How to Restore Radiators

Updated July 19, 2017

Older homes were often heated with cast iron radiators. Over time, the iron can rust and paint can be damaged. Restoring radiators involves removing rust and old paint to prepare the surface for new paint. The weight of radiators often makes hand restoration difficult. A local automotive shop may be able to help restore radiators with a chemical dip used on engine blocks or automobile radiators.

Radiators with chipped paint and rust may perform less efficiently than restored radiators. For homeowners, restoring radiators may cost some money on the front side, but the expense will be returned with lowered heating costs.

Contact a local automotive shop for an appointment. Automotive repair shops may have a dip tank used to clean automobile radiators or engine blocks. This dip tank is filled with a chemical that can be used to strip the old home radiator before restoration. Chemicals will remove rust and old paint.

Drain water from lines leading to the radiator. Hot-water radiators heat a home by passing heated water through radiator coils. Hot water will need to be drained from the system before the radiator is disconnected. A plumber may be needed for this step.

Remove radiators from existing location. Radiators will need to be pulled out of the home and transported to a local automotive shop for dipping. There are several bolts and connections that hold the radiator in place. If these connections are rusted, WD-40 can be used to loosen the connection for easier removal. If the connections are solid, cast iron pipes may need to be cut, with help from a plumber, before the unit is removed.

Transport radiators to the automotive shop. Radiators can weigh a lot, so more than one person should carry the radiator to a vehicle for transportation. Hitch trailers may be used for transportation, but total pull weight will need to be compared to the weight of the radiator before pulling a hitched trailer carrying the unit.

Repaint, dry and reinstall. After the dip appointment is complete, repaint the radiator with enamel paint. Allow to dry for 24 to 48 hours before reinstalling. If pipes were cut during removal, a professional may need to reconnect hot water or steam lines before the radiator is fully functional.


Never lift a radiator without help. Always allow paint to dry for 24 to 48 hours before reinstalling. Never turn on water until the radiator is fully dry and reinstalled.

Things You'll Need

  • WD-40
  • Wrenches
  • Pipe cutter
  • Plumber, if applicable.
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About the Author

Summer Banks is a medical assistant and senior health writer for several health-and-wellness websites. She learned about vitamins and supplements while working as a supervisor for a nutritional company. Banks has four years of nursing training from Shepherd University and Glenville State College. She started writing professionally in 2007.