How to Replace the Radiator in a Chevy Cavalier

The radiator in your vehicle plays an important role in the overall cooling system. A radiator is an engine part that controls the engine temperature and prevents it from overheating. It's made of aluminium honey-comb-shaped chambers that are filled with a water and engine coolant (antifreeze) mixture. The mixed fluid flows through the chambers and is cooled by intake air from the front of the vehicle. As your engine's temperature rises, this cooled mixture flows into the engine and reduces the temperature. Replacing the radiator in your Chevy Cavalier is a basic automotive repair to perform.

Park the car on a flat surface and set the parking brake to prevent it from rolling during the repair. Raise the hood and disconnect the battery cables as an added safety measure. Take off the radiator fill cap to relieve the pressure from the hoses and cooling system.

Place the drain pan under the radiator drain plug. The drain plug is located on the bottom-right side of the radiator.

Unscrew the drain plug bolt and drain the antifreeze from the radiator.

Remove the four mounting bolts that attach the safety shield (shroud) to the radiator, using a 3/8 inch socket and ratchet wrench. This shield is mounted on the top and it covers the engine fan.

Disconnect the upper radiator hoses going to the thermostat housing cover and reservoir tank. Detach only the radiator side of these hoses, which are secured in place with a squeeze-type clamp. Squeeze the clamp using channel-lock pliers and slide the clamp onto the centre of the hose.

Disconnect the lower radiator hose leading to the water pump, which is secured by a squeeze clamp on the radiator end only.

Reach underneath the car and remove the two lower radiator mounting bolts. Then take out the upper mounting bolts from the engine compartment and remove the radiator. All of these mounting bolts require the 3/8 inch socket and ratchet wrench.

Set the replacement radiator in place and insert the upper mounting bolts by hand to hold it in place. Insert the two lower bolts and securely tighten all of the mounting bolts using the ratchet wrench.

Reconnect the lower and upper radiator hoses and secure them in place using the hose clamps.

Re-mount the safety shield (shroud) and secure in place using its mounting bolts.

Refill the radiator with a new 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. Start the engine and allow it to idle for several minutes to bleed out the trapped air within the cooling system. Replace the radiator fill cap and inspect all the connections for leaks.


Properly dispose of the used antifreeze. Most auto stores will accept used antifreeze, if delivered in an environmentally safe container.


Only perform this repair when the engine and radiator is completely cool.

Things You'll Need

  • Drain pan
  • Channel-lock pliers
  • 3/8 inch socket and ratchet wrench
  • One gallon antifreeze
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About the Author

Brett Johnson began writing professionally in 2006. His work includes "The Buyer's Guide to Home Ownership" and training manuals for mortgage banking institutions. Johnson holds an Associate of Arts in business administration from Merritt College-Oakland.