My trusty old Diesel powered truck developed another issue, the radiator was leaking coolant and I couldn’t help but think about the many Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes where Geordi La Forge telling the bridge, “We have a coolant leak”
That began my task of gathering things and knowledge to get this process started. I consulted one of the smartest people I know, a buddy of mine that lives locally that is quite literally one of the smartest people I know. He encouraged me that I could do it. He also directed me to a site that provides parts at a much reduced cost. I am all about saving money.
In order to replace my leaky radiator, I prepared by making a few purchases and gathered a few items:
- Purchased a radiator online to save a few bucks
- Adequate amounts of replacement coolant
- Coolant system lubricant
- Buckets to collect the coolant
- A couple funnels and some tools
I watched a YouTube video and was mentally prepared for the task at hand.
Step 1: Drain The Radiator
In order to remove the radiator, I had to drain it first. There is a little drain at the bottom of the radiator that makes it super easy to open up. I opened up the cap on the overflow to allow for air to flow in as the coolant escapes.
Step 2: Disconnect the Hoses
In order to get to the overflow hose at the top of the radiator, the overflow tank, which is an interesting design to me because it also contains the radiator cap… but it’s not on the radiator… Part of the jack kit also resides at the top of the radiator and integrated into the radiator retention bracket.
Once the brackets are removed, the hose clamps are easily accessible. The hose clamp to the engine return line uses a 5/16 driver while the smaller hose to the overflow is the squeeze kind that a channel lock does a fine job of releasing the compression forces.
The next task was to remove the connections at the bottom of the radiator. Two hoses and two lines to the transmission. I want to note here that I should have removed the hoses before I removed the transmission lines. I didn’t realize that the transmission coolant lines were not filled with coolant but transmission fluid. I should have known better. The fan shroud was was held in place by 2 screws and is retained at the bottom by tabs that fit into slots on the bottom of the radiator.
Step 3: Remove the Radiator
Once the disconnected I allowed the radiator to drain a bit more and I removed it from the truck. The radiator design is rather clever in that there are pegs at the top and bottom of the radiator that retain radiator in its place. It was actually nicely engineered to be easy to service, which makes me think, how often do they expect radiators to be replaced. The only area of difficulty was that the fan shroud had to be pushed out of the way as to make clearance for the connection points. It made for a little bit of struggle to get it out but really, it wasn’t that bad.
Step 4: Install the New Radiator
I pulled the new radiator from its box and made the unfortunate discovery that the radiator was damaged. The side of the radiator was crushed enough that I didn’t feel good about installing it. I wasn’t about to put a damaged radiator and live on hopes and prayers that it works. Since I didn’t want to go another day without my crusty old truck, I called a local parts store, AutoZone, to be exact, and found that they had one radiator in stock, it wasn’t the inexpensive version either, it was their high dollar unit. So much for saving money with the online company.
Step 5: Drive to the Parts Store to Get Another Radiator
I made the trip to get a radiator that wasn’t partially smashed and since I did lose a notable amount of transmission fluid, I picked up a couple quarts. I was pretty sure that I didn’t lose more than a quart but better to have extra on hand than not enough.
Step 6: Install the Radiator, Take 2
Installing the radiator was actually much easier than removing the radiator. Probably due to the fact there was nothing to drain. I started by attaching the fan shroud, then the transmission cooler lines to stop the bleeding of fluid there. Next I put the rest of the brackets in place, bolted the overflow in place so that I could connect that to the lower part of the radiator. I attached the hoses at the top of the shiny new part and began the filling process and double checking all my connections because I was not interested in making any silly mistakes that could lead to a fluid catastrophe. I added two gallons of coolant and started the truck to get the fluids circulating. I added two more gallons of coolant and almost a quart of transmission fluid. The transmission fluid was a bit tricky as I had to shield the fluid from being blown at me by the spinning fan.
What I forgot to do was add the coolant lubricant early on. That was my only mistake
Step 7: Happy Dance
I successfully completed the radiator replacement and had no drips. I am quite happy that I was able to do it myself. I need a “win” in life in this area. Not that I want to go from playing in Linux to playing with Automobiles but I am a strong proponent in self-empowerment and owning your own hardware, in this case, owning my vehicle.
I don’t see a future in being a mechanic for me. It’s certainly not my strong suit and does require a greater level of patience than messing with computers, at least for me. I have a greater appreciation for the skill and capabilities of mechanics are are truly are a people with a special talent and grace upon their lives to do the work that they do.