I am a Grease Monkey. No, not the Firefox Extension. The car enthusiast, although my closer friends would say I’m more of a ape than monkey. Recently I have been having issues with the radiator in my car. At first I thought it may have been a leaky hose, eventually, the radiator developed a small pin hole that grew very large. Enough to spray steam out the top of the hood. That is how I found myself last Friday afternoon.

I am the type that likes to do things for themselves the D.Y.I guy. The idea of giving my car to a complete stranger to repair and then not walk me through step by step how they accomplished the repair, just freaks me out. I’m not questioning any reputable car mechanics competence, however, when the bill comes it makes me question my own sanity.

I don’t blame shop owners too much. They have to make a living in this economy. Lets say you get a repair for a late model car, say a Chevrolet Camaro, 1988 to be exact. The shop owner has to have a 20% mark-up on the part he bought from his distributor, shipping/handling or maybe a stocking fee. Then he has to pay his employee hourly to repair your vehicle and make it profitable for himself to repair your vehicle. In a nice world we’ll say your pay $45/ hour in labor. I could have easily paid 12 hours in labor and $250 in parts (this is a very lean estimate by the way). In the end I may have paid almost $800. Well I paid much less doing it myself and I know that it is fixed. Here is how I did it.

First, you have to assemble all your parts. This usually takes me about a week, but in this case a day was all it took. Sometimes you don’t know you need a part till you start to take things apart. I found after I took off the OEM cooling fan that it had melted from the heat from the radiator not cooling correctly when it blew. Second, you have to make sure you have the right tools. Trial and Erro, have taught me that so many trips to the store for the right tool really draws out the time of a repair. The most important is harm to your vehicle or yourself, when trying to use the wrong tool.  Once you have these two things in place it’s time to get started.

Click to Watch Video of the Radiator hissing.

Picture of Radiator with cooling fan removed.

Cooling Fan removed. Ready for the radiator.

To get started I had to make sure my cars engine was cool enough to work on by leaving it set overnight in the spot I intend to work. Anytime I work on my car I disconnect the negative battery cable. This does two things, prevents me from electrocuting myself and worse the car accidentally starting while i’m tucked in the space between the main pulley belt and the radiator. It might rip my face and arms off. Safety should always be first, use blocks behind your wheels, wear protective eyewear, and gloves.

Now that the car is cool I drain all the fluids. While they drain I loosen all the clamps on the radiator/heater hoses, the transmission cooler line, and oil cooler. The oil/transmission lines where metal and needed lubrication before they would budge. Once all the fluid is drained, I do one at a time to catch any residual water, especially the lower radiator hose. Then I removed the cooling fan. This was not easy and also the same time I find out that the fan had melted. The wire connector included, promoting me to cut out the fan. Below is the fan itself, notice the melted-warped plastic.

(Click the images to see them full size.)


A picture of the

The fan wouldn't turn any more. I wonder why?

Now I am ready to remove the radiator. This was the easiest part of the job. Slid right out no problems. There was some residual water left in the bottom, I just poured it off into my bucket.

Picture of Radiator from my car.

Old Radiator. Guess where the leak was?

Once the radiator was installed I connected the hoses, transmission, and oil cooler lines. I also had to replace the heater hose. the previous owner had bypassed the heater and instead of using one piece of hose, they jointed two pieces with a union. Needles to say, most likely the cause of this whole predicament since the last owner. In my defense it was on my list of things to fix and I had stock piled most of the parts not expecting the radiator to blow through. Next I fitted on the replacement cooling fan. I recommend finding an original replacement. The aftermarket cooling fans you find are more universal than replacement fans. Their is some “customizing” I completed to get the fan mounted and secure enough for it to be safe. Finally, I filled it with Radiator Fluid. Always buy one more than you think. I did this time and good thing because that extra one came in handy.


Picture of My Radiator and Cooling Fan removed.

I keep singing Johnny Cash's "One piece at a Time"

The last thing to do was connect the negative battery cable. I then started the car and let it run for about 15 minutes and shut it off. I topped it off with more fluid to bring it to the top and made sure the over-flow reservoir was at the correct level. then I just let it run. Went on some errands and sat outside with the car for a good 2 hours. I wanted to make sure the fan didn’t come lose or I had a leak some where, once it cooled I checked the levels again and that was it.

Picture of my New Radiator

Finished product. Notice the celebration on the right?

Please leave a comment and share this on your favorite social network below. The Finished Product.