How hard is it to Change a Radiator? Replacement Steps

Proper maintenance of your car’s radiator is essential if you desire the car to run at peak performance. Since the component is a key part of the engine’s cooling system, a defective radiator will seriously challenge your vehicle’s engine.

Therefore, learning how to change a radiator before the need arises is crucial. However, if you’re in a situation that requires replacing your car’s radiator, this article provides a step-by-step guide.

So, if you’re contemplating, “How hard is it to change a radiator?” Virtually everything you need to know has been revealed in this post.

how to change a radiator

How hard is it to change a radiator?

Is replacing a radiator hard? If this is your contemplation, replacing a car’s radiator can be a relatively easy task if you’re a DIYer. Generally, replacing radiators involves draining the coolant, removing the old radiator, fitting the new car radiator, and refilling the coolant into the system.

However, you must possess the technical skills to do a good job. Meanwhile, it can be difficult for a car owner attempting a DIY task for the first time.

Usually, this entire process can be somewhat easy if your car’s radiator is easily accessible, including the hoses and bolts. Some vehicles come with radiators that are easy to access, and as such, they can be replaced within an hour.

Conversely, other cars may require removing components like the air intake, fan assembly, front grill, and front bumper. This can result in more complexity and time consumed for the job.

How to Replace a Car Radiator?

If you’re wondering how to change a radiator, the entire process can be straightforward with a simple step-by-step guide. Though replacing the radiator is an easy task, it requires mechanical skill and knowledge. Here’s a general overview of the process, but keep in mind that specific steps may vary depending on your vehicle’s make and model. It’s important to consult your vehicle’s service manual and have the necessary tools and safety equipment before attempting this task. Let’s start.

Changing Radiator YouTube

Step 1: Get your safety tools and equipment

Firstly, ensure to get all the safety tools and equipment needed to perform the task. Some equipment includes; protective gloves, safety glasses, jack and jack stands, screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, ratchet and socket, ratchet extension, etc.

Step 2: Raise and hold the vehicle firmly

Once you get all the required equipment for installing a radiator, it is time to raise the front of the vehicle with a jack and hold it in place with jack stands. Also, apply the parking brake and put a wheel chock at the back of the rear wheels. This step is only required for draining the coolant. You can skip it if you can safely drain the coolant without raising the vehicle.

Step 3: Drain the coolant 

Place a drain pan under the vehicle’s radiator and open the drain valve to remove the coolant. Once you finish draining the coolant, close the valve and dispose of the old coolant appropriately.

Step 4: Disconnect hoses and fittings 

Use pliers or a wrench to disconnect the radiator reservoir hose, the upper and lower hoses from the radiator and any other fittings or connections. Be careful not to damage the hoses or fittings, as they will be needed for reuse.

Step 5: Remove the cooling fan

The next focus point is to remove the cooling fan from the car. To do this, ensure to disconnect the electrical connector of the cooling fan by pushing on the designated tab and pulling it back.

Then, remove the mounting bolts of the cooling fan with a ratchet, an extension, and a socket.

Step 6: Disconnect the transmission cooler lines

Use a flare-nut wrench to disconnect the vehicle’s transmission cooler lines from the radiator. However, avoid rounding off the fittings.

Step 7: Remove the radiator 

Use a screwdriver or wrench to remove the clips or bolts holding the radiator in place. Also, remove the AC condenser mounting bolts with a wrench, a ratchet and a socket.

Then, carefully lift the radiator out of the vehicle’s engine compartment. Again, be careful not to damage any other parts.

Step 8: Disassemble the radiator

Once you get the old radiator out, find out some parts that need to be transferred to the new radiator before mounting the component. These parts may include the bracket, fan shroud assembly, or other relevant parts.

Step 9: Connect the disassembled parts

Now is the time to connect all the parts removed from the old radiator to the new one before installing the component into the car.

Step 10: Install the new radiator 

Carefully place the new radiator into the engine compartment and align it with the mounting clips or brackets for a successful radiator installation. Then, fix the clips or bolts to hold the radiator firmly.

Step 11: Reconnect hoses and fittings 

Again, ensure to reconnect the upper and lower hoses to the new radiator using pliers or a wrench. Remember to fix any other fittings or connections you removed initially. Ensure to double-check all connections to ascertain that they are tight and secure.

Step 12: Refill with coolant 

Get the recommended coolant for your car and dilute it with distilled water or buy a pre-diluted coolant. Use a funnel to pour the new coolant into the radiator carefully until it is full.

Be sure to dilute the coolant in a 50/50 proportion if you’re not using pre-diluted coolant. Start the car and allow it to run for a few minutes. After that, check the coolant level and top it off if necessary.

Step 13: Bleed air from the cooling system

If fitted with such a component, you can open the bleeder valve to bleed the air from your car’s cooling system.

In some cases, you can bleed air from the radiator by allowing the car’s engine to run while the radiator cap is off, allowing coolant to eject.

How long does it take to change a radiator?

Changing a car’s radiator can take 2 – 8 hours, depending on the expertise of the person handling the job.

While a professional auto mechanic or an experienced DIYer can replace a radiator within 2 hours, a novice may spend up to 8 hours trying to figure out things.

Therefore, if you need a radiator replacement and are unsure of your ability to handle the task, kindly contact an auto mechanic.

How much does it cost to change a radiator?

The cost of changing a vehicle’s radiator is estimated at around $500 – $2,500, depending on the vehicle make and model, as well as the location of the auto repair shop.

While the parts and labor costs of replacing a luxury car’s radiator can be expensive, someone else may be paying something cheaper for a relatively less expensive vehicle. However, ensure to get high-quality parts when changing your car’s radiator.


If you were asking, “How hard is it to change a radiator?” This article has perfectly resolved your contemplations. However, if you’re a DIYer, you already have an advantage in handling the task.

Meanwhile, if you need a car radiator replacement and you’re not skilled in handling such jobs, kindly contact an expert auto technician to fix it. This will only cost you a few bucks.


Mr. Shafiqule Islam is a graduated Mechanical Engineer and has more than 15 years experience of repairing and maintenance of different brand vehicles like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mercedes, BMW etc. He is also giving training to Mechanics. He has started writing to share his practical knowledge to Vehicle Owners, Drivers and Mechanics to keep their cars at best fit.

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