How to Restore Radiators

Written by summer banks
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How to Restore Radiators
(white radiator image by Ekaterina Sidorenko from

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.

Skill level:

Things you need

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

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  1. 1

    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.

    How to Restore Radiators
    (Vintage Car Engine image by itsallgood from
  2. 2

    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.

    How to Restore Radiators
    (water drop and water rings image by glgec from
  3. 3

    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.

    How to Restore Radiators
    (bolt image by Sergey Galushko from
  4. 4

    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.

    How to Restore Radiators
    (trailer's suspension image by Diana Mastepanova from
  5. 5

    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.

    How to Restore Radiators
    (paintbrush image by askthegeek from

Tips and warnings

  • 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.

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