Beginners’ Guide to Radiator Replacement – How Long Does It Take?

A radiator is a fundamental component of your car which is responsible for maintaining the cooling system. It cools the coolant down and sends it back to the engine.

If your radiator fails, you can expect several problems relating to engine damage and overheating.

Here’s everything you need to know about how long it takes to replace a radiator.

The Common Signs of Radiator Failure

Before we begin, let’s first clarify what are the signs you need to keep in mind that inform you about your radiator’s health.

As mentioned, if your radiator doesn’t function properly, it can lead to some serious problems in your car.

Overheating Engine

Radiators are the backbone of any cooling system in a car.

If your radiator doesn’t function properly, your car’s temperature readings will most likely be higher than usual. 

Your car temperature can be affected by a lot of things, such as a particularly hot summer day.

But if your car continuously crosses the average recommended operational temperature, you need to check your radiator and the overall cooling system of your car.

Coolant Leaks

If you see your coolant bleeding out on the ground from your car, consider it to be an unmistakable sign that something is wrong with your car’s radiator.

Once your radiator reaches the end of its lifespan or if you had been using a cheap coolant, it can get clogged up due to the buildup of rust and other contaminants.

This can cause leaks to occur.

Coolant Color

Another way that you check up on your radiator is by considering the color of the coolant.

The standard colors of any coolant will either be green, yellow, orange or any other bright color. 

However, if your radiator isn’t working properly, the coolant will get contaminated and will undergo a color change to something closer to the color of oil or rust.

It will also be thicker and will start to clog up the radiator instead of flowing through it as it should have.

How Long Does an Average Radiator Last?

This entirely depends on how well you have been maintaining the radiator.

If you regularly service your radiator and other components of your car, you can safely estimate your car’s radiator to function properly for at least 8 to 10 years

After your car has hit the radiator replacement time, you must be extra mindful about its performance.

Any minor issue that you might have gotten away with ignoring before could eventually lead to radiator failure and extensive damage to your car’s inner functions.

When Should You Replace a Radiator?

You should promptly replace your car’s radiator once it starts showing any of the previously mentioned signs such as leaking coolant, coolant discoloration or sludge-like consistency, overheating issues, etc.

You can try a radiator flush which can solve many of your problems but if problems keep appearing consistently then it’s time for a change. 

It is also recommended that you change your car’s radiator once it hits the 15-year mark.

Finally, a radiator is an extremely delicate component of a car that can get easily damaged. This means that you should get your radiator changed if you have recently been in an accident.

Be it a sideway or head-to-head collision, your radiator can take extensive damage in either of these cases.

How Many Hours and How Long Does It Take to Replace a Radiator?

There’s no set time mark for fixing a car’s radiator. It depends on how familiar you are with taking out your car’s internal components and replacing them.

While a professional mechanic can probably replace the radiator in 2 to 3 hours, you’ll probably take more time. 

It’s best in this case that you start working on your car at the start of the weekend.

You can probably expect the job to take around 7 to 8 hours so plan carefully. 

What’s The budget?

The budget for replacing a radiator depends on your car, the model, and the labor involved. You can expect an average cost somewhere lying between near $650.

If you’re planning on replacing the radiator by yourself, you can expect a slightly reduced cost.

Can You Replace a Radiator Without a Professional’s Help?

Yes, you can! Replacing a radiator is a straightforward process that anyone who is somewhat familiar with working on their car can do. 

With enough patience, skills, and some trial and error, you can manage to replace a radiator by yourself without the need of consulting a professional.

You just need to follow the step-by-step guide and be careful about your safety.

How Difficult It Is to Replace a Radiator?

The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might have expected.

If you know enough about car components and are used to working around them, then with a little patience and care, you’ll undoubtedly be able to replace your car’s radiator.

How To Replace a Radiator?

It’s finally time to know how exactly you can replace your old radiator with a new one. The following is a step-by-step guide you can follow.

Before you began, here’s a list of some of the items you’ll need to replace your car’s radiator

Step 1: Take All Safety Precautions

A radiator is an integral part of your car’s system and comes with its own set of electrical connections that you must disable.

Turn the engine off and wait until you are absolutely sure that it has cooled down.

After that, disconnect your car’s battery. You can use a car jack and stands to raise the car above the ground and keep it there. Don’t forget to engage the parking brake!

Step 2: Inspect the Car’s Cooling System

Before you begin, you should take this chance to go through the entire coolant system of your car. Any cracks, leaks, damaged belts, or something minor could be the reason behind your car’s issue. 

Most people tend to forget their car’s thermostats, so do check it out before proceeding.

Replacing a radiator is a difficult endeavor that you should take only if you are certain that there’s no other way.

Step 3: Remove The Old Radiator

Start by draining any coolant from your radiator. Here’s where you can drain the pan to either save the coolant later or to dispose of it without making a mess.

After that, remove the hoses, clamps, and bolts keeping the radiator in place one after another.

You’ll also have to disconnect some of the following components in your cars such as the cooling fan, the upper and lower radiator hose, the cooling fan shroud, and more.

Keep the bolts and parts in a safe and organized way as you’ll have to reinstall them back.

Depending on your vehicle, you can now simply lift the radiator or get it removed from underneath the car.

Step 4: Install the New Radiator

This is basically the 3rd step but in reverse. Reattach all the components of your car that you previously removed after you have mounted the new radiator in its place.  

Step 5: Finish Up the Installation Process

Once you have reattached all the bolts, hoses, and lines, it’s time to add the coolant.

You can either add the old coolant or use the opportunity to flush the coolant system.

It’s recommended to start afresh with the coolant as it could have become contaminated during the entire process of replacing the radiator.

Finally, get rid of any trapped air in the cooling system.

The way to go about it though depends on your vehicle so you’ll have to consult a repair manual for your car specifically and follow the mentioned procedure

Usually, though, trapped air can be removed simply by starting the car and letting it sit idle for at least 10 to 20 minutes.

You can monitor the car’s readings as well as check for leaks to determine whether you successfully installed the new radiator or not.

Final Thoughts

A radiator is an essential component of your car’s cooling system.

If the radiator fails, you can expect several problems in your cars such as leaking coolant, engine overheating, and more.

Replacing a radiator can take more than 5 hours for an average car owner who has some experience working with the inner components of a car.


Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

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