How to Know What Size Radiator to Buy

Written by don bowman
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When purchasing a new radiator, it is important to note that all radiators are model and year specific. Radiators are not very interchangeable due to the magnitude of differences. Unless the radiator is to be purchased somewhere other than an auto parts or radiator shop, it is not necessary to measure. The supplier will have a listing as to what radiator fits a particular vehicle. An accurate description will be necessary, however, since more than one radiator is available for the same vehicle but is engine-specific (as many cars come in several trim levels, with varying engines). The make, model, production date located on the driver's door placard, the engine size and whether it is an automatic or standard transmission are essential factors for knowing what size radiator to buy.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Tape measure

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  1. 1

    Measure the absolute height from the bottom of the radiator on the tank side containing the top hose outlet to the highest point on the tank. Write down the measurement.

  2. 2

    Measure the width from the outside of one tank to the outside of the opposite tank. Write down the measurement.

  3. 3

    Measure the core between the tanks and write this number down. Then measure how thick the radiator is at the top centre. This will indicate how many cores the radiator has.

  4. 4

    Write down which side the upper hose outlet and bottom outlet are located. Anytime that the location of anything is described under the hood of the car, it is always as sitting in the car, not facing the engine. Another way is always saying "driver's side" or "passenger side" as opposed to left and right.

  5. 5

    Describe whether or not it has a radiator cap or is a closed system with a reservoir. A closed system does not have a cap on the radiator. The cap is located on the reservoir.

  6. 6

    Write down whether the radiator has a transmission cooler incorporated into the tank or not. This can be determined by looking at the passenger side tank on the engine side, and see if two lines are running into the tank.

  7. 7

    Check the driver's side tank and see if there are large hoses attached to the tank---the large hoses go to an oil cooler. Do not get them confused with the radiator hoses.

  8. 8

    Check the front of the radiator and see how the air conditioning condenser is attached to the radiator. This also needs to be the same so the condenser can be mounted correctly. Write this information down.

  9. 9

    Check the fan shroud or electric fan mounting brackets and note their position and type. Write this information down. You will need to make sure the radiator you purchase supports the type of fan you have. All of these items are necessary if looking for a radiator outside of the normal circles. None of these can be eliminated without creating modification problems.

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