What Tools Are Needed for Changing a Radiator?

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What Tools Are Needed for Changing a Radiator?
Changing your radiator isn't as hard as you think. (red truck engine image by Christopher Nolan from Fotolia.com)

Many individuals think that you have to take your vehicle to the shop to change your radiator. You can do this job at home in less than an hour with everyday tools found in most toolkits. Since a faulty cooling system is the leading cause of engine failure, ensure your vehicle's radiator, the primary cooling component, is always working at optimum performance.

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Tools for Emptying the Radiator

Tools required to empty the radiator are a small pair of pliers, a vessel for collecting the used radiator fluid and a small section (sufficient to reach from the base of the radiator to your bowl) of flexible plastic piping or hosepipe. Small pliers are inexpensive hand tools available from hardware stores that are used to remove the drain cap (or petcock) located at the base of the radiator and replace it after all the fluid is drained out. A radiator pan, bowl or bucket, which holds up to 1 ½ gallons, catches the used fluid as it drains from the radiator. Radiator pans (usually made from metal) are available from auto supplies stores; a cheaper alternative is to buy a new plastic bowl or bucket from the local hardware store. Do this rather than using an item from the kitchen or garden, since residues from the coolant are toxic.

Tools for Removing the Hoses and Clamps

Tools for removing the hoses and clamps are a Philips screw driver (the one with a cross-shaped head), a small pair of pliers and a container for used coolant. Use the screwdriver to release hose clamps without damaging the coolant and overflow hoses. A small pair of pliers is used to grasp the open clamps and push them down to the middle of the hoses to avoid losing them. The same vessel previously used for draining coolant is placed under hoses to catch any remaining fluid dripping out. 

Tools for Releasing the Radiator, Fan Unit and Electrical Cables

Tools required for freeing the radiator from the vehicle's frame and disconnecting the electrical wires are a socket set with a 10mm socket with a 3-inch socket extension. A useful extra tool is your mobile phone camera or a small digital camera, used for photographing the original layout as a reference guide during reinstallation. The 10mm socket with the extension (handy for a little extra reach) fitted to the handle is used to disconnect the electrical cables running to the fan by releasing two bolts securing them to the engine. 

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