that you can save it and re-use it in the new radiator if its still good. Check the strength of the solution with an antifreeze hydrometer.


Watch it

While you are disconnecting and removing the radiator from the vehicle, pay close attention to the parts you remove and how you remove them. When installing the new radiator you will be attaching the same parts, in the same way you removed them from the old radiator. You may want to make notes, draw a diagram or even take a picture of the radiator before removing it. This will save you a headache later, if you forget how to attach something or if you forget to attach something.


Remove the hoses

Loosen the hose clips and ease off the hoses by gently twisting them back and forth. Don’t try to pry the them off with a screwdriver: you may wind up damaging the hoses, if you plan to reinstall the current ones. If you plan to replace the rubber hoses, it is much easier to just cut the old ones off.


Oil and transmission fluid cooling lines

Before disconnecting the oil and transmission fluid cooling lines, get another container ready to catch any oil or transmission fluid that will leak out. Next, unscrew both lines from the bottom of the radiator and let the oil, left in the lines, drain into the container. Place plastic sandwich bags over the ends of each line and fasten them with rubber bands. This will keep oil from leaking out onto the ground or garage floor.


Make sure you check, and top off, the oil and transmission fluid when you are finished installing the new radiator.


Clear the way

See if there are any fan-shroud pieces to remove, that will allow you to remove the radiator from the vehicle. However, there is a chance that you will only need to unscrew the radiator mounting clips. After the clips are removed carefully remove the radiator from the vehicle, making sure it doesn’t get hung up on any other parts and that there isn’t anything else attached to it.


Install new radiator

Before starting, set both radiators side by side and check the new one over carefully to make sure it is a match to the old one. Gently guide the new radiator into place, be very careful not to bend any of the cooling fins. Damaged fins will diminish the radiator’s ability to cool the engine properly.


Next install the clips and make sure the radiator is secure. Screw in the oil and transmission fluid cooling lines, being careful to line them up properly so you don’t strip the threads, which cause a leak.


When reattaching the hoses, tighten the clips firmly, but don’t over tighten them, which could cause the clips to cut into the hoses or crush the plastic stubs on the radiator.


Refill the radiator

After you are sure everything is connected properly, fill the radiator with the mixture of coolant/antifreeze recommended by your specific auto company. Also check and refill the oil and transmission fluid as necessary, due to leakage.

How to Troubleshoot Oil in the Radiator

Eric Flores - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do you have oil in your radiator? If you do, we recommend you bringing your vehicle to J-Mac Radiator right away. However, if you would like to troubleshoot the problem and be able to tell us what’s wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. Troubleshooting oil in your radiator is a difficult process and it’s not for the novice mechanic. So please be very careful troubleshooting on your own.

You’ll need several tools to troubleshoot having oil in your radiator. Here’s what you’ll need: your repair manual; a compression gauge; a vacuum gauge; a radiator pressure tester; a spark-plug socket and wrench; and an assistant. If you don’t have all of these items, then you need to skip the self-diagnosis and go ahead and take your vehicle to the helpful staff at J-Mac.

To determine if you even HAVE oil in your radiator, you first need to start your vehicle. Then immediately after start up remove the radiator cap and examine the condition of the coolant contained in your radiator and overflow reservoir. If there is oil in the coolant, it will look muddy brown and “frothy” with the consistency of a milkshake. Then you need to drive your vehicle for an extended period of time, so the engine heats to its normal operating temperature. After awhile, park the vehicle and read the temperature gauge. If the temperature gauge needle is reading “above normal” temperature limits and you saw muddy brown contamination during your inspection, you’ll also need to check your engine.

To inspect your engine, you need to use the following steps:

Step 1: Make sure your vehicle is turned OFF with your vehicle in park or neutral AND set the emergency break.

Step 2: Using the spark-plug socket and wrench, remove the spark plugs. Screw in the compression tester or use a hand pressure tester into the spark plug hole. Remove the high-tension coil or coil pack wire.

Step 3: Your assistant is now needed! Have your assistant turn the engine over (with the key) seven or eight times then stop. Each time read the pounds per square inch (PSI) on the gauge as well as for each cylinder. Record the numbers and note any deviations with your results.

NOTE: Any cylinder that reads less than 30 pounds will have a problem and could point to a blown head gasket.

Step 4: Hook up a vacuum gauge to a vacuum source on your engine. The best vacuum sources on your engine will come from a hose that leads from the intake manifold, carburetor or throttle body.

Step 5: Idle the engine. While the engine is idling, read the gauge and record the number. Use your owner’s manual has a guidebook for the correct vacuum reading. It will be measured in inches of mercury.

NOTE: Any number that is less than the manufacturer’s specification will indicate excessive vacuum entering the combustion chamber. A warped or cracked cylinder head or a defective head gasket could cause this problem.

Step 6: Turn off your engine and check your oil. Look for any light brown coloring or foamy substance on the tip of the dipstick.

NOTE: If you see any light brown coloring or foamy substance on the tip of the dipstick, this indicates that that a cylinder passage in the head or block has crossed an oil passage with a water passage. A warped or cracked cylinder head or a blown head gasket could cause this problem.

Step 7: Hook up a radiator pressure tester to your radiator cap inlet. Manually pump the tester to the pressure that is listed for your radiator (it will be written on the radiator cap). You can exceed the pressure, but only by a few pounds, without damaging your radiator system. So please be VERY careful.

Step 8: Wait for approximately five (5) minutes and see if the pressure slowly drops. Listen for any hissing noises coming from the area near or around the cylinder head.

NOTE: If you can hear hissing noises coming from around the cylinder head or the pressure is slowly dropping in your radiator, your vehicle may have a defective gasket seal and potentially an exterior crack in the cylinder head.


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